Our Team

Through a collaborative partnership-based program, portfolio companies draw upon Accel-Rx’s entrepreneurial and commercial expertise, investment, and capital market experience, and extensive networks within the health sciences sector to help drive their growth.

Management

  • Natalie Dakers

    Founding President and Chief Executive Officer

  • Michael Lincoln

    Chief Financial and Business Officer

  • Frederic Lemaitre Auger

    Senior Director, Investments

  • Elayne Wandler

    Director, Partnerships & Program

  • Zach Robinson

    Business Analyst

  • Vedrana Covic

    Manager, Operations

Natalie Dakers

Founding President and Chief Executive Officer

Natalie Dakers is a leading figure in the Canadian biopharmaceutical industry and is one of BC’s most influential women. With four start-up companies to her credit, she’s known for getting things done.

 

Natalie is currently President and CEO of Accel-Rx, Canada’s national health sciences accelerator. Prior to Accel-Rx, she was founding President and CEO of CDRD Ventures Inc., the commercial arm of the Centre for Drug Research and Development (CDRD) that supported company creation. Natalie was also the founding CEO of the Centre for Drug Research and Development (CDRD), a national Centre for Excellence for Commercialization and Research. She also co-founded Neuromed Pharmaceuticals Inc., a private biopharmaceutical company developing drugs for chronic pain, anxiety, epilepsy, and cardiovascular diseases and raised $70 million in three rounds of venture financing.

 

Natalie is currently a board member of BIOTECanada and Augurex Inc. and an Adjunct Professor in UBC’s Faculty of Pharmaceutical Sciences. She’s served on many local, national, and private company boards and advisory panels and has garnered numerous honours most recently the 2015 Startup Canada’s Entrepreneur of the year award. Click here for more bio details.

Michael Lincoln

Chief Financial and Business Officer

Michael has served as our Chief Financial and Business Officer since June 2014. He has over twenty-five years of senior management experience in the biotechnology and pharmaceutical industry from start-ups to multi-national pharmaceutical companies. Michael has extensive experience in finance and business development and has a track record of supporting the growth of small and medium size businesses through all stages of development. Previous experience includes public and private equity financing, IPO, investor relations, licensing of technology, M&A activity, joint ventures, and the licensing of numerous branded products. Prior to joining Accel-Rx, Michael was the Chief Financial and Business Officer at CDRD Ventures Inc., Chief Financial Officer & Senior Vice President at MedGenesis Therapeutix Inc., Vice-President of Business Development at Transition Therapeutics Inc. and has held various management positions at Altimed Pharmaceuticals and Merck Frosst Canada.

 

Mr. Lincoln earned his Master of Business Administration degree, and a Bachelor’s degree in Economics from Concordia University, Montreal, QC, and is a Chartered Professional Accountant (CMA).

Frederic Lemaitre Auger

Senior Director, Investments

Frédéric brings extensive health sciences venture capital expertise to Accel-Rx through his prior involvement with Desjardins Venture Capital and CDP Capital – Technology Venture (Sofinov) where he was involved in both biopharmaceutical and medical device deals. At Sofinov, he was involved in investments such as NuVasive, Inhibitex, IntraLuminal Therapeutics, Acurian, and TransMedics. While at Desjardins, he showed significant leadership in the creation and management of a profitable early-stage health sciences investment portfolio that included, amongst others, BioAxone Therapeutics, Enobia Pharma, and Tranzyme. In recent years, Frédéric was involved in project-based investments, as well as developing licensing and spin-off opportunities at MSBi Valorisation (now Aligo Innovation). He has served on the board of directors of many health sciences company and has been involved on organizing committees of conferences such as MedTech North and Advamed.

 

Frédéric holds an MBA in Finance and International Management from HEC Montréal, a M.Sc. in Organic Chemistry and a Ph.D. in Polymer Physical Chemistry, both from Université de Montréal.

