CureDuchenne welcomes new executive director, vice president of medical affairs, and board members
Leading Duchenne muscular dystrophy nonprofit strengthens leadership team and board expertise
Newport Beach, Calif. – October 24, 2023 – CureDuchenne, a global nonprofit committed to finding and funding a cure for Duchenne muscular dystrophy, today announced additions to its executive team with the hiring of Executive Director Laura Hameed and Vice President of Medical Affairs and Community Engagement Kristen Morris. The organization also added new board members Chris Finazzo, Diane Kemple, John Maraganore, Ph.D., and Nick Prytherch, Ed.D. The strategic reinforcement of the organization’s corporate and philanthropic engine exemplifies CureDuchenne’s commitment to advancing research and strategic investments to identify therapies and a cure for Duchenne.
Laura Hameed joins CureDuchenne as executive director, bringing an extensive cross-sector background and experience in biotech leadership, nonprofit management, organizational strategy, fundraising and event management, public speaking, and investor relations. Laura’s governance experience spans both nonprofit and for-profit boards in biotech and banking sectors, and she has demonstrated high-level governance leadership within state government and higher educational institutions. Prior to joining CureDuchenne, Laura was executive director of the Columbus Children’s Foundation, where she was focused on accelerating access to affordable and effective gene therapy treatments for children with ultra-rare genetic diseases.
Kristen Morris joins CureDuchenne as vice president of medical affairs and community engagement. Kristen brings experience in the biotechnology field, particularly in rare diseases, and her leadership will enhance CureDuchenne’s efforts to engage patients, advocate for their needs, and forge strategic partnerships. Kristen brings experience in driving scientific communications, engaging external stakeholders, devising robust medical affairs strategies, and leading cross-functional teams. Her accomplishments also encompass patient advocacy, risk management, operational programs, internal and external partner relations, and alliance management. Prior to joining CureDuchenne, Kristen held leadership roles in Global Medical Affairs for BioMarin Pharmaceutical, Inc. and Janssen Alzheimer Immunotherapy Research and Development LLC.
CureDuchenne also welcomed new board members Chris Finazzo, Diane Kemple, John Maraganore, Ph.D., and Nick Prytherch.Chris Finazzo is the chief commercial officer of SeaWorld Entertainment, Inc. responsible for all commercial aspects of the business including revenue and marketing. Chris has 17 years of consumer experience through a variety of leadership roles with major retail and food brands as well as consulting and financial services firms. Prior to SeaWorld Entertainment, Inc., Finazzo served in a variety of roles with Burger King from 2014-2021, most recently as president (2017-2021) where he oversaw marketing, operations, franchising, field operations, finance and development for nearly 10,000 restaurants across the U.S., Canada and Latin America. Chris is the father of two young boys with Duchenne muscular dystrophy. He has been an active member of the CureDuchenne community and has spearheaded multiple successful events that have raised significant funds for CureDuchenne.
Diane Kemple is a graduate of California State University Long Beach and recently retired from a career that started in retail management/buying and transitioned into the role of business consultant for colleges and universities. She is now the sole proprietor of a small business, Joy Celebratory Designs, where she enjoys “creating magic” with fabric. A Southern California native, Diane currently lives in Huntington Harbour with her husband Lance Plott. They both share a passion for wine collecting, which is how they were first introduced to CureDuchenne. After attending CureDuchenne’s Napa in Newport event for three years, Diane began serving on the committee,has co-chaired the event the last two years, and is acting chair for Napa in Newport 2023. She also volunteers with the Huntington Harbour Philharmonic Committees.
John Maraganore, Ph.D. served as the founding CEO and a Director of Alnylam from 2002 to 2021, where he built and led the company from early platform research on RNA interference through global approval and commercialization of the first four RNAi therapeutic medicines. Prior to Alnylam, he served as an officer and a member of the management team for Millennium Pharmaceuticals, Inc., where he was responsible for the company’s product franchises in oncology, and cardiovascular, inflammatory and metabolic diseases, in addition to leadership of M&A, strategy, and biotherapeutics functions. Dr. Maraganore received his M.S. and Ph.D. in biochemistry and molecular biology at the University of Chicago. He is currently a venture partner at ARCH Venture Partners, a venture advisor at Atlas Ventures, an executive partner at RTW Investments, and senior advisor for Blackstone Life Sciences. He is also member of the board of directors of publicly traded companies (Agios Pharmaceuticals, Beam Therapeutics, Kymera Therapeutics), private companies (Hemab, TranSend, Aerium, and Versanis), and the Biotechnology Industry Organization, where he was chair from 2017-2019 and is chair emeritus. John also serves as a strategic advisor to a number of innovative biotechnology companies, with a focus on mentoring CEOs in their mission to advance science and innovation for patients.
Nicholas Prytherch, Ed.D. is a managing partner with MLP Government Affairs, a lobbying and strategic advisory firm based in Washington, D.C. Prior to MLP Government Affairs, he was president of MidPacific Management of Newport Beach, where he served clients with personal and business assets and trust services. In this role, he mastered the skills of strategic planning, regulatory compliance, and the natural instincts of outside-the-box thinking. Nicholas is committed to giving back to the local community through the Newport Beach Foundation, where he serves on the board of directors, engaging the next generations in civic leadership. He holds an MBA from the University of La Verne and is currently working on his Doctor of Organizational Change and Leadership degree from the University of Southern California. He also holds a certification for the Executive Leadership Program from Cornell University.
“We’re pleased to welcome Laura and Kristen to our team to bring our organization to the next level with their leadership and experience in organizational strategy and medical affairs. As we drive toward our mission of finding a cure for this devastating disease, individuals with Duchenne are relying on us to provide them with essential support and advocate for their needs, and we are well positioned to do both,” said CureDuchenne founder and CEO Debra Miller. “We also are so pleased to add Chris Finazzo, Diane Kemple, John Maraganore, and Nicholas Prytherch to our esteemed board of directors. Their business and scientific experience, combined with their passion for the cause, will help fuel the engine that will bring us closer to a cure for Duchenne.”
CureDuchenne was founded by Debra and Paul Miller in 2003 after their son was diagnosed with Duchenne muscular dystrophy. The organization combines fundraising and venture philanthropy, identifying and investing donor dollars into promising research leading to transformative treatments for those living with Duchenne. CureDuchenne also provides resources and guidance for families affected by the fatal genetic neuromuscular disorder, which affects more than 300,000 individuals worldwide. To date, the organization has funded 49 research projects, including 18 research projects that have advanced to human clinical trials.
Twenty years ago, CureDuchenne was created with one goal: to find and fund a cure for Duchenne muscular dystrophy, one of the most common and severe forms of muscular dystrophy. Today, CureDuchenne is recognized as a global leader in research, patient care, and innovation for improving and extending the lives of those with Duchenne. CureDuchenne’s innovative venture philanthropy model has advanced transformative treatments for Duchenne muscular dystrophy, including 17 projects that advanced to human clinical trials and multiple projects to overcome the limitations of exon-skipping and gene therapy. In addition, CureDuchenne contributed early funding to the first FDA-approved Duchenne drug, pioneered the first and only Duchenne physical and occupational therapist certification program and created an innovative data-integrated biobank, accelerating research toward a cure. For more information on how to help raise awareness and funds needed for research, please visit cureduchenne.org. or follow us on facebook,Instagram,LinkedIn, andX.