In this episode of the Life Science Success Podcast I interviewed Raphael Ognar, CEO and Co-Founder of NKILT Therapeutics. We discussed his career from product marketing to co-founding a cancer therapy organization.
In this episode of the Life Science Success Podcast I interviewed Raphael Ognar, CEO and Co-Founder of NKILT Therapeutics. We discussed his career from product marketing to co-founding a cancer therapy organization.
1:50 - Raphael's Career
6:06 - Lessons learned in his career that influence what he does now
10:08 - NKILT Creation and Co-Founders
10:13 - Cancer Target
12:30 - Finding funding for developing a drug
15:24 - Long-term Investment
17:00 - Excitement of being an entrepreneur & support of family
20:00 - NKILT Therapeutics Stage
21:49 - Biggest Success
27:24 - Three Questions
Please check out our Life Science Success Resources. You will find tools that will support growing companies and books for authors I have interviewed.
Raphaël G. Ognar, MBA, MSc
[00:00:28] Don Davis PhD, MBA: Welcome to the life science success podcast. My name is Don and I'm the host. And today we're going to be talking to rafaelle Ochsner. He's the CEO and co-founder of N kilt therapeutics. We're going to talk about his career from product marketing, to co-founding a cancer therapy organization. And so with.
I just wanted to briefly mention as well, I'm a consultant in the life science space. I help companies scale and manage complexity and increase performance. With that, [00:01:00] I wanted to introduce my guest Rafael. Welcome.
[00:01:05] Raphaël G. Ognar, MBA, MSc: Thank you, Don. Thank you for having me and good afternoon. Good evening to all of you.
[00:01:13] Don Davis PhD, MBA: Yeah, it's great to have you here. And I've really looked forward to going through this discussion. I'm so excited about your company. I know other people know this about me, but I know Rafael outside of the show as well. And we've been talking about doing this episode forever. We're a little bit late in getting started because we were troubleshooting some issues, but we are here and I'm so excited to jump into the topic here.
Rafael, could you just provide just a brief introduction of yourself and what your career is and what kind of brought you to where you are right now?
[00:01:50] Raphaël G. Ognar, MBA, MSc: Yes, Don. Absolutely. So Rafael Wagner, I've been working in the pharma and biotech industry for. Over 24 years now. I'm [00:02:00] a scientist by training, but I felt like it was so long ago that I did actually all my career in the commercial and strategy roles.
But I always had a very strong affinity to the concept of science and to building everything that I wanted to do on evidence and scientific evidence through my career. I started as the kind of classic brand management roles in the country, launching drugs at the country level. And very quickly I had the ambition to go global because I was always fascinated by first the global nature of the business, but also.
The attractiveness of interacting with different cultures, different approaches, different businesses and learning from there. And so I expanded my role in oncology, especially at global level and also moved forward beyond products management into product strategy, where I had the chance to work on pipeline assets.
And then. [00:03:00] Multiple assets in oncology again, where I had actually the benefit of having two of them. Approved along the way. I also learned the hard way, how it is difficult to counsel programs and to kill assets. That it was a very interesting job. It's probably was my favorite job ever.
It was exhausting, but fascinating. And it probably was the time where the seed of entrepreneurship started because in that role, I was more or less a little entrepreneur in charge of an asset and having. Bring everybody together from the organization to move it to the next step. And then I moved to a corporate strategy because I wanted to understand better the C-suite and the dynamics at at the sea level and particularly the concepts of governance decision-making and all these strategic aspects that are critical for a company.
So I had the chance to work for two large. As a [00:04:00] strategic deed in charge of the strategic plannings track plans and various initiatives. And I did that for Celgene and BMS. And and at some point I felt that it was time for me to step out of corporate pharma. And I I decided to create my own company that was actually a consulting company called animate.
And through this, I focus essentially. My activities on early stage companies, whether it was biotech in oncology or tech and real world evidence companies, but always with the angle of oncology, because that's what I had mixed. And through that path, I really cut my teeth on the entrepreneurship world, having roles as a acting C-level or acting CEO or strategic advisor to CEOs of small structure and really helping, moving to the next level.