Elayne Wandler

Director, Partnerships & Program

Elayne brings over 20 years of executive and entrepreneurial experience to the role of Director, Programs and Partnerships. She has held a number of senior positions in the life sciences sector including market research, product management, and sales with Abbott Laboratories, a multi-national pharmaceutical company and then in corporate communications, investor relations, and business development for QLT Inc., where as Vice President, she was part of the core strategic leadership team that launched the company’s blockbuster product, Visudyne, for the treatment of age-related macular degeneration in over 75 countries.

 

In addition to her corporate experience, Elayne also brings a strong entrepreneurial track record and business consulting expertise to the role.

 

A keen advocate of giving back, Elayne has been a member of the Forum for Women Entrepreneurs, where she continues to be actively involved in the organization’s mentor program. She also volunteers her time as a photographer for Canuck Place Children’s Hospice.

 

Elayne received her bachelor’s degree in Sciences with a specialization in Biochemistry from the University of Alberta and an MBA from the University of British Columbia.

A recent graduate from the Master of Management program at the University of British Columbia Sauder School of Business, Zach brings a passion for innovation in Health Sciences to Accel-Rx. While studying, he worked as a project manager for PALS Autism Society, helping to design a social enterprise system for the organization. Prior to his Masters degree, he earned a Bachelor of Medical Science from Western University and worked as a research assistant for Fowler Kennedy Sports Medicine, where his various projects included meniscal transplant therapies and testing quadricep tendon capabilities. A strong advocate of community involvement, Zach was a Big Brother for the Big Brothers and Big Sisters Game On Program.

Vedrana Covic joined Accel-Rx in January 2015 and has quickly become an indispensable part of the team overseeing and managing office operations and managing interactions with Accel-Rx’s portfolio companies, Investment Committee, and Board of Directors as well as with external consultants. She is also involved in communications and marketing activities to help build awareness and reach stakeholders.

 

Prior to joining Accel-Rx, Vedrana held analyst and research positions at BC Housing in Vancouver and Think Tank Populari in Sarajevo, Bosnia, and Herzegovina. She also worked with BC-based Metasoft Systems Inc. as a fundraising support specialist.

 

Vedrana earned her Masters of Arts in International Development and Political Economy from the University of Manchester in England and her Bachelor of Arts in Political Sciences from the University of British Columbia. Vedrana is fluent in English, German, and Serbo-Croatian and has had extensive international experience.

Board of Directors

  • David J. Main

    Chairman, President and Chief Executive Officer,
    Aquinox

  • Dr. Mark Benedyk, Ph.D.

    President & CEO,
    Telephus Medical LLC

  • Dr. Cedric Bisson, MD

    Partner,
    Teralys Capital

  • Dr. Adalsteinn D. Brown, Ph.D.

    Director of the Institute for Health Policy & Chair of Dalla Lana of Public Health Policy,
    University of Toronto

  • Ms. Natalie E. Dakers

    President and Chief Executive Officer,
    Accel-Rx Health Sciences Accelerator

  • Dr. John DesRosier, Ph.D.

    Executive Director,
    Life Sciences Discovery Fund

  • Shaun Foy, CFA

    Life Science Entrepreneur

  • Dr. Raphael (Rafi) Hofstein, Ph.D.

    President & CEO,
    MaRS Innovation

  • Karim F. Lalji

    Chairman and CEO,
    Microbion

  • Patrick Wolfe

    Instructor,
    British Columbia Institute of Technology School of Business

David J. Main

Chairman, President and Chief Executive Officer,
Aquinox

David Main has over 25 years of experience in the health sciences industry with a demonstrated ability to grow and finance pharmaceutical development companies. As a co-founder of Aquinox, Mr. Main has overseen the advancement of the Company’s lead product, AQX-1125, from a target validation program to a phase three clinical trial candidate.  During this time, he was also responsible for the transition of Aquinox from a private to a NASDAQ-listed public company raising over $300 million in equity to date.  Mr. Main was formerly the President and CEO of INEX Pharmaceuticals Corp. and, prior to INEX, was Vice President at QLT Inc., one of Canada’s inaugural biotech companies.

 

Mr. Main began his career as a licensed pharmacist at the Royal Columbian Hospital in New Westminster, BC. He holds a B.Sc. (Pharmacy) and an MBA from the University of British Columbia. Mr. Main formerly served as the Chair of LifeSciences BC and BIOTECanada and is currently a Director of BIO.org, in addition to serving on a number of other private and not-for-profit Boards.

