Synendos Therapeutics AG was founded in Basel in 2019 and is the culmination of more than 10 years of research at the University of Bern.
Our success story is closely related to a fruitful collaboration between the founder scientists, led by Prof. Dr. Jürg Gertsch and Prof. Dr. Andrea Chicca. Biotech venture accelerator and incubator, BaseLaunch, was instrumental in providing support in the Company’s early days.
Management & Executive team
Dr. Andrea Chicca, Chief Executive Officer and Chief Scientific Officer
Andrea holds a Ph.D. in Pharmacology from the University of Pisa (Italy). After his first post-doctoral studies in cancer biology at the Istituto Toscano Tumori (Firenze, Italy), Andrea joined the group of Prof. J. Gertsch at the University of Bern, initially working as post-doctoral scientist, then senior scientist and principal investigator.
In 2018, Andrea obtained the venia docendi in Biochemistry and Molecular Medicine awarded from the Medical Faculty of the University of Bern and obtained the habilitation for professorship in Pharmacology from the Italian Ministry of Education and Research. In 2020, Andrea completed the Master of Advanced Studies in Translational Medicine and Biomedical Entrepreneurship (Sitem-Insel-University of Bern). Andrea is co-author of 50+ scientific articles published in international peer-reviewed journals.
He strongly contributed to the elucidation of the endocannabinoid membrane transport mechanism and the development of SERIs of the first and second generation. Andrea is co-inventor on a granted patent covering SERIs of the first generation in the US.
Before joining the University of Bern, Andrea worked for almost two years as a scientific advisor in the corporate marketing of Chiesi Pharmaceuticals (Parma, Italy), where he acquired hands-on experience in preclinical and clinical drug development.
Andrea Chicca is a co-founder, CEO and CSO of Synendos Therapeutics.
Dr. Simon Russell, Chief Commercial Officer
Simon has over 30 years’ experience in both Biotech and Big Pharma across business, strategic marketing and scientific roles, over a wide range of therapy areas and phases. He is also an Entrepreneur-in-Residence at the BaseLaunch accelerator programme advising new ventures in the Basel area.
He is former Chief Business Officer at OMEICOS Therapeutics GmbH, a Berlin based biotech, responsible for all commercial and business activities. He was previously Chief Business Officer at Creabilis Ltd, taking it through a series of deals and financing before negotiating its sale to Sienna Bio-pharmaceuticals Inc in the US in December 2016. With Sienna he supported the subsequent listing of Sienna on NASDAQ in July 2017.
In his Big Pharma career, he has held senior global commercial roles at both Novartis as Head of Strategic Marketing for Biologics and AstraZeneca in Switzerland, Sweden and the UK, taking several products through Phase III and launch and defining development strategies for many early products across a wide range of therapy areas. Earlier he held significant R&D roles in Clinical Development, Development Management and Medicinal Chemistry.
He holds a PhD in Organic Chemistry from Southampton University and an MA in Chemistry from the University of Oxford in the UK.
Simon is a co-founder of Synendos Therapeutics.
Dr. Waltraud Grünbauer, Head of Clinical Operations
Waltraud holds a PhD in Neurobiology and brings more than 20-years experience in Clinical Trials and Drug Development (Phase I – IV).
After her academic training at the Ludwig Maximilian University and the University Hospital in Munich (Klinikum Grosshadern), she began her career in the Pharmaceutical Industry at AMGEN GmbH in Munich. In order to focus on Clinical Development in Neuroscience, she joined the Medical Affairs department at AstraZeneca in Germany as Project leader and Therapeutic Area Manager for CNS/PAI (pain, anaesthesia, infection), where she was responsible for all clinical studies in Neuroscience.
Subsequently she moved to the headquarters at EVOTEC Neurosciences GmbH, Novartis Pharma AG, and F. Hoffmann-La Roche AG, where she had numerous leadership positions. Most recently, she was Head of Clinical Operations at AZAFAROS Switzerland AG, significantly contributing to the build-up of the Clinical team.
Since April 2023 she has been working as an independent consultant in the field of Clinical Operation Strategy, using her deep knowledge in Clinical Science and Clinical Operations, moving into early phases of Clinical Trials. Waltraud is currently leading the clinical operations at Synendos in preparation for clinical development.
