Our Leadership

Our leadership, including the management team and Board of Directors, is made up of biotechnology and pharmaceutical industry experts who are recognized for their contributions in the discovery and development of new therapies and their success in bringing new treatments to patients and physicians.

Howard Robin joined Nektar Therapeutics in January 2007. He has more than 25 years of successful biopharmaceutical experience managing clinical development and commercial operations. Most recently, Mr. Robin served as President and Chief Executive Officer of Sirna Therapeutics, a clinical-stage biotechnology company pioneering RNAi-based therapies for serious diseases and conditions, including age-related macular degeneration (AMD), hepatitis C, asthma, respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) and Huntington's disease. During his tenure at Sirna, Mr. Robin successfully re-launched the company and created significant shareholder value that led to its acquisition by Merck for $1.1 billion.

Prior to Sirna, Mr. Robin spent 20 years at Berlex Laboratories, the U.S. pharmaceutical subsidiary of the German pharmaceutical firm Schering AG. From 1991 to 2001, he served as corporate vice president and general manager of their U.S. Therapeutics division and was responsible for the development of drugs, such as Betaseron® (Interferon beta-1b) for multiple sclerosis and Fludara® (fludarabine phosphate) for chronic lymphocytic leukemia, generating annual global sales in excess of $800 million. He also served as a member of the Executive Committee. Prior to that, he was vice president of Finance and Business Development and CFO of Berlex. Earlier in his career, Mr. Robin was a senior associate with Arthur Andersen and Co.

Mr. Robin serves as a director of the Biotechnology Industry Organization, the world's largest biotechnology industry trade organization, and also serves as a director of BayBio, a non-profit trade association serving the Northern California life sciences community.

Mr. Robin holds a B.S. in Accounting and Finance from Fairleigh Dickinson University in New Jersey and serves as a member of its Board of Trustees.

Dr. Doberstein has over 25 years of experience in biotechnology research and development. Since joining Nektar in January 2010, he has spearheaded the discovery team at Nektar, which led to the identification and growth of the company’s proprietary pipeline of drug candidates. This included development of NKTR-181 (a first-in-class opioid analgesic with strategic brain entry kinetics) and NKTR-214 (a CD122-biased agonist that is currently in multiple clinical studies across a wide range of tumor types). Dr. Doberstein also serves as a representative of Nektar for the National Institute of Health (NIH) Public/Private Initiative to Address the Opioid Crisis.

Prior to joining Nektar, Dr. Doberstein was Vice President of Research at XOMA where he was responsible for directing discovery and development of multiple drug candidates, including antibody discovery and support of clinical development through non-clinical safety, translational medicine and pharmacokinetics/pharmacodynamics. Previously, Dr. Doberstein served as Vice President, Research at Five Prime Therapeutics, a protein and antibody discovery and development company where he built and led the discovery research and process development group. While at Five Prime, he created several successful drug candidate programs that resulted in multiple strategic alliances with pharmaceutical partners, and moved a number of product candidates from concept to clinical stage in diabetes, oncology, rheumatoid arthritis and osteoarthritis. Prior to that, Dr. Doberstein was the Vice President of Research at Xencor, and also held senior leadership positions at Exelixis.

Dr. Doberstein received his Ph.D. in Biochemistry, Cell and Molecular Biology from the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, and completed his postdoctoral work at UC Berkeley. Earlier in his career, Dr. Doberstein held a variety of engineering roles at DuPont after receiving his B.S.Ch.E. degree in Chemical Engineering from the University of Delaware.

As Senior Vice President, Human Resources and Facilities Operations, Ms. Hirth is responsible for designing and implementing HR strategies and programs that attract, develop and retain talent for a high-performing workforce. Ms. Hirth's experience spans 19 years at biotechnology companies leading strategic and tactical aspects of human resource functions, including managing issues surrounding mergers and acquisitions. Prior to joining Nektar in 2007, Ms. Hirth headed the human resource programs at Sirna Therapeutics, where she was part of the diligence team during the acquisition process by Merck. She was also part of the team that started SUGEN and transitioned it from start-up through two acquisitions initially by Pharmacia and then by Pfizer Inc. In addition, she served as Vice President, Human Resources and Facilities at Kosan Biosciences and Corgentech/Anesiva.