Dr. Mark Benedyk, Ph.D.

President & CEO,
Telephus Medical LLC

Dr. Benedyk is President  & CEO of Telephus Medical LLC, a company dedicated to discovering and developing new medicines to treat antibiotic-resistant staphylococcal infections. He is also Managing Partner at Rila Partners LLC, a business and corporate development consultancy he founded early in his career. Dr. Benedyk is a member of the Strategic Advisory Boards at KemPharm (NASDAQ: KMPH) a clinical-stage neuropsychiatry specialty care company, and Rare Science, an organization that is accelerating therapeutic advancements for rare diseases. In addition to his role at Accel-Rx, he sits on the Boards of Directors at the Center for Drug Research and Development and Sitka Biopharma, both located in Vancouver, Canada.

 

Previously, he was Senior Director and head of The Pfizer Incubator LLC (TPI) where his duties included membership on the TPI Board of Directors and TPI portfolio company boards, overseeing the TPI operations team, and reviewing investment opportunities in therapeutic areas such as neurology, oncology, pain management, gastroenterology, metabolic disease, and many others. Dr. Benedyk has held executive Business Development positions at Ascenta Therapeutics, Optimer Pharmaceuticals (now Merck NYSE: MRK), Aurora Biosciences (acquired by Vertex Pharmaceuticals NASDAQ: VRTX), and Elan Pharmaceuticals (now Perrigo NYSE: PRGO). During his tenure in the pharmaceutical and biotechnology industries, Dr. Benedyk personally led transactions worth over $300 million and participated in over $500 million worth of product licensing and corporate acquisition transactions overall. He received his Ph.D. in Developmental Genetics from The Rockefeller University, where he was a Lucille P. Markey Graduate Fellow and his B.S. degree in Microbiology and Botany from the University of Michigan.

Dr. Cedric Bisson, MD

Partner,
Teralys Capital

Cedric Bisson has extensive experience creating, building, and advising businesses in biopharmaceuticals, healthcare, and the innovation sector in general. He is passionate about growing Canada as a premier environment for innovation.

 

Currently, Mr. Bisson is a partner with Teralys Capital where he focuses on healthcare and life sciences investments, as well as growth opportunities. Previously, he was managing partner for healthcare at iNovia Capital in Montreal, Calgary and the US, a private venture capital firm aimed at entrepreneurship and company building, during which he also created MSBi Valorisation (now Allgo), a seed technology transfer and investor firm focused principally on McGill University. He also spent a decade internationally as associate principal at McKinsey & Company, a management consulting firm, where he was leading the healthcare and innovation practices in Montreal, Toronto, New York City, and Paris.

 

Mr. Bisson holds an M.D. degree from McGill University and a J.D. (law) degree from Unviersite de Montreal. He still actively engages globally with various government and private entities on innovation and related public policy matters, most notably at Grand Challenges Canada, an organization dedicated to supporting bold ideas with big impact in global health.

Dr. Adalsteinn D. Brown, Ph.D.

Director of the Institute for Health Policy & Chair of Dalla Lana of Public Health Policy,
University of Toronto

Dr. Brown is the Director of the Institute for Health Policy, Management and Evaluation at the University of Toronto and the Dalla Lana Chair of Public Health Policy at the University of Toronto’s Dalla Lana School of Public Health. He is a Scientist at the Li Ka Shing Knowledge Institute at St. Michael’s Hospital and Senior Fellow at Massey College. Past roles include Assistant Deputy Minister for Strategy and Policy at the Ontario Ministry of Health and Long-term Care and for Science and Research at the Ontario Ministry of Research and Innovation, and Principal Investigator for the Hospital Report Project that created scorecards covering more than 95% of hospital care in Ontario.

 

He received his undergraduate degree in government from Harvard University and his doctorate from the University of Oxford, where he was a Rhodes Scholar. He has received several leadership awards including being named one of Canada’s “Top 40 Under 40” in recognition for his work on performance measurement. He has held founding roles in consulting, software, and Internet companies and has advised the World Health Organization, banks, software, and insurance companies, and health care providers in North America, Europe, and Asia.

