Management Team

Linda Marban

Linda Marbán, Ph.D

President, CEO and Director

Full Bio

Dr. Marbán is currently serving as our Chief Executive Officer. Co-founder of Capricor, Inc., our wholly-owned subsidiary, Dr. Marbán has been with Capricor, Inc. since 2005 and became its Chief Executive Officer in 2010. She combines her background in research with her business experience to lead Capricor and create a path to commercialization for its novel therapies. Dr. Marbán was the lead negotiator in procuring the license agreements that are the foundation of Capricor, Inc.’s intellectual property portfolio. Under her direction as Chief Executive Officer, Capricor, Inc. secured over $30.0 million in non-dilutive grants and a loan award which funds Capricor, Inc.’s research and development programs and clinical trials involving its CAP-1002 product. Dr. Marbán’s deep knowledge of the cardiac space, in particular, allows her to provide unique direction for the Company’s development and growth. From 2003 to 2009, Dr. Marbán was with Excigen, Inc., a biotechnology start-up company, where she was responsible for business development, operations, pre-clinical research, and supervising the development of gene therapy products in a joint development agreement with Genzyme Corp. While at Excigen, she also negotiated a joint development and sublicense agreement with Medtronic Corp. utilizing Excigen’s technology and supervised the building of a lab in which the work was to be performed. Dr. Marbán began her career in academic science, first at the Cleveland Clinic Foundation working on the biophysical properties of cardiac muscle. That work continued when she moved to a postdoctoral fellowship at Johns Hopkins University (“JHU”). While at JHU, she advanced to the rank of Research Assistant Professor in the Department of Pediatrics, continuing her work on the mechanism of contractile dysfunction in heart failure. Her tenure at JHU ran from 2000 to 2003. Dr. Marbán earned a Ph.D. from Case Western Reserve University in cardiac physiology.


Leland Gershell

Leland Gershell, M.D., Ph.D.

Chief Financial Officer

Full Bio

Dr. Gershell joined Capricor in February 2016 and currently serves as the Chief Financial Officer. He comes to Capricor from Tonix Pharmaceuticals where he had served as its Chief Financial Officer since early 2012. Prior to his corporate career, Dr. Gershell worked in the securities industry as an equity research analyst and covered a variety of therapeutics companies, having started with the biotechnology team at Cowen and Company. He was also an analyst at Apothecary Capital, a healthcare investment fund.

Dr. Gershell has authored numerous articles on the biopharmaceutical industry as well as peer-reviewed scientific reports, and is an inventor on patents for Merck’s Zolinza®, the first histone deacetylase (HDAC) inhibitor to receive FDA approval.

He earned his M.D. and Ph.D. in Organic Chemistry from Columbia University and his B.A. magna cum laude in Chemistry and Asian Studies from Dartmouth College.


Karen Krasney

Karen Krasney, J.D.

Executive Vice President and General Counsel

Full Bio

Ms. Krasney is currently serving as our Executive Vice President, Secretary and General Counsel. Her career spans over 35 years serving as General Counsel for numerous corporations and private companies engaged in a wide variety of industries. Her extensive background and vast experience has been focused on domestic and international corporate and business law, as well as litigation.

Ms. Krasney has been involved in the medical technology arena since the mid 1990’s, representing several medical technology companies developing products for the treatment of cardiovascular disease.

Commencing in 2002, Ms. Krasney served as legal counsel of Biosensors International Group Ltd., a multinational medical device company that develops, manufactures and sells medical devices for cardiology applications.

In 2006, she accepted the position of General Counsel and Executive Vice President of Biosensors and served in that capacity until 2010. During her tenure at Biosensors, among other things, Ms. Krasney headed the legal team that facilitated the company’s successful initial public offering in Singapore and was responsible for negotiating and documenting all agreements for the company worldwide, including licensing agreements with major medical device companies and agreements required for the company’s international clinical trials.

Ms. Krasney has been providing legal services to Capricor since 2011 and in 2012 joined Capricor as its Executive Vice President and General Counsel. She also serves as a director on the Board of Cardiovascular Research Foundation, a non-profit research and education entity.

Ms. Krasney received her Bachelor of Arts degree from the University of California, Los Angeles and her Juris Doctorate from the University of Southern California.


Dr. Deborah Ascheim

Deborah Ascheim, M.D.

Chief Medical Officer

Full Bio

Dr. Deborah Ascheim joined Capricor in 2015 and is currently serving as our Chief Medical Officer.

Dr. Ascheim, a heart failure cardiologist, has significant experience directing national and international clinical trials, funded by both the NIH and industry sponsors.

She was most recently Professor of Health Policy and Medicine and was the director of the International Center for Health Outcomes and Innovation Research’s Clinical Trial Unit at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai in New York.

Prior to her tenure at Mount Sinai, Dr. Ascheim was on faculty in the Department of Medicine and division of Cardiology at the College of Physicians & Surgeons at Columbia University. While at Mount Sinai and Columbia, she served as either principal investigator or co-principal investigator for numerous high impact cardiovascular trials, including the NIH supported Cardiothoracic Surgical trials Network data coordinating center.

She has been the principal investigator of an NIH supported trial of stem cells in LVAD patients, as well as an NIH CTRIP grant to evaluate targeted gene therapy for the treatment of heart failure.

While at the College of Physicians & Surgeons, she also served as principal investigator or site principal investigator for a number of pharmaceutical, biotechnology and medical device clinical trials.

Since 1997, she has served on or chaired a variety of clinical trial committees for both the National Institutes of Health and industry.

Dr. Ascheim received her M.D. from New York University School of medicine and a B.A. from Wellesley College.