Maninder Hora joined Nektar in August 2010 as Senior Vice President, Pharmaceutical Development and Manufacturing Operations to lead management and oversight of Nektar's CMC, bioanalytical and manufacturing operations worldwide. Dr. Hora has been in the biopharmaceutical industry for 27 years with demonstrated expertise in process, analytical and pharmaceutical sciences, manufacturing and quality functions for biologics, vaccines, small molecules and drug delivery systems. He has led large teams of scientists and engineers to perform early and late stage development as well as lifecycle management CMC activities. He brings to Nektar the experience of registering nine drugs or vaccines products in the United States or Europe. Dr. Hora most recently served as Vice President of Product Operations & Quality at Facet Biotech (a spin-off from PDL BioPharma, now a part of Abbott Laboratories). He joined PDL BioPharma in 2006 as Vice President of Process Development and later took charge of Product Operations & Quality. From 1986 to 2006, Dr. Hora served in various positions of increasing responsibility at Chiron Corporation (now Novartis) with his last position being Vice President of Process and Product Development during the period 2001 to 2006. Dr. Hora also worked at Smith Kline & French (now Glaxo SmithKline) and Ayerst-Wyeth (now Pfizer) prior to joining Chiron.

Dr. Hora received his Ph.D. from the Indian Institute of Technology in Bioengineering (Materials) in 1980 and held a Fulbright fellowship at the University of Washington, Seattle. Dr. Hora holds twenty one US Patents and has authored scores of publications and delivered numerous presentations in international forums. He serves as a scientific advisor for Reviva Pharmaceuticals, an emerging research based pharmaceutical company.

Gil M. Labrucherie was appointed Senior Vice President and Chief Financial Officer of the company in June 2016. Mr. Labrucherie has held several senior leadership positions with increasing responsibility at Nektar since 2005, most recently he served as Senior Vice President, General Counsel and Secretary of Nektar from 2007 to 2016. Prior to joining Nektar, from October 2000 to September 2005, Mr. Labrucherie was Vice President of Corporate Development at E2open, Inc., where he was responsible for global corporate alliances and merger and acquisition activity. Prior to E2open, he was the Senior Director of Corporate Development at AltaVista Company, an Internet search company, where he was responsible for merger and acquisition transactions. Mr. Labrucherie began his career as an associate in the corporate practice of the law firm of Wilson Sonsini Goodrich & Rosati and Graham & James (DLA Piper Rudnick).

Mr. Labrucherie received his J.D. from University of California Boalt Hall School of Law, where he was a member of the California Law Review and Order of the Coif, and received his B.A. from the University of California, Davis.

John Nicholson was appointed Senior Vice President and Chief Operating Officer (COO) of the company in June 2016. Mr. Nicholson reports to Nektar's President and Chief Executive Officer, Howard W. Robin. From 2007 to 2016, Mr. Nicholson was Senior Vice President and Chief Financial Officer (CFO). Previously, he was Senior Vice President, Corporate Development and Business Operations at Nektar. Prior to joining Nektar, he served in a number of leadership roles at Bayer Schering Pharma AG, including Vice President, Corporate Development and Treasurer of Schering Berlin Inc., President of Schering Berlin Insurance Company, President of Bayer Pharma Chemicals Inc., and President of Schering Berlin Capital Corporation. Mr. Nicholson also served as Treasurer of Berlex Inc.

Dr. Tagliaferri has 20 years of experience in pharmaceutical drug development in oncology and women's health as well as extensive regulatory expertise. Dr. Tagliaferri joined Nektar in January 2015 as Vice President, Clinical Development. During her tenure at Nektar, she has provided strategic development leadership for the company’s immuno-oncology portfolio, including NKTR-214, a CD122 biased agonist, which is in multiple clinical studies across a wide range of tumor types. She serves as strategic development leader for the clinical collaboration between Nektar and Bristol-Myers Squibb.

Prior to joining Nektar, she was a clinical and regulatory consultant to InterMune before its acquisition by Roche. She also served as Chief Medical Officer at KangLaiTe USA, a privately-held biotechnology company which develops oncology drug candidates in multiple solid tumor settings. Dr. Tagliaferri was also co-founder and President and Chief Medical Officer of BioNovo where she led the company's clinical drug development strategy and global regulatory affairs, led data management and biostatistics, and oversaw clinical operations and compliance. Dr. Tagliaferri received the 2012 State of California Woman of the Year award for her advancements of clinical research in women's health and her mentorship of women in the biotechnology field.

Dr. Tagliaferri received her Bachelor of Science degree from Cornell University and her medical degree from the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF).

Jillian B. Thomsen joined Nektar in March 2006 and was appointed Chief Accounting Officer in April 2008. Ms. Thomsen has 20 years of financial reporting and accounting experience. She currently oversees accounting, financial reporting, planning & analysis, Sarbanes-Oxley compliance, treasury and tax.

Prior to April 2008, she served as Vice President, Finance and Controller of Nektar. Before joining Nektar, Ms. Thomsen was Deputy Controller of Calpine Corporation from September 2002 to February 2006. From December 1990 to May 2002, Ms. Thomsen performed various roles with Arthur Andersen starting as a staff accountant and concluding as a senior manager. Ms. Thomsen holds a Masters of Accountancy from the University of Denver and a B.A. in Business Economics from Colorado College.