Ms. Natalie E. Dakers

President and Chief Executive Officer,
Accel-Rx Health Sciences Accelerator

Ms. Dakers is a leading figure in the Canadian biopharmaceutical industry and currently serves as the founding President and Chief Executive Officer of Accel-Rx Health Sciences Accelerator, Canada’s new national life sciences accelerator. Accel-Rx is a national Centre of Excellence for Commercialization and Research and is headquartered in Vancouver, British Columbia. Prior to Accel-Rx Ms. Dakers was the President and Chief Executive Officer of CDRD Ventures Inc. which acted as the commercial arm of the Centre for Drug Research and Development (CDRD). Under her leadership, the commercial arm was founded, and supported the creation of a number of commercial opportunities including Kairos Therapeutics Inc. and Sitka Biopharma Inc. Ms. Dakers was the founding CEO of the Centre for Drug Research and Development (CDRD), also a national Centre for Excellence for Commercialization and Research. Under Ms. Dakers’ leadership, CDRD signed affiliation agreements with more than 20 major research institutions in Canada and around the world, and forged important strategic relationships with public and private sector partners including Pfizer, Johnson and Johnson, Roche, GlaxoSmithKline, Genome British Columbia, and the Governments of British Columbia and Alberta. Prior to leading the establishment of CDRD, Ms. Dakers was President and CEO of Neuromed Pharmaceuticals (Technologies) Inc., a private biopharmaceutical company developing drugs for chronic pain, anxiety, epilepsy, and cardiovascular diseases. As co-founder and CEO, Ms. Dakers built the company from inception and raised three rounds of venture financing totaling approximately $70 million. Prior to this, Ms. Dakers managed technology transfer for the Life Sciences sector at the University Industry Liaison Office (UILO) at the University of British Columbia, where she was involved in the creation and spin-off of more than a dozen start-up high-tech and biotech companies. Currently, Ms. Dakers is a board member of BIOTECanada and Augurex Inc. She has previously served on a number of national boards including the Canada Foundation for Innovation (CFI), Genome Canada, the International Science and Technology Partnership Canada (ISTP Canada) and the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade Life Sciences Advisory Board. She served on the Boards of Genome BC, Michael Smith Foundation for Health Research, and was Chair of LifeSciences BC. Ms. Dakers is an Adjunct Professor in UBC’s Faculty of Pharmaceutical Sciences and was a member of the Council of Canadian Academies’ Expert Panel on Business Innovation.

Dr. John DesRosier, Ph.D.

Executive Director,
Life Sciences Discovery Fund

Dr. DesRosier has spent over 35 years in research and technology commercialization. He received his Ph.D. in microbiology from the University of Washington and was on the faculty at Ohio Wesleyan University and Middlebury College. He worked at the University of Washington for 11 years where he licensed biomedical technologies and served as a liaison to industry for collaborative and sponsored research. Prior to that he was at the start-up company, BioControl Systems in Bothell, WA, where he was part of a team that launched four diagnostic products for detecting pathogenic bacteria in foods. Before his present position, he spent six years consulting in the areas of commercialization of early stage technology and economic development. Currently, Dr. DesRosier is Executive Director of the Life Sciences Discovery Fund, a state agency that makes grants to Washington life sciences researchers to advance health and health care and stimulate economic development.

Shaun Foy, CFA

Life Science Entrepreneur

Shaun Foy is a life science entrepreneur with over 15 years of experience investing, advising, and building emerging healthcare companies in North America and Europe.

 

Co-founder of both CRISPR Therapeutics AG and ERS Genomics Ltd, Mr. Foy created the companies to commercialize the CRISPR/Cas9 gene editing technology that has been widely regarded as one of the most important scientific breakthroughs of the past decade and recognized by Science magazine as the breakthrough of the year in 2015. He was startup CFO for CRISPR Therapeutics, raising $90M from top-tier international investors. From there, he moved to ERS Genomics as CEO to lead the company through to its initial startup phase and is now the company’s Chairman. Prior to that, he was a partner and one of the founding team members of Nomura Phase4 Ventures, a London-based venture capital group, where he sourced and led new investments throughout North America and Europe as well as managed the firm’s portfolio of public companies. He also advised emerging healthcare companies on raising capital and M&As as a member of Nomura International’s healthcare corporate finance team.

