Stevia First Corp.’s team brings the Company wide-ranging experience in creating and managing public companies as well as industry-leading expertise in agriculture and biotechnology operations management.
Robert Brooke, Chief Executive Officer
Robert Brooke has served as a director and our Chief Executive Officer since January 31, 2012, and previously served as our Vice President of Business Development beginning in October 2011. Mr. Brooke was a founder of Lion Biotechnologies, Inc., formerly Genesis Biopharma, Inc. (OTCBB: LBIO.OB), a cancer drug development company, where he also served as Director, President and Chief Executive Officer from March 2010 until February 2011.
Mr. Brooke is a co-founder of Intervene Immune, Inc., a privately held biotechnology company focused on immune regeneration, and since March 2014 has served on a limited part-time basis as CEO. Mr. Brooke was the founder of Percipio Biosciences, Inc., a privately held research diagnostics company that manufactures and distributes products related to oxidative stress research, and served as its President, on a limited part-time basis, from 2008 until June 2013. From 2004 to 2008, he was an analyst with Bristol Capital Advisors, LLC, investment manager to Bristol Investment Fund, Ltd. During this period, Bristol financed over 60 public healthcare and life science companies and was listed by The PIPEs Report in 2005 as being the most active investor in private placements by public biotechnology companies.
Mr. Brooke earned a B.S. in Electrical Engineering from Georgia Tech in 2003 and a M.S. in Biomedical Engineering from UCLA in 2005. Mr. Brooke provides our Board of Directors with public and private capital raising experience, as well as experience in leading early stage biotechnology companies.
Avtar Dhillon, M.D., Chairman of the Board
Dr. Avtar Dhillon has served as the Chairman of our Board of Directors since January 31, 2012 and has served as a director since August 17, 2011. Dr. Dhillon also served as our Interim Principal Executive and Financial Officer from August 17, 2011 until January 31, 2012.
Dr. Dhillon has served as Chairman of the Board of Directors of OncoSec Medical Incorporated (OTCBB: ONCS) since March 2011, and of Arch Therapeutics since April 2013, after serving as a director since May 2011. Dr. Dhillon served as President and Chief Executive Officer of Inovio Pharmaceuticals, Inc. (formerly Inovio Biomedical Corporation) (NYSE Amex: INO) from October 2001 to June 2009, as President and Chairman of Inovio from June 2009 until October 2009, as Executive Chairman until August 2011, and as Chairman from September 2011.
During his tenure at Inovio, Dr. Dhillon led the successfully turnaround of the company through a restructuring, acquisition of technology from several European and North American companies, and a merger with VGX Pharmaceuticals to develop a vertically integrated DNA vaccine development company. Dr. Dhillon led multiple successful financings for Inovio and concluded several licensing deals that included multinational companies, Merck and Wyeth (now Pfizer). Prior to joining Inovio, Dr. Dhillon held roles of increasing responsibility with MDS Capital Corp. (now Lumira Capital Corp.), one of North America's leading healthcare venture capital organizations, from the period of August 1998 until September 2001. In July 1989, Dr. Dhillon started a medical clinic and subsequently practiced family medicine for over 12 years until September 2001. Dr. Dhillon has been instrumental in successfully turning around struggling companies and influential as an active member in the biotech community.
From March 1997 to July 1998, Dr. Dhillon was a consultant to CardiomePharma Corp. ("Cardiome"), a biotechnology company listed on the Toronto Stock Exchange and NASDAQ. While at Cardiome, Dr. Dhillon led a turnaround based on three pivotal financings, establishing a clinical development strategy, and procuring a new management team. In his role as a founder and board member of companies, Dr. Dhillon has been involved in several early stage healthcare focused companies listed on the Toronto Stock Exchange and TSX Venture Exchange, which have successfully matured through advances in their development pipeline and subsequent merger and acquisition transactions.
He was a founding board member in February 2004 of Protox Therapeutics, Inc., now a publicly traded specialty pharmaceutical company known as Sophiris Bio Inc. Dr. Dhillon maintained his board position until the execution of a financing with Warburg Pincus in November 2010. Dr. Dhillon currently sits on the Board of Directors of BC Advantage Funds, a venture capital corporation in British Columbia, and has held this role since November 2003.
Dr. Dhillon brings extensive experience in biotechnology companies to our Board of Directors, as well as significant experience with obtaining financing and pursuing and completing strategic transactions. He has valuable experience serving on the Board of Directors of other publicly traded and privately held companies.
