Zafrira Avnur, Ph.D.
Chief Scientific Officer
Boston, MA, USA
In October 2016 Ms. Avnur Joined Quark Venture as Chief Scientific officer at Quark Venture, a venture investment fund focused on life sciences investments. Quark Venture is one of the largest global health sciences venture funds headquartered in Vancouver, Canada with offices in Boston, Hong Kong and Chengdu. The fund is diversified to invest in disruptive pre-clinical and clinical stage companies, IPOs and publicly traded companies in the areas of drug development, vaccines, diagnostics, medical devices, health IT and novel emerging convergent technologies.
Ms. Avnur was the Global Head of Academic Innovation, Roche Partnering from 2009 until October 2016. In this role she was responsible for creating relationships with the world’s leading academic institutions and world class innovators, gaining Roche early access to innovation. Ms. Avnur has established agreements with over 50 universities, started more than 100 academic programs in 16 locations. Ms. Avnur created the ROADS (Roche Alliance with Distinguished Scientists) program, a model for collaboration between Industry and Academic institutions.
Ms. Avnur was named Global Head of Neglected Diseases Roche Partnering, establishing six collaborations and connections with non-profit organizations.
Ms. Avnur found and performed scientific evaluation of opportunities and in-licensing leads mainly in early stage throughout the world. From these she has created nine start-up companies. Several of these innovations were recognized as Game Changing Innovation at Roche.
Preceding her current academic innovation leadership role, Ms. Avnur moved to Roche Partnering group (Basel, Switzerland, 2006) and assumed responsibility for scientific evaluations of partnering opportunities and started the “Finder” group for Biomarkers for all therapeutic areas. She acted as Liaison between Pharma and Diagnostic Divisions’ Biomarkers activities, and contributed to the PHC (Personalized Health Care) initiative.
Prior to her partnering roles, Ms. Avnur worked in diagnostics and pharmaceuticals research and development for nearly 20 years. She held a number of positions progressing from scientist and manager to global responsibilities. Her focus areas included diagnostics, the finding of biomarkers in various therapy areas (including Asthma and COPD, transplant genitourinary, CNS, arthritis, transplant and hepatitis C.), preclinical pharmacology (osteoporosis), overseeing the advancement of compounds from the bench into the clinic, and participate in the design and execution of early clinical studies that characterize the pharmacodynamics and clinical effects of a number of compounds.
As a researcher, Ms. Avnur has participated in global committees at Roche that managed the research drug discovery portfolios for both Inflammatory and Viral Diseases. In her management roles, Ms. Avnur ran groups of up to 44 scientists.
Ms. Avnur was named Distinguished Scientist, the highest scientific appointment at Roche.
Major scientific achievements include advancing three compounds (a PTHrP analog and two vitamin D analogs, for the treatment of postmenopausal osteoporosis) from early exploratory discovery research to the clinic.
Ms. Avnur will leverage the assets gained in her rich career to make an impact, by engaging in the innovation community to translate science into products.