Dr. Jens Pohlmann, Head of Medicinal Chemistry
Jens holds a PhD in Chemistry and brings in more than 20 years of experience in pharmaceutical research and early development.
After his academic training at the University of Hannover, Stanford University and the California Institute of Technology, he started his career as medicinal chemist at Bayer, Germany. Later he joined Basilea Pharmaceutica, where he served as Head of Chemistry for several years. Then he took over responsibility as Program Manager for the coordination of the small molecule research portfolio in infectious diseases, immunology & inflammation at Hoffmann-La Roche.
In recent years, Jens worked as an independent consultant in the field of medicinal chemistry and project/portfolio strategy for the pharmaceutical industry, biotech companies and academic groups.
Jens is experienced in all stages of research from hit and lead finding to lead optimization and clinical candidate selection as well as support of preclinical development. This is also reflected by his co-inventorship of marketed and clinical development compounds.
Board of Directors
Prof. Dr. Jutta Heim, Chairperson of the Board
Jutta worked for more than 20 years at Ciba-Geigy/Novartis (CH and US). At Novartis, she was involved in the successful development and launch of anti-thrombotic and fibrinolytic products. She established Novartis’ molecular genetics department in oncology, became Novartis’ Senior Scientific Expert in Molecular Biology and a member of the Research Management Board. Jutta completed her career at Novartis heading the Novartis Lead Discovery Center with worldwide responsibility.
From 2004 to 2009, Jutta served as CSO at Basilea Pharmaceutica Ltd. a Swiss biopharmaceutical company focusing on anti-infectives, inflammation and oncology. From 2009 to 2013, she served as CTO and CSO at Evolva SA, where she led Evolva’s discovery activities and strengthened the development of its technology platform.
Jutta is a board member of Union Therapeutics, Copenhagen and a member of the scientific advisory board of the Helmholtz Center for infection research, Braunschweig.
Jutta received a Ph.D. from the University of Tübingen in 1981 and holds a professorship in Biotechnology at the Biocenter of the University of Basel.
Dr. Peter Neubeck
Peter is a Medical Doctor, educated at Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität in Munich as well as Harvard Medical School and holds an MBA from INSEAD. After tenures at Großhadern University Clinic, Cleveland Clinic, and Beth Israel Deaconess Hospital followed by McKinsey & Company and several leadership positions at Novartis, he entered the Venture Capital industry. He took on responsibilities as an Investment Manager and collected valuable operational experience in various executive roles in company creations. Since January 2019 he heads the investment business of Kurma Partners in Germany.
Dr. Søren Lemonius
Søren is Managing General Partner and one of the three co-founders of Sunstone Life Science Ventures. He has particular focus on Investor relations and therapeutics.
Søren has 18 years’ experience from corporate management in R&D-intensive companies. As Innovation Manager at FOSS Analytical (a food diagnostics company), Søren successfully implemented new analytical technologies.
Prior to joining Sunstone, Søren served as Chief Technology Officer at Danionics (an electronic component company) where he participated in developing the company from a private, 30-employee, venture-backed technology company to a EUR +27 million revenue, +300-employee, listed company.
Søren holds a master’s degree in Experimental Cell Biology from the University of Southern Denmark.
Dr. Bettina Ernst
Dr. Bettina Ernst is a biotech entrepreneur and investor. She has expert knowledge in immunology acquired in different academic positions in Europe and the U.S. and has since worked in the biotechnology and pharmaceutical industries. Bettina is a serial biotech entrepreneur and currently serves on the Board of Directors of several biotech companies.
Dr. Raúl Martín-Ruiz
Raúl Martín-Ruiz is a Partner in Ysios Capital, a leading Spanish independent venture capital firm that provides private equity financing to early- and mid-stage human healthcare and life science companies. Prior to joining Ysios in 2008 he developed his career in Laboratorios Almirall, initially working in corporate business development (Licensing In and Licensing Out) and then as responsible for developing and managing the business of the company in the Americas and Africa through licensees and distributors.
Initially he was trained as a researcher in the areas of Central Nervous System pharmacology in the Department of Pharmacology of the UPV-EHU (University of the Basque Country), and in neurochemistry in the Department of Neurochemistry of the IIBB-CSIC (Institute for Biomedical Research of Barcelona-Spanish National Research Council).