And then we started to get me strong on that space. And through my different experiences [00:05:00] there, I met fabulous people of which two of them engaged with me in numerous conversation about science and about cell therapy. And long story short, we we had common ideas that we wanted to put together and we decided to create a company.
And that's how was born last year.
[00:05:20] Don Davis PhD, MBA: It's it's a great sort of story, right? I think a lot of. I've learned throughout our corporate life, certain key skills that, could benefit the transition to any sort of an entrepreneurial role, but definitely the closer that you get to that world of watching the entrepreneurs work it becomes even more and more exciting.
I feel like. My next question, really centers around lessons that you might've learned along your way, that you feel really have benefited or helped [00:06:00] you in terms of, forming your own organization. Yes.
[00:06:06] Raphaël G. Ognar, MBA, MSc: So what have learned is like there's so many things could I could write a book.
Maybe I should write a book about that, but more importantly first I think it really. Taught me a lot about myself, spending my life, getting challenges, always going into a direction that maybe people thought was not obvious. Making more often lateral move instead of vertical moves in corporate, for example, trying to challenge myself.
So it really gave me a lot of. Information about what I was capable of and what all were also my limitations and understanding, where you're good, where you're not is also very important, particularly when you're going to start to take a very strong leadership role as a CEO of our early stage company.
I also want to highlight that through my career, I had the great opportunity to follow [00:07:00] leadership of probably the best. In some way, the worst leaders it happens at. I think now when I look back, I see that those two experiences, two types of experiences were actually very beneficial because it, it gave me a very strong understanding of the do's and don'ts of leadership, but also.
It made me learning a lot about how to handle complex situation, because when everything goes well, when you know everything is successful, it's in some ways it's easy, but when you are facing adversity and difficulties, either because you are in a different form of agreement, or you have a different perspective than someone that is working with you on, if you go and butt heads, it's difficult, you have to find a way to get out of it and make things work.
And that requires a lot of. Skills that have may not have had in the past and that I acquired along the way. So these are really some very strong learning. I may want to add another specific item [00:08:00] on the key learnings that I had is that. I always considered them. It's even stronger now that you never succeed alone and you never achieve anything alone.
And this is really important for me is that when you are wanting to become a leader, you have to learn how to listen. You have to learn how to pause. You have to learn how to step back. In our industry, you have a tendency of running constantly because it's the nature of the business. And I think it's it was very important for me to get a little bit to that higher level of realizing.
Okay. Yes, I still need to do 25 things a day. I still have to merge it as too much, but at some point I need to also really listen, think and and breathe even sometime. So I can take the best decision in a. It's a good learning tool to think about this because a couple of times I took decisions based on [00:09:00] emotions and it's rarely a good idea.
[00:09:03] Don Davis PhD, MBA: Yeah. It's a, it's one of the first, one of the first sort of things that. That I've run into in business as well, is that a lot of people can, get very emotional over, things that we're just trying to solve a particular problem in business. It has little to do with a personal clash.
It's more, trying to deal with some sort of issue overall inside of the organization. And it's important to understand that. Collaboration and teaming is really critical at those times. And, not getting emotional bursting out of the room or really just letting your emotions run rampant on you is a difficult challenge that oftentimes you'll come through experience.
So absolutely. Yeah. In terms of, being the CEO and co-founder of [00:10:00] therapeutics, can you tell us just a little bit more about the company? What is it that you're working on? What are you guys focusing on it?
[00:10:08] Raphaël G. Ognar, MBA, MSc: Absolutely. And NKILT therapeutics was founded with a couple of co-founders that are joined me that a scientist S Simon, Wayne Hopson, and and Henry Bell that are my co-founders with me.
And what we did. We had an idea to try to bring a new way of binding through a cell therapy platform. What we have created is a, so the first I have to specify that the technology is not a spinoff of any academic center. It has been created by ourselves. And and we we are targeting a.
Understudied target called H lag. And we have decided, instead of going with a classic antibody targeting, we are using the [00:11:00] natural receptor of the HIG that is called ILT. And we created the concept of Comeric ILT receptor or cure. That is a form of car concepts. You heard about car T probably or current K technology where we are going to apply our key.