Dr. Anthony E. Maida, III, Ph.D., MA, MBA, Director
Dr. Anthony Maida, III, joined our Board of Directors in March 2012. Dr. Maida has served on the Board of Directors of OncoSec Medical Incorporated since June 2011 and currently serves as the Chair of its Audit Committee and as a member of its Nominating and Corporate Governance Committee. Dr. Maida has served on the Board of Directors of Spectrum Pharmaceuticals, Inc. (NASDAQ GS: SPPI) since December 2003 and currently serves as the Chair of its Audit Committee and a member of its Compensation Committee, Placement Committee, Nominating and Corporate Governance Committee and Product Acquisition Committee.
He is currently Senior Vice President – Clinical Research (from June 2011) at Northwest Biotherapeutics, Inc., a company focused on the development of therapeutic DC cell based vaccines to treat patients with cancer. Dr. Maida has been the acting Chairman (from March 2003) of Dendri Therapeutics, Inc., a startup company focused on the clinical development of therapeutic vaccines for patients with cancer, since 2003. He also serves as Principal of Anthony Maida Consulting International (since September 1999), providing consulting services to large and small biopharmaceutical firms in the clinical development of oncology products and product acquisitions and to venture capital firms evaluating life science investment opportunities.
Recently Dr. Maida was Vice President of Clinical Research and General Manager, Oncology, world-wide (from August 2010 to June 2011) for PharmaNet, Inc. He served as the President and Chief Executive Officer of Replicon NeuroTherapeutics, Inc., a biopharmaceutical company focused on the therapy of patients with tumors (both primary and metastatic) of the central nervous system, where he successfully raised financing from both venture capital and strategic investors and was responsible for all financial and operational aspects of the company, from June 2001 to July 2003. He was also President (from December 2000 to December 2001) of CancerVax Corporation, a biotechnology company dedicated to the treatment of cancer.
He has been a speaker at industry conferences and is a member of the American Society of Clinical Oncology, the American Association for Cancer Research, the Society of Neuro-Oncology, the American Chemical Society and the International Society for Biological Therapy of Cancer.
Dr. Maida received a B.A. in History from Santa Clara University in 1975, a B.A. in Biology from San Jose State University in 1977, an M.B.A. from Santa Clara University in 1978, an M.A. in Toxicology from San Jose State University in 1986 and a Ph.D. in Immunology from the University of California in 2010. Dr. Maida brings to the Board significant practical experience in agriculture. We believe that his financial and operational experience in our industry will provide important resources to our Board.
Dr. J. Jeremiah Mann Ph.D., VP of Operations, Senior Agronomist
Since 2011, Dr. Mann has held the position of Agronomist with the U.S.D.A., Natural Resource Conservation Service, at the California Plant Material Center in Lockeford, CA. In this role he managed all farm operations at the center while providing state wide consulting services to NRCS field offices on agronomic, re-vegetation/restoration, and vegetation management topics. Previously, he conducted graduate research at UC Davis and was a consulting scientist at the Solano Resource Conservation District, Dixon, CA, specializing in restoration management techniques. Over the course of his career to-date he has held a variety of positions including as an Instructor and Staff Engineer at Humboldt State University, as a Botanical Technician with McBain and Trush Engineering, and as a Research Assistant at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) in Golden, CO. He has also enjoyed serving as an Arborist, Firefighter, and Teaching Assistant. He began his affinity for agronomy in the late 1980s while working on a walnut farm in Gustine, CA and on several tobacco farms in Tennessee. Dr. Mann holds a number of relevant professional certifications, is an accomplished lecturer, author and a member of several industry associations as well as the recipient of a number of scholarships and awards in his field. He earned his Ph.D. Horticulture and Agronomy, at the College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences, University of California, Davis, CA (2011), M.S. Horticulture and Agronomy, College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences, University of California, Davis, CA (2009), and a B.S. Physical Science, College of Natural Resources & Sciences, Humboldt State University, Arcata, CA, (2005).
Mr. Richard McKilligan, Controller
Mr. McKilligan brings a background encompassing his career in the legal profession, plus experience in finance and family roots in agriculture. He is a member of the State Bar of California, the New York State Bar Association and the Florida Bar. McKilligan earned his law degree from Cornell Law School, an MBA from the University of Chicago’s Booth School of Business and his undergraduate degree in Accountancy from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. From 2000 to 2006, he was an associate with Morgan, Lewis & Bockius, LLP in their New York and London offices. He subsequently served until 2011 as Chief Financial Officer and general counsel with Derycz Scientific, Inc., an information services & software company, and previously as Chief Financial Officer of Genesis Biopharma, Inc, a cancer drug development company. Mr. McKilligan also brings significant practical agriculture experience through an upbringing on a large soybean and corn producing family farm.