Dr. Zalevsky joined Nektar in July 2015 as Vice President of Biology and Preclinical Development to lead biological and translational research and guide strategy for the Nektar discovery portfolio. During his tenure at the company, Dr. Zalevsky’s expertise in immunology, as well as his experience across biological modalities and therapeutic areas, have helped fuel the growth of the company’s immuno-oncology and immunology pipeline. Dr. Zalevsky led the discovery and preclinical development for NKTR-358 (a T regulatory cell stimulatory agent being developed for auto-immune diseases with partner Eli Lilly & Co.) and NKTR-262 (a small molecule TLR agonist being developed in combination with NKTR-214).

Prior to joining Nektar, Dr. Zalevsky had over 15 years of experience within both large pharmaceutical and small biotechnology companies. Previously, Dr. Zalevsky was Global Vice President and Head of the Inflammation Drug Discovery Unit at Takeda Pharmaceuticals. As the leading immunologist for Takeda, he was responsible for an immunology pipeline that spanned from early target discovery to late-stage development and launched products. Prior to working at Takeda, Dr. Zalevsky held a number of research and development positions at Xencor, where he was responsible for the discovery and development of Xencor's first four clinical-stage assets.

Dr. Zalevsky received his Ph.D. in Biochemistry from the Tetrad Program at the University of California at San Francisco (UCSF). He received dual bachelor degrees in Biochemistry and Molecular, Cellular and Developmental Biology from the University of Colorado at Boulder.

Carlo J. Di Fonzo leads drug development and regulatory affairs at Nektar with oversight responsibilities for regulatory affairs, GCP/GLP compliance and toxicology. Dr. Di Fonzo's experience includes over 25 years in regulatory affairs and safety roles in the pharmaceutical and biotechnology industry. During his career, Dr. Di Fonzo has been part of several teams that helped bring new medicines to patients, including Lipitor®, Neurontin®, Accupril®, Xigris®, Forteo®, Alimta®, Gemzar®, Zyprexa®, Strattera®, Cialis® and Movantik™. Prior to joining Nektar in 2006, Dr. Di Fonzo led regulatory affairs and quality compliance at Eli Lilly Canada, where he was also responsible for patent-listing strategies and product safety functions. Prior to joining Eli Lilly in November 2000, he worked at Warner-Lambert/Parke-Davis Canada, where he was had oversight of toxicology and safety studies as well as regulatory affairs.

Dr. Di Fonzo received his undergraduate degree in biologic sciences, his master's degree in clinical biochemistry and his Ph.D. in clinical biochemistry and toxicology from the University of Toronto, Canada.

Jennifer Ruddock heads the investor relations and corporate affairs department at Nektar, which includes public affairs, corporate and employee communications and public relations. Ms. Ruddock's experience spans 20 years in biotechnology, technology and finance. Prior to joining Nektar in 2004, Ms. Ruddock held leadership roles in investor relations, financial communications and corporate marketing at a number of public companies, including Catellus Development Corporation (acquired by ProLogis) and Tumbleweed Communications (acquired by Axway). Prior to that, she worked in the sales and trading department at Montgomery Securities (acquired by Bank of America), a San Francisco-based investment bank which specialized in high technology and healthcare sectors. While at Montgomery, she obtained both her Series 7 and 63 licenses. Ms. Ruddock began her career in medical device sales at Curtin Matheson Scientific, Inc. (acquired by Fisher Scientific). Ms. Ruddock received her undergraduate degree in neuroscience from Colgate University in 1991.

Kevin Brodbeck joined Nektar in 2002. As Vice President of Pharmaceutical Development at Nektar, Dr. Brodbeck is responsible drug product development for biologics and small molecules, process chemistry development for small molecule drug substance, and process chemistry development for clinical supply manufacturing. Dr. Brodbeck has over 30 years of pharmaceutical and product development experience in the fields of CNS, pain, and oncology.

Prior to joining Nektar, Dr. Brodbeck headed Formulation and Process Sciences at PowderJect Technologies, and served as the Director of Product Development at ALZA in the Biopharmaceutical Research & Implant Division. While at ALZA, Dr. Brodbeck developed and commercialized the Viadur (leuprolide 65mg) one-year implant. Dr. Brodbeck was also the lead inventor of number of novel protein delivery technologies for sustained release and improved stability of biopharmaceutical agents.

Dr. Brodbeck received his Ph.D. and M.S. degrees in Chemical Engineering from Stanford and the University of Illinois, and his B.S. degree in Chemical Engineering from the University of California, Berkeley. Dr. Brodbeck is the holder of numerous patents and is published in the field of pharmaceutical formulation, process sciences and drug delivery.