Into the T-cells or NK cells. And our first platform will be a NTSA bell based to be able to do an off the shelf approach. And and we are using our work here and K targeting a strategy to try to neutralize the impact that HTG has on the immune cells and making the immune cells able to through our care record.
The the cancer cells and kill them. We are in currently in very early stage. We have funded, the concept is done. The patents are filed and we are starting our first studies [00:12:00] in the lab, actually on the first week of may, we are opening our lab and we'll be able to. Long shower proof concept that is P the pickups diesel IP.
And while we do this, I'm intensively fundraising, our pre-seed that will allow us to fund this study and the subsequent one, particularly some tumor work to be able to show that our concept is more than a concept. It can kill also cancer.
[00:12:30] Don Davis PhD, MBA: Excellent. So I, it's funny, just before this interview, I received a message from somebody asking me, there, I guess they were seeing a lot more messages coming in with regards to people requesting funding other than they have in the past.
And my response was I find what I've found recently is that there are more people. That are in search of early capital. For [00:13:00] science like yours that are struggling if you get later on and you're into human trials, oftentimes, it gets a lot easier as my understanding.
At least at this time if you haven't, if you have an AI or a digital product, again your sort of pathways a little bit easier. Again, but it, it sure seems like it's really tough fundraising right now. Are you finding that same thing or you
[00:13:27] Raphaël G. Ognar, MBA, MSc: Yeah. Yeah, very much. It's the clearly the environment is is not very favorable for investment at risk into a innovation.
A lot of people say, yes, we support early stage companies, but at the end of the day, It may sounds a little rough, what I'm going to say, but you will have more chance to get money if you do a, the next car 19 that is, has been done already 10, 15, 20 times, then trying to bring a complete new concept because of course [00:14:00] people, the first question is that, do you have data?
No, I don't because it's a new concept. So I cannot use all the other things that were done with the 10 20, 30 car T targeting CD 19 that were done in the past few years. The other thing also is that there is still a lot of body in our industry. That's for sure, particularly for investment on innovation, but it's probably, I would not say easier, but it's probably more appealing for investors to put a large summer, a larger amount of money into something that is already about to get in the clinic or in the clinic because it has proved already and has cleared already.
Most of the milestones. And and is very advanced. So they logically believe that it has more chance to be successful on my stage. Everything needs to be done. So the likelihood of crossing the finish line in some ways, much lower, [00:15:00] or it's probably the fact that it's further. And so this is also a big thing that I think the market gave bad habits where there were a lot of people that could enter and exit pretty quick.
And it seems that it's going to be a more and more difficult to do. When you invest in biotech, you should consider that it's not a three-year investment. It's probably much more than that. Yeah.
[00:15:24] Don Davis PhD, MBA: Yeah. It's it for sure is a long-term investment. It is one that. Has a lot of, it has a significant amount of risk as well.
But the idea is we need the funding as well, to be able to carry out, these critical steps as well, too, so that you can have data and eventually, get to that next milestone. With that in mind, I come back to this idea that you wanted to be an entrepreneur.
You wanted to start a company of your own. What kind of led you to this point in your career where you said, Hey, look, this is now's the right. [00:16:00]
[00:16:00] Raphaël G. Ognar, MBA, MSc: Yes, that's a very good question. And some of my good friends, they, the, they keep telling me now, yeah, this is what you should be. You took too long. You should have started that much earlier.
And maybe it's the case. I always felt a little bit out of water when I was in corporate pharma, because. Many people used to say that I was a little bit not say your rebel, but someone that was having a hard time, staying in a in his own box. But what I have to admit is that, that my 20 years in corporate pharma and.
Taught me everything that I need to know today. And that's actually something that is very important. I made the move when I felt that I was ready. And when I probably had the courage to make the move, because it's clearly not an easy path is clearly a lot of unknown. When you jump out of the ship, the large ship of pharma and the, and go on your own.
But there's also an incredible thrill [00:17:00] associated to it that I've never experienced before in my career. And that's really something very unique, but I think it, it happened because I felt ready and I felt that I had enough knowledge to be able to go on my own and to carry this project.