 

Passionate about advancing life sciences in Canada, Mr. Foy spent several years promoting the creation of a new pan Canadian Venture capital fund to build emerging healthcare companies in Canada. He also held advisory roles with leading Canadian life science organizations including Life Sciences BC, The Centre for Drug Research, and Development and Genome Canada.

 

Mr. Foy is a CFA charterholder and has received a BSc (hons) in cell & developmental biology and an MSc in cell biology & immunology from the University of British Columbia.

Dr. Raphael (Rafi) Hofstein, Ph.D.

President & CEO,
MaRS Innovation

Dr. Hofstein joined MaRS Innovation in 2009 after past positions that include Scientific Director of Biotechnological Applications Ltd.; Manager R&D and Chief of Immunochemistry at the International Genetic Scientific Partnership; Scientific Director of the Israeli office of Ecogen Inc.; Vice President, Business Development for Ecogen in Langhorne, Pa.; and President and CEO of Hadasit, the commercialization company of Hadassah, the largest teaching hospital in Israel.

 

Dr. Hofstein received his PhD and Master of Science degrees in Life Sciences and Chemistry from the Weizmann Institute of Science in Rehovot, Israel.

Karim F. Lalji

Chairman and CEO,
Microbion

Karim F Lalji is the Chairman of the Board of Directors and Chief Executive Officer for Microbion, a pharmaceutical company in phase two clinical development for treatment of resistant infections. Previously, Karim Lalji was the Chief Commercial Officer of Cardiome Pharma in Vancouver, B.C, a pharmaceutical company marketing and developing products for the treatment of cardiovascular and critical care diseases. Mr. Lalji was instrumental in driving a licensing agreement of the company’s lead assets with Merck & Company in a transaction valued at $1 billion as well as the acquisition of Correvio International in Geneva, Switzerland.

 

Mr. Lalji was previously Vice President of Business Strategy and New Product Commercialization at Sepracor, Inc. in Boston, Massachusetts. Mr. Lalji’s earlier experience includes ten years with Merck & Company in New Jersey, where he led several successful product franchises including the worldwide launch of Crixivan for HIV disease and the Worldwide osteoporosis franchise with the lead product, FOSAMAX, achieving $1 billion in sales during his tenure. Mr. Lalji is the inventor of multiple patents for treatment of various CNS disorders.

 

Mr. Lalji is also a member of the Board of Overseers at the Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston, Massachusetts, an academic teaching hospital of Harvard Medical School. In addition, Mr. Lalji is a member of the Board of Directors of CDRD in Vancouver, BC. He is also the Chairman of His Highness the Aga Khan Conciliation and Arbitration Board of BC.

 

Mr. Lalji holds a Science Masters in Health Policy and Management from Harvard University in Cambridge, Massachusetts. He was awarded the Wilinsky Prize for Academic Excellence while at Harvard. Mr. Lalji also holds a Bachelors Degree in Business Administration from Simon Fraser University in Burnaby, British Columbia.

Patrick Wolfe

Instructor,
British Columbia Institute of Technology School of Business

Patrick Wolfe is an Instructor in the Financial Management Program at the British Columbia Institute of Technology’s School of Business where he is also Program Head, Finance. Mr. Wolfe is also an Instructor at Simon Fraser University’s Beedie School of Business where he teaches finance in the MBA program. He holds a BA, Honours (Economics) from Simon Fraser University, an MBA, Honours, from the Ivey School of Business at the University of Western Ontario, and is also a Chartered Business Valuator. From 1983 to 1996 Mr. Wolfe was an investment banker at BMO Nesbitt Burns where he advised clients in several industries including mining, utilities, forest products, and biotechnology. From 1998 to 2008 Mr. Wolfe was Managing Director in the investment banking group of Raymond James Ltd, the Canadian subsidiary of US-based Raymond James Financial Inc., where he was responsible for the firm’s healthcare and biotechnology clients in Canada, helping to raise over $1 billion in equity for Canadian biotechnology firms.