Lisa Decker leads Business Development for Nektar and is responsible for partnering activities and strategy. Since joining Nektar in 2008, Dr. Decker has held positions of increasing importance throughout the organization including alliance management, business strategy and operations, and program management. Dr. Decker led negotiations for the broad-based clinical collaboration with Bristol-Myers Squibb for NKTR-214, research collaborations for NKTR-214 with partners such as Takeda and Nouscom, and the NKTR-358 co-development/co-promotion agreement with Eli Lilly & Co.

Prior to joining Nektar, Dr. Decker was Associate Director of Technology Licensing at the University of Massachusetts Medical School where she lead the partnering and intellectual property strategy efforts for a diverse array of early stage technologies ranging from medical devices to novel therapeutics, including the University’s Nobel prize winning RNAi portfolio. Dr. Decker holds a Ph.D. in Immunology from Tufts University School of Medicine and conducted her postdoctoral training at Harvard Medical School.

Chulani Karunatilake joined Nektar in 2011 as Vice President, Pharmaceutical Development & Manufacturing. In this role, Dr. Karunatilake is responsible for Biologics CMC and has global responsibilities for Analytical, Bioanalytical and Quality Control functions. Dr. Karunatilake has over 20 years of experience in the biopharmaceutical industry having contributed to several successful biotechnology drug development and registration efforts at Amgen, Chiron/Novartis, and Genentech.

Prior to Nektar, Dr. Karunatilake was Director, Process Development at Amgen-Fremont where he was responsible for the Analytical and Purification Development departments and led the Quality by Design (QbD) task force in the FDA pilot program. Prior to Amgen, Dr. Karunatilake was Senior Director responsible for Analytical Development and Quality Control functions at Chiron/Novartis. Prior to Chiron-Novartis he was at Genentech where he held management roles of increasing responsibility in Analytical Technologies and Quality Control areas.

Dr. Karunatilake received his Ph.D. in Biochemistry/Chemistry from University of Illinois. He received his B.Sc. (Honors) degree in Chemistry from University of Colombo, Sri Lanka.

Henk Kocken joined Nektar in October 2015 as Vice President, Quality Assurance. Dr. Kocken brings over 20 years of experience in the management of quality systems and quality assurance in the biopharmaceutical industry to Nektar. Prior to joining Nektar, Dr. Kocken served as the VP of Regulatory Affairs and Quality for Alvine Pharmaceuticals. Prior to Alvine, Dr. Kocken was VP of Quality Systems at VaxGen, where he led the Quality Unit responsible for developing compliance, quality assurance, and quality control systems for the development, manufacture and control of anthrax and smallpox vaccines. Before VaxGen, Dr. Kocken served in various senior quality assurance and systems roles at CoTherix, InterMune, Fibrogen, Bio-Rad Laboratories and Clontech Laboratories.

Prior to his career in industry, Dr. Kocken was Assistant Professor of Molecular Biology at the Eindhoven University of Technology in the Netherlands. He received his Ph.D. in Chemical Technology from Eindhoven University of Technology and his M.S. in Molecular Biology from Nijmengen University in the Netherlands.

Mark A. Wilson has been our Vice President and General Counsel since July 2016. Mr. Wilson has over 20 years in the legal field, with a particular emphasis on intellectual property. Prior to serving as Nektar’s General Counsel, Mr. Wilson led Nektar’s intellectual property department with oversight for the company's extensive patent portfolio, including the preparation and prosecution of patent applications. Prior to joining Nektar in 2002, Mr. Wilson was an associate at Reed & Associates, a patent law firm in Menlo Park, California, where he successfully represented both start-up and Fortune 500 companies. Mr. Wilson received his J.D. from Seton Hall University, School of Law, and his B.S. in pharmacy from Rutgers University, College of Pharmacy. He is registered to practice before the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office.

Sunny Xie leads Biometrics and R&D Systems at Nektar with oversight of biostatistics and statistical programming for clinical development. Mr. Xie brings 20 years of statistics and programming experience in both biotech and large pharmaceutical companies to Nektar. Prior to joining Nektar in 2015, Mr. Xie was Senior Director, Statistical Programming at Gilead Sciences, Inc. While at Gilead, Mr. Xie led statistical programming group that supported all therapeutic areas including HIV, Liver Disease, Oncology, Inflammation & Respiratory and Cardiovascular. Prior to Gilead, Mr. Xie worked at Shire Pharmaceuticals overseeing process improvement, clinical applications, and support and training in Clinical Development, Operations and Biometrics. Before Shire, he spent more than 5 years at Forest Laboratories as the Executive Director of Statistical Programming. Earlier in his career, he held various roles in the Biometrics groups at Eli Lilly & Company and at Pharmacia (now Pfizer). Mr. Xie received his Masters of Science degree in Statistics from Sam Houston State University in Huntsville, Texas and his Bachelor of Science degree in Applied Mathematics and Application Software Design from Shandong University in China.