The other thing that is really important that I really want to highlight that. Is that I would not have done anything like this without the support of my wife and partner and my kids and family close family. They were always by my side, when we decided that it was time for me to do that move, we had a discussion.
Kind of agreement that yes, we okay. For that, knowing that I will probably make less money than what I was in pharma, probably more bumpy and more erratic, but without that support, without that trust and and the field that they will give me that I can succeed, that will never have made that [00:18:00] move.
And that's also very important part of my day.
[00:18:03] Don Davis PhD, MBA: Yeah, you also might want to, say to that, that your wife is in the space that she completely understands the long tail end of this thing, that it's, this is a long-term move. This isn't a short term, Hey, tomorrow this fixes itself, it's a, this could take years before you start to.
Kind of come out of the other side, with a drug, hopefully that is impacting.
[00:18:33] Raphaël G. Ognar, MBA, MSc: Yeah, it's true. She's a clinician and she she's a a C level executive in a cell therapy biotech also. So we, we have an interesting life of sharing a lot of things and not being able to talk to each other about most of what we're doing, because in some ways a lot of information needs to remain confidential.
Of course, but now it's she's [00:19:00] a. Really for me, she's a rock in terms of her understanding of that business, but also her trust and her faith in the fact that we can make a difference. We, as a community scientists business people trying to fight cancer, it's becoming part of our daily lives to do through our work that fight against cancer.
And without her, by my side, I would probably never get the confidence. I need to be able to to manage my own.
[00:19:30] Don Davis PhD, MBA: Yeah. Just a, an amazing tie as well. I credit, both of you for for making the move together and this is part of what I think, marriage, affords a lot of us is a partner whenever you have to make one of these moves or make a significant decision.
[00:19:53] Raphaël G. Ognar, MBA, MSc: Thank you. It's a fun ride.
[00:19:57] Don Davis PhD, MBA: So what stages and NKILT therapeutics [00:20:00] currently in.
[00:20:01] Raphaël G. Ognar, MBA, MSc: So I couldn't see the we're still stealth in pre-seed funding stage. But we announced that we were at AACR. There's the American association of cancer research conference last week. And I had a little interview over there and I confirmed that we are actually opening our labs.
So if we're opening our lab, even if it's with one scientist for now, and actually I'm rapidly a second, one's going to come. We no longer stealth, we are studying the operations. But I really want to emphasize we're very early and we're still in a pre-seed funding. I'm still looking to try to get up to 1 million of pre-seed funding to be able to cover the cost of all these preliminary studies that we need to do.
And hopefully by gaining this, it will allow us to not only. Live through the next nine months [00:21:00] by doing what we need to do, meaning generating this data, but also start some tumor work where we want to showcase that our care concept can kill cancer cells. Because obviously if it doesn't, there is no no more business around that, but we are very convinced that is something we can prove.
And once we'll be there, we're going to move to. Another key milestone that will be a with seed round that we hope to start and and get on the first half of next year. And that's going to become where we're going to raise a larger amount of money to be able to launch our pre ING process.
[00:21:41] Don Davis PhD, MBA: Excellent. So what has been your biggest success?
[00:21:49] Raphaël G. Ognar, MBA, MSc: That's. It's always a tricky question. I I always had a hard time considering what I was doing for businesses on [00:22:00] the angle of success, because I was just feeling, I was just doing my job. So what I could say though, is Very early on. I had the chance to enter in the world was in medical device at that time was at the chance to enter in a very interesting company that taught me all the foundation and and basis of.
Marketing for pharmaceuticals or tech products. And I had the chance to be very successful. Had a great team, great products moved the needle significantly and felt that we were having an impact on patient. At that time. It was patients with suffering from continents issues, whether it was paraplegic or quadriplegic patients, or even elderly pay people.
And that was a very successful. Start of my career. That's what actually gave me visibility and had people from pharma [00:23:00] hunting me to get into pharma and oncology. But I think during my path in management of pipeline assets, the SAC that I could. Be a strong contributor that led to a approval of two drugs in the, in oncology is something that I will consider success because it was very gratifying.