Rachel Smith

Rachel Smith, Ph.D

Vice President of Research and Development

Full Bio

Dr. Smith is currently serving as our Vice President of Research and Development. She joined Capricor in 2008 and is a co-inventor of the CardiosphereTM technology that forms the core of Capricor’s product portfolio.

Dr. Smith also published the seminal proof-of-concept paper demonstrating the clinical utility of the Cardiosphere-derived stem cells in models of heart disease.

Her research expertise encompasses the areas of stem cell biology, cardiac physiology, electrophysiology, as well as cell and tissue engineering.

In 2012, Dr. Smith was appointed Vice President of Research and Development of Capricor and is responsible for developing the company’s clinical trial protocols and managing its regulatory and research partner relationships.

Dr. Smith obtained her Ph.D. in Biomedical Engineering from Johns Hopkins University under the advisement of Dr. Eduardo Marbán and with the support of a Whitaker Foundation Graduate Fellowship and a National Science Foundation Graduate Fellowship. She received her undergraduate degree in Biomedical Engineering, Magna Cum Laude, from Tulane University.


AJ Bergmann

AJ Bergmann, M.B.A.

Vice President of Finance

Full Bio

Mr. Bergmann joined Capricor in 2011 and currently serves as the Vice President of Finance. While at Capricor, he assisted with the Company’s Series A-3 $6.0 million Preferred Stock offering, helped structure the Company’s successful $19.8 million budget proposal to the California Institute for Regenerative Medicine and coordinated the Company’s reverse merger and Private Placements yielding over $17 million in early 2015. He has experience in developing corporate and financial strategy alternatives and executing on strategic plans. He manages the Company’s finance, accounting and human resource functions.

Prior to joining Capricor, Mr. Bergmann had experience in accounting, finance and operations management of companies ranging in size from start-ups to mid-size companies. Most recently he was with the business management firm, Gettleson, Witzer and O’Connor, in Beverly Hills, California, where he focused on accounting and finance for several production studios generating motion picture releases and worldwide revenue that exceeded $1 billion. The firm’s clients included foundations, trusts, and independent actors, writers, producers and directors across the entertainment industry. While at the firm, he focused on budgeting, tax forecasting and asset management.

Mr. Bergmann graduated from Providence College with a Bachelor of Science degree in Management, and a minor in Finance. He has an M.B.A. from the University of Southern California’s Marshall School of Business. He is actively involved in various venture capital and entrepreneurial associations throughout the Los Angeles area.


Houman Hemmati M.D., Ph.D.

Houman Hemmati M.D., Ph.D.

Vice President of Medical and Clinical Development of New Therapies

Full Bio

Dr. Hemmati is currently serving as our Vice President of Medical and Clinical Development of New Therapies. He joined us in 2015 and is working to drive promising new therapies such as Capricor’s exosome platform into clinical development as he works closely with the R&D, manufacturing and product development teams.

Prior to joining Capricor, Dr. Hemmati, an ophthalmologist, was Director of Clinical Development at Allergan, where responsibilities included early to late stage clinical trial development of high profile ophthalmic products such as Restasis-X as well as Allergan’s androgen based ophthalmic treatment and AGN 199201 for presbyopia. Prior to his time at Allergan, he co-founded Avicenna Pharmaceuticals in Paris, France, to advance a technology based on cancer stem cell mutations he had discovered at Caltech.

Dr. Hemmati earned his B.S. in biological sciences at Stanford, M.D. at UCLA and Ph.D. in biology at Caltech. He completed his medical training at the facilities of Stanford Hospital, the Wilmer Eye Institute at Johns Hopkins Hospital and Harvard Medical School while completing a post-doctoral fellowship in the laboratory of Dr. Robert Langer at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.


Luis Rodriguez-Borlado Martinez Ph.D

Luis Rodriguez-Borlado Martinez Ph.D

Vice President of Regenerative Therapies

Full Bio

Dr. Rodriguez-Borlado is currently serving as our VP of Regenerative Therapies since 2015. He is an international expert on the development of stem cells for use in the Clinic.

Prior to joining Capricor, Dr. R-Borlado developed a scientific career in academic laboratories in Spain and in The Netherlands studying signal transduction pathways involved in cell transformation and DNA replication and performing high-throughput screenings to identify new therapeutic cancer targets.

In 2008, he joined Coretherapix (a company belonging to the Genetrix group) where he has been responsible for designing the essential cell characterization and pre-clinical studies enabling the filing of the IND corresponding to Coretherapix’s first candidate cellular product.

Since 2012, Dr. R-Borlado has served as the Scientific Director of Coretherapix and under his direction the company has initiated a “First in Patient” clinical trial to evaluate the safety and the efficacy of a pioneer allogeneic cellular product for the treatment the Cardiac Ischemic Disease.

Dr. R-Borlado has a Ph.D in Biochemistry and Molecular Biology from the University Autónoma of Madrid with the study of molecular bases of immune system development.


Jeffrey J. Rudy

Jeffrey J. Rudy

Vice President of Clinical Operations

Full Bio

Mr. Rudy is currently serving as our Vice President of Clinical Operations. He has over 25 years of clinical research and development experience across multiple companies and therapeutic areas. Prior to joining Capricor, he was Vice President, Clinical Operations for Celladon Corporation a clinical stage biotechnology company investigating SERCA2a enzyme replacement via gene therapy in advanced heart failure and served in that role for approximately 10 years. Prior to that, Mr. Rudy served in roles of increasing responsibility within clinical operations at Pfizer (and former entities of Warner-Lambert Company and Agouron Pharmaceuticals prior to a series of acquisitions), including portfolio manager of the ophthalmology franchise and director of development operations. Mr. Rudy also held positions at Gilead Sciences, Cell Genesys and Amgen. He received his B.S. in Microbiology from The Ohio State University.