 

Mr. Wolfe was a member of the board of directors of CDRD Ventures Inc. (“CVI”) from 2009 to 2015 where he was chair of CVI’s audit committee. CVI is the commercialization arm of the Centre for Drug Research and Development, Canada’s premier publicly-funded drug-development institution.

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Partners

Accel-Rx’s mission is supported by founding partner, BDC Capital, which provides additional funding of up to $500 thousand per company, for a total investment when combined with the Accel-Rx contribution, of $1 million. This initial investment serves as the basis to attract third-party matching funds.

Founding Partner

With more than $2 billion under management, BDC Capital is the investment arm of BDC, serving as a strategic partner to Canada’s most innovative and high potential firms. It offers a range of equity, venture capital, and flexible growth and transition capital solutions to help Canadian Entrepreneurs scale their businesses into global champions.


CECR Partners

Accel-Rx works with six of Canada’s leading health-related Centres of Excellence for Commercialization and Research (CECRs) fostering cross-Canadian cooperation with the goal of advancing companies toward commercialization.

CDRD is Canada’s national drug development and commercialization centre working in partnership with academia, industry, government, and foundations. CDRD provides the specialized expertise and infrastructure to identify, validate, and advance promising discoveries, and transform them into commercially viable investment opportunities for the private sector — and ultimately into new therapies for patients. Canada’s Networks of Centres of Excellence Program has recognized CDRD as a Centre of Excellence for Commercialization and Research.

The NEOMED Institute is a not-for-profit organization whose mission is to create a bridge between basic research and the commercialization of new drugs by providing industrial expertise in drug discovery and development, combined with funding and a favourable ecosystem, to transform innovations into solid therapeutic solutions. NEOMED drives drug discovery activities up to the stage of human proof of concept. The NEOMED Institute has two fully integrated research and development facilities: one in Technoparc Montréal’s Saint-Laurent Campus, specializing in small molecule therapeutics, and the other facility, specializing in the development of biologics and vaccines, in Laval. Both facilities function as open-access drug discovery hubs housing independent commercial businesses and providing a dynamic environment that stimulates collaboration, innovation, and creativity.

CPDC discovers, develops, and distributes radiopharmaceuticals. Founded in 2008 as a Centre of Excellence for Commercialization and Research, CPDC specialized in radiophramceutical research and development. It is one of the few R&D centres that has the full range of scientific, technical, regulatory, and business expertise combines with the full specialized infrastructure required to translate radiopharmaceuticals to the clinic and provide them to the commercial marketplace.

CCRM, a Canadian not-for-profit organization funded by the Government of Canada, the Province of Ontario, and leading academic and industry partners, supports the development of regenerative medicines and associated enabling technologies, with a specific focus on cell and gene therapy. A network of researchers, leading companies, strategic investors, and entrepreneurs, CCRM aims to accelerate the translation of scientific discovery into marketable products for patients with specialized teams, funding, and infrastructure. CCRM is the commercialization partner of the Ontario Institute for Regenerative Medicine and the University of Toronto’s Medicine by Design. CCRM is hosted by the University of Toronto.

MaRS Innovation is the commercialization agent for 15 leading academic institutions in Ontario. It provides investors and licensees with a single point through which to access technology assets emerging from its members, who receive $1.47 billion in annual research and development funding. Supported by the Government of Canada through the Networks of Centres of Excellence, by the Government of Ontario through the Ontario Centres of Excellence, and by its 15 member institutions, MI is a transformational partnership that turns research strengths into commercial opportunities. MI advances portfolio assets into global markets through industry partnerships, licensing, and company creation.

PC–TRiADD is a translational research program embedded within the Vancouver Prostate Centre (VPC) and funded as a Centre of Excellence for Commercialization and Research (CECR) focused on improving outcomes in prostate and other cancers. PC-TRiADD also offers pharmaceutical and biotech companies, as well as external researchers, integrated translational research services such as drug discovery, preclinical testing, tumour biology, and clinical research.

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