And also because it required to have a very tight work with a large matrix. With people from different backgrounds, different countries, very different approaches. And this is where I learned the most of of how drug development is difficult. But every time you feel, you go to the next step, it's a victory.
And when that next step becomes an approval, and I think it's even a very gratifying, so that's what I would consider successes. I will put a personal note on this because it's [00:24:00] something that probably because I spent too much time in my career at work and not enough with my Semini traveling all the time.
I would say that probably my biggest success is. The life I'm trying to live today with my wife and my kids. And and and all my kids have become two boys in college finding their way with great values that make me always very proud of them. And that's probably my biggest success.
[00:24:32] Don Davis PhD, MBA: Yeah, I'll be definitely sounds like a major success on a personal note, for sure.
[00:24:39] Raphaël G. Ognar, MBA, MSc: So I don't know if it's a challenge, but there's a thing that gets very strongly under my skin is a human stupidity and selfishness. This is something that I I really had to continuously to [00:25:00] struggle with throughout my life. And secretary sometime I feel like I would not say it's a failure, but the fact that I couldn't eventually convince people to be less idiots.
That's sometimes frustrating, but it's it's. It's really interesting how I mentioned early you, if you remember that I consider you cannot achieve anything alone. And I felt that it was really a challenge for me to realize that there were many people in life, but also in our industry that are very selfish and that are doing things just for themselves.
And that's, it's really makes me sad because I think it's not what it should be about. They should be. What we do for others or not about ourselves. And that's something that is very difficult for me, but hopefully we can say that it's a minority of people [00:26:00] and more importantly it's not because you have one black sheep that you touched shepherd is is in danger.
So we we leave it there, but it's something that is really. That every time I I faced this kind of behavior, it triggers me.
[00:26:20] Don Davis PhD, MBA: Yeah. It's funny. Cause knowing you personally as well that I've seen you be somebody that, will give and share ideas pretty pretty openly and pretty freely.
And being somebody like that myself, I certainly run into it as well. I'd have people, continually ask me, what does it cost for, just getting together and talking. And it's such a strange question for me because it's look, I enjoy networking.
I enjoy doing this. I enjoy talking [00:27:00] about people's past and their history and. And understanding them a little bit better and not at a cost, not a trying to to charge by the hour the minute. So it's, it seems very stranger foreign to me. Whenever people do that, they ask those questions.
[00:27:17] Raphaël G. Ognar, MBA, MSc: Yep. We need everything to make a world where we live yeah.
[00:27:24] Don Davis PhD, MBA: Yeah, for sure. So there are three questions that I like to ask every guest Raphael, what inspired.
[00:27:30] Raphaël G. Ognar, MBA, MSc: I may sound a little cheesy what I'm going to say that, but it's really my wife and my kids that inspire me today. I'm so proud of what my kids became.
But more importantly my, my interaction with them the challenge that they throw at me on a regular basis for food for good, good challenge and When I [00:28:00] see what they're capable of doing it really makes me staying humble on what I do because at the end we are. We are very little things.
If you think about it, in this world each of us contribute in some way, but we are no one compared to everything that is around us. And I really I really take this as a very strongly because I consider life is very fragile. We we live through cancer that, that issue of the fragility of.
Constantly, I think everybody that will be listening to us probably has someone in their family that went through cancer that or know somebody that has cancer and things can stop suddenly without notice. And that is something that made me really realizing [00:29:00] that it's important to focus on what truly matters.
And to me that's where I get my inspiration from my close family. That's very important.
[00:29:12] Don Davis PhD, MBA: Yeah. It's interesting to me as well. So I have three children who are all adults? And I'm starting their own lives and buying homes and, married and things like that. And it's so interesting to watch or think back to that point in time when we first had little babies, you have no idea what's going to have.
And there are points in time, definitely as a parent where you're a little white knuckles trying to figure out exactly what's going to happen with my kids. As they grow into adults, you hope that they mature appropriately. And it sounds to me like you've, your kids are at great points at great stages.