Other than Synendos Therapeutics, he is a Board member of CorWave, Chairman of Anaconda Biomed and former Board member of STAT-Dx (acquired by Qiagen), Prexton Therapeutics (acquired by Lundbeck) and MedLumics. He has a B.Sc. in Biological Sciences by the UPV-EHU and holds a Ph.D. in Neurosciences by the same university and the CSIC.
Dr. Andrea Chicca
Andrea is a co-founder of Synendos Therapeutics and serves as Chief Executive Officer and Chief Scientific Officer in the company.
Scientific Advisor Board
Prof. Dr. Karl-Heinz Altmann
Professor Karl-Heinz Altmann is a Professor of Pharmaceutical Biology and Chairman of the Department of Chemistry and Applied Biosciences at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology (ETH) in Zurich.
Karl-Heinz is a co-founder of Tolremo Therapeutics and serves on several scientific advisory boards and as a consultant to various pharmaceutical companies. He was Project Leader, Senior Chemistry Expert and Global Head of Chemistry at the Novartis Institutes for Bio Medical Research from 1997 to 2003. He was awarded the Novartis Leading Scientist award in 1997 and the Paul-Ehrlich Prize (Chemistry) of the Société de Chimie Thérapeutique, France, in 2014.
In addition, Karl-Heinz has been an academic collaborator on SERI development (1st generation).
Prof. Dr. Anahita Bassir Nia
Professor Anahita Bassir Nia is an Addiction Psychiatrist and Assistant Professor of Psychiatry at Yale School of Medicine, Connecticut, USA.
Anahita’s research mainly focuses on the endocannabinoid system in relation to stress, trauma and substance use disorders. She is associated with the National Centers for Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder in the USA, and is a member of the American Academy of Addiction Psychiatry (Cannabis Interest Committee); the American Society of Clinical Psychopharmacology; the Society of Biological Psychiatry; and the American Psychiatric Association.
Dr. Graeme Bilbe
Dr. Graeme Bilbe is involved in advisory roles to public health institutions, universities and commercial organisations. He is former Research and Development Director and current Scientific Advisor at the Drugs for Neglected Diseases initiative (DNDi), an international non-profit organisation developing safe, effective and affordable treatments for the most neglected patients.
He was Global Head of Neuroscience Discovery at Novartis where he was tasked with the discovery and early development of proof-of-concept of novel treatments for brain diseases. He served as Head of Research for the Neuroscience Franchise at Novartis, and chaired the Neuroscience Disease Area Decision Board where, during his leadership, new therapies for Alzheimer’s disease and an orally active drug for multiple sclerosis, Gilenya, were registered.
Graeme has excellent experience as Chairman of Scientific Advisory Boards for biotechnology companies, charities, funding agencies and university/company consortia.
Prof. Dr. Jürg Gertsch
Professor Jürg Gertsch is Deputy and Co-director of the Institute of Biochemistry and Molecular Medicine at the University of Bern and Full Professor of Biochemistry and Pharmaceutical Biology.
His research was instrumental in the design and development of SERIs and he is an inventor of the SERI technology. He co-founded Synendos and identified the drug target of SERIs.
Jürg has been a scientific advisor in preclinical drug discovery in different companies and is in the management board of NCCR TransCure, where he promotes Knowledge and Technology Transfer (KTT) activities.
Prof. Dr. Kirsten Müller-Vahl
Professor Kirsten Müller-Vahl is Professor of Psychiatry at the Department of Psychiatry, Social Psychiatry and Psychotherapy at the Hannover Medical School, Germany (MHH).
A specialist in both, neurology and adult psychiatry, she has been Head of the Tourette’s Syndrome (TS) outpatient department at MHH since 1995. Kirsten is President of the European Society of the Study of Tourette’s Syndrome (ESSTS) and Chairwoman of both the National German Association for Cannabinoid Medicine (ACM) and the International Association for Cannabinoid Medicines (IACM). Kirsten has published more than 160 scientific articles and is a prolific author of guidelines for treating TS in both the EU and US. Moreover, she has been involved in all major TS clinical trials with cannabis, cannabinoids, and other endocannabinoid system modulators.