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 is a co-founder of Stevia First Corp. He was previously the founder of Genesis Biopharma, Inc., a cancer drug development company, and served as President and CEO of Genesis until February 2011. Mr. Brooke also founded Percipio Biosciences, Inc., a research diagnostics company that manufactures and distributes products related to oxidative stress research worldwide. From 2004 to 2008, he was a buy-side analyst with Bristol Capital Advisors, LLC, an investment manager for Bristol Investment Fund, Ltd. During this period, Mr. Brooke helped finance more than 60 public healthcare and life science companies, and Bristol was listed by The PIPEs Report as the most active investor in private placements by public biotechnology companies. He earned a B.S. in Electrical Engineering from Georgia Tech in 2003 and a M.S. in Biomedical Engineering from UCLA in 2005.
Avtar Dhillon, M.D., Chairman of the Board
Dr. Avtar Dhillon is a co-founder of Stevia First Corp. Dr. Dhillon has more than 20 years of experience in building public companies through mergers and acquisitions, leading innovation in scientific, engineering and farming enterprises, securing government grants and NGO funding (more than US$50 million to date), and building dominant IP portfolios through partnering and negotiating deals with small businesses as well as large multibillion dollar companies.
The former President & Chief Executive Officer of Inovio Pharmaceuticals, Inc. (NYSE Amex: INO), he currently serves as the firm’s Chairman. During his tenure at Inovio, Dr. Dhillon successfully led the turnaround of the company through restructuring and the acquisition of technology from several European and North American companies, including a merger with VGX Pharmaceuticals to develop a vertically integrated DNA vaccine development company with one of the strongest development pipelines in the industry. He led eight successful financings, raising more than $136 million for the company, and concluded several licensing deals valued at more than $200 million that included global pharma leaders Merck and Wyeth (now Pfizer).
Prior to joining Inovio, Dr. Dhillon was vice president of MDS Capital Corp. (now Lumira Capital Corp.), one of North America’s leading healthcare venture capital organizations. He has been instrumental in successfully turning around struggling companies and highly influential as an active member in the biotech community.
Prior to 1998, Dr. Dhillon had acted as a consultant to Cardiome Pharma Corp., a biotechnology company listed on the Toronto Stock Exchange and NASDAQ. In this capacity he supported a successful turnaround that included three pivotal financings, the establishment of a clinical development strategy, and the procurement of a new management team. Prior to 2001, Dr. Dhillon acted as consultant to Forbes Meditech and in this capacity helped raised $28 million and increased investor awareness of the company. In his role as founder and board member, Dr. Dhillon has been involved in several early stage healthcare focused companies listed on the TSX and TSX-V that have successfully matured through advances in their development pipeline and subsequent M&A transactions. Most recently, he was a founding board member of Protox Therapeutics, Inc. and had maintained his board position until the execution of a financing of up to $35 million with Warburg Pincus in November 2010.
In addition to his board member roles with Oncosec Medical (Chairman) and Inovio, Dr. Dhillon currently sits on the Board of Directors of BC Advantage Funds, the largest Venture Capital Corporation in British Columbia. In July 1989, Dr. Dhillon started a medical clinic and subsequently practiced family medicine for over 12 years, during which time he gained experience in the management of diseases including related to sugar consumption. He has a B.Sc. (Honours) in Human Physiology, and an M.D. from the University of British Columbia.
Complementing Dr. Dhillon’s extensive achievements in biotech and corporate development are his deep roots in agriculture. Growing up in an extended farming family, and preceded by generations of farmers, Dr. Dhillon and his family have farmed hundred of acres of blueberries, raspberries, and strawberries over the years. He and his wife now have several hundred acres under cultivation in California and British Columbia. Their professionally managed operations include blueberry farms in Richmond, BC, and walnut, prune, almond and peach orchards as well as fruit processing in California.
Members of Dr. Dhillon’s extended family have made significant contributions to agriculture in the U.S., beginning with his wife’s great-grandfather, who introduced innovative crop rotation techniques. Dr. Dhillon’s father-in-law, having developed more than 200,000 acres of farmland in the U.S., became a prominent member of the California Canning Peach Association and was for many years the world’s largest peach grower.
Dr. Dhillon’s singular combination of experience in healthcare, biotech research, corporate development and wide-ranging agricultural enterprises qualify him to provide strong leadership in developing a successful stevia agri-bio business.
Dr. Anthony E. Maida, III, Ph.D., MA, MBA, Director
Dr. Maida brings a strong practical experience in agriculture through management of all aspects of a family farm business and contract work for Del Monte, Sunsweet, and FMC Corporation. This includes work related to row crops for irrigation, pest control, cultivation, harvest, technology utilization, equipment operation, experimental seed testing, and set-up of fully-integrated agricultural systems. He was recently VP of Clinical Research and General Manager, Oncology, world-wide, for a leading international contract research organization. Dr. Maida is currently a Director of OncoSec Medical and past Chairman, Founder and Director of BioConsul Drug Development Corporation and the Principal of Anthony Maida Consulting International, servicing pharmaceutical firms, venture capital, hedge funds and Wall Street, in the clinical development of biotechnology products and product/company acquisitions.
Dr. Maida's expertise includes the execution and oversight of finance, operations, research, clinical and scientific development, regulatory and manufacturing for the development of various therapeutic initiatives. Over the past 25 years Dr. Maida has served in a number of executive roles including, Chairman, CEO, COO, CSO, CFO and business development. Over recent years Dr. Maida has raised or assisted in financings of approximately $200 million for emerging biotechnology companies. Today, Dr. Maida serves as an advisor, consultant and technical analyst for multiple investment firms and life science companies. He sits on the board of directors of Spectrum Pharmaceuticals, Inc. and is a former board member of Sirion Therapeutics, Inc. and GlycoMetrix, Inc.
Dr. Maida holds a B.A. degree in Biology, a B.A. Degree in History, an MBA, an MA in toxicology and a Ph.D. in Immunology. He is a member of the American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO), the American Association for Cancer Research (AACR), the Society of Neuro-Oncology (SNO), and the International Society for Biological Therapy of Cancer (iSBTc), the American Association of Immunologists (AAI), and the American Chemical Society. Dr. Maida also holds a number of patents and patent applications associated with various therapeutic modalities and approaches.
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.