Definitely [00:30:00] should be something that inspires. Yeah, knock on wood, right? What concerned
[00:30:05] Raphaël G. Ognar, MBA, MSc: you? You won't be surprised about this actually because you know me, but I'm really concerned about how the world is evolving currently and how this kind of it becomes more about individuals and egocentric attitude.
More than that. Continuing to try to build a society. It's actually interesting to see how today people spend more importance on how they can be the center of attention and how they can be ready to develop outrageous. Positions just so that people can look at them or just so they can believe that they exist, because that worries me a little bit because I think that mankind has shown [00:31:00] fantastic growth and agility and intelligence throughout the several centuries by really working together.
Of course there were always situations that were difficult often. Concept of wars or whereas existed. But there are also some examples of elevation and achievements without having to use the force or without having to step on, on others. And I wish we will be able to do more of that, but maybe we'll we'll have some changes.
You, people may not know that, but originally from. And we have the president presidential election this coming weekend. And for the second time in a row, we have the far right. Extreme, that is facing someone that is more moderate. And and it's it's interesting to [00:32:00] see that probably 30 years ago, nobody would have ever thought that this was possible because they were saying, no, we're not going to have extremes close to getting to power.
We faced it in the. We face it in multiple countries. And that worries me. I think it's something that I'm not sure what we'll be able to get out smoothly. Yeah.
[00:32:22] Don Davis PhD, MBA: Yeah. It's something that definitely is concerning and it I ha I hope that at some point in the future, we can look back and say, Hey, our worry.
Yeah, it really wasn't founded, but at the same time, there's good. Cause for being worried, at least at this point in time, for sure. Yeah. What excites you?
[00:32:43] Raphaël G. Ognar, MBA, MSc: I'm going to go back to the science a little bit because I've been talking about a lot of things that maybe people would find boring. But when I see how science has evolved, particularly the one that Focused on [00:33:00] that is a cancer science, and all these different developments that we have done in the past few decades.
This is making me completely excited because we are doing things today and particularly with cell therapy, that when I started in oncology, we would never even think. Anything about about that? It was like almost considered, we're not say science fiction, but a bit almost.
And I actually had a very interesting experience during the AACR conference where there was an award provided to professor Rosenberg. That is one of the father of cell therapy. That did a lot of great work with what we call TEALS and and he showed during his award ceremony, a presentation, it showed.
Handwriting page of [00:34:00] the first interaction when he was working on on some form of gene editing approach to create a therapeutic. And it was showing the interaction in handwriting, what were the conclusion and the different steps on their interaction with FDA at that time. So that back in the eighties, even maybe earlier, I think and And it was incredible because not only you needed something like over nine or 10 steps back and forth interaction with FDA, because people were reluctant to to this crazy ideas that they were having.
And there were even, and you wrote it on an inside with it, with his hands. He wrote like even some people were. Telling them people from FDA officials saying you are, you cannot play God. What you are doing is to try to play God by modifying genes of people. And. What a journey we did since the, that time where today, [00:35:00] yes.
Maybe people can still believe we play God because we do cell therapy where we we create car T-cells current case sales. And we modify those immune cells to make them targeting cancer cells and killing cancer cells. And there are a lot of things that we need to continue to learn, but.
The speed and the depth that science is advancing currently is mind blowing. And to me, one of the most exciting thing, and I'm very pleased that I can be part of that journey. And in fact, on my little level with my team and my peers, we can bring a little brick to that wall. We'll be very happy and we'll feel that we have at least contributed.
To to give something better for those patients that are in need of a new therapeutics. So this really excites me where lot.
[00:35:59] Don Davis PhD, MBA: Yeah. [00:36:00] And CA cancer is, it's brutal and in a lot of ways it's smart. And if we don't apply the same level of intellect to try and figure out how. How do we want to impact it and how do we to work on this idea of a cure or a way of preventing it, or what have you?
I am so excited with regards to where we're at with one technology. I certainly see a lot of the things that we're doing with, CRISPR. We're doing a lot with regards to artificial intelligence and using that to narrow down targets as well as, pick therapies, for people.
So there's a lot of great things happening in the space there. And then there's treatments like yours that could potentially, change the game. And I definitely. I'm excited to buy the same by the same thing. It definitely is a great time to be in science and dealing with a lot of the companies that [00:37:00] we get to touch along the way.
[00:37:05] Raphaël G. Ognar, MBA, MSc: Put your.
[00:37:07] Don Davis PhD, MBA: So Raphael Agner. I wanted to thank you for being on the life science success podcast. Thank you so much for spending time with me today and sharing a little bit about what you're working on within kilt therapeutics. So thanks so much.
[00:37:20] Raphaël G. Ognar, MBA, MSc: Thank you for having me. Thank you for all your audience for listening to us.
I hope it was not too boring, but one thing that I can be sure about is that I am convinced that thanks to people like you like me and all the ones that we actually are regularly talk to in some of our networking events that we we we attend together. Sometimes I think this is how we can make things better.
And I really, I'm very grateful that despite all the. Little pieces that are highlighted that make me sometimes a little bit concerned. There's still a lot of great things and [00:38:00] being back in person, meeting people again, a really, it's a very good feeling that we missed for the past two years.
I can't wait to be able to continue our journey. And thank you again for what you do also. And I hope that we're going to cross paths again and again, multiple times.
[00:38:21] Don Davis PhD, MBA: Thanks so much. Thank you.
CEO & Co-founder
Raphaël G. Ognar, born in France and raised across the world (especially Australia & Africa), has been in the pharmaceutical industry for over 24 years. During these years, Raphaël built a very strong strategy, commercial & corporate expertise throughout numerous leadership roles in Biotech and Pharmaceutical companies.
His diverse scientific and commercial backgrounds were shaped through Masters & D.E.A. of Physiology & Neurosciences from University of Bordeaux I&II, and an MBA in Strategic Marketing & Enterprise Management from I.A.E of Tours University.
His career allowed him to build a solid commercial expertise through various marketing positions from operational marketing (in France) to global marketing roles (in the US), across multiple leading Medical Devices companies (such as Coloplast) or Pharma/Biotechs (i.e. Hoechst-Marion-Roussel, Novartis Oncology, Celgene & Bristol-Myers Squibb).
This recognized strategic & commercial expertise has been expanded to a very deep understanding of the complex drug lifecycle (discovery, development, market access, approval, commercialization & LCM) through a decade of work in various key leadership roles. Of particular interest, while at Novartis Oncology as a Global New Products Strategic Director, he led large Global multidisciplinary matrix teams involved in portfolio strategy, clinical development & new products strategy and oversaw multiple pipeline programs across several cancer diseases. This role allowed him to critically contribute to the filing & approval of drugs in Hematologic Malignancies & Lung Cancer.
As a next chapter in Pharma/Biotech industry, for over 5 years, Raphaël continued to grow his scope of expertise by integrating Corporate Strategy roles, giving him incremental skills & great understanding of complex problematics, such as Portfolio Management, Strategic Planning, Strategic Finance, Corporate Governance & company transformation, also learning how to manage, lead, influence & support decision making process at executive level (C-Suite & Board of Directors). He also intensified is focus on integrating Digital Health and Real-World Evidence in the strategic & operational mix of Pharma/Biotech business.
For the past 5 years, Raphaël led his executive consulting company, ANIM8 LLC, to increase his Entrepreneurship skills by embracing leadership consulting roles in early-stage Oncology, Cell Therapy biotechs and Digital Health/RWE startups. One of his recent roles as acting CEO of an early cancer cell therapy startup gave him the opportunity to cut his teeth in building strategy, lab and operations from ground-up. Thanks to these multiple experiences, he crafted with his co-founders the idea around NKILT Therapeutics that was registered in Summer 2021. His focus today is to continue to dedicate his life to the fight against cancer, bringing his expertise to help pushing forward innovation.
Besides his professional passion, Raphaël prioritizes his time with his wife, his 2 college sons and his close friends, enjoys playing music with his family rock band, pushes himself doing rock climbing (indoors and outdoors) and various sports, and travels around the world with his family to discover new territories and continuously explore the beauty and secrets of nature and mankind civilizations.