AccenGen Therapeutics was formed in order to take advantage of new opportunities to develop safer, more effective anti-inflammatories for treatment of sinusitis, pain, cardiovascular and respiratory indications as well as cancer.

The team at AccenGen includes leading regulatory experts, physicians, researchers, physician scientists and entrepreneurial visionaries. Collectively, AccenGen's team members have played key roles in over 400 drug development programs. We are constantly looking to expand to include individuals whose talents would contribute to realizing the company's strategy.





Dr. Rafizadeh immigrated to the U.S. at the age of 15, after having spent over 7 months at a refugee camp in Austria. Sassan holds a doctorate degree in molecular, cellular and systemic physiology from University of California at Davis and is a recipient of the U.C. Davis Max Kleiber Research Prize for superior scholarly achievement. With over 10 years of basic science and clinical research experience, he has authored multiple publications in top-tier peer-reviewed journals including Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS), American Heart Association Journal-Circulation, and Journal of American Medical Association (JAMA). Dr. Rafizadeh has helped build several successful businesses in the media, tech and healthcare sectors, most recently as co-founder of Rejuvenate Healthcare, LLC, a healthcare reinsurance plan specific to kidney failure patients, revolutionizing healthcare delivery. Sassan is an avid flamenco guitar player and a 3rd degree black belt in Kyokushin Karate-a full contact martial art. [Extended Bio]

In mid 2015, Sassan forewent residency training to build AccenGen with the belief that access to better medications is an urgency, especially when it comes to life-saving medications. He founded AccenGen with his mentor, Dr. Nipavan Chiamvimonvat's encouragement. During his Ph.D. training at Dr. Nip's laboratory at U.C. Davis, a top-N.I.H.-funded cardiology research laboratory, Sassan studied molecular and cellular mechanisms of cardiac arrhythmias. During this time he realized the shortcomings of current anti-arrhythmics, especially in treatment of atrial fibrillation (AFib), a life-threatening irregular heart beat and second most common cause of stroke. His M.D. clinical training at University of Toledo, under the world-renowned cardiologist Dr. Blair Grubb as well as Cardiac Arrhythmias clerkship at U.C.L.A. further made him realize the few options AFib patients have. Over the past year, with the help of his mentors and colleagues, Sassan has built a team with a proven track record in drug development to take promising candidate drugs forward towards clinic, not only in cardiac disease but other conditions with the highest unmet needs. 

Heidi Nelson-Keherly, Ph.D. | Vice President - PreClinical

Dr. Nelson-Keherly is a 15 year veteran of working with small and mid-size biotechs to develop their drug programs through to IND submission. She has managed drug development programs spanning preclinical lead optimization, pharmacokinetic and safety studies, bio-analysis, process scale up and development, as well as CMC. During her career, she has been involved with over 300 drug development programs. In addition, Dr. Nelson-Keherly was responsible for several multi-therapeutic clinical research sites that participated in over 80 Phase II-IV clinical trials.


Ryan Haynes | Director of Operations

Ryan has successfully assisted in over 200 startup programs. He brings over 15 years of experience in the pharmaceutical industry with expertise in project management, drug development (discovery through commercialization), outsourcing, investigator relationships and patient recruitment. His background also includes leading drug development programs for nanotechnology and targeted drug delivery systems. 

Jeff Herndon, C.P.A. | Chief Financial Officer & Treasurer

Mr. Herndon is a Merger & Acquisition banker with 15 years of international M&A and strategic consulting experience and a partner at Bay Tower Group. From 1996 to 2003, he served as a V.P. of M&A services for The Geneva Group, a subsidiary of Citi Group. He has served as a senior accountant for Deloitte & Touche, one of the top four accounting firms in the world.  He has a 5 year B.S. degree in Accounting from the University of South Florida. 



Jim Finke, Ph.D. | NIH - Cleveland Clinic | Immunology

Dr. Finke is a world-renowned immunologist. His lab was the first to show that Sunitinib, now the front line therapy for metastatic renal cell carcinoma (RCC), reduces the number of myeloid-derived suppressor cells (MDSCs) in RCC patients resulting in improved T cell function. Dr. Finke currently serves as Professor, Molecular Medicine, Cleveland Clinic Lerner College of Medicine of Case Western Reserve University, and is a Staff Member, Immunology Department, Lerner Research Institute, Cleveland Clinic Foundation. Dr. Finke is the author of over 100 scientific papers and the recipient of numerous academic awards. Dr. Finke serves as a member of the NIH, Experimental Therapeutics Study Section, the Kidney Cancer Association Scientific Advisory Board and multiple pharmaceutical and biological drug companies.

Noam Cohen, M.D. Ph.D. | Director - University of Pennsylvania Rhinology Laboratory | Rhinology

Dr. Cohen is a world-renowned otolaryngologist. He holds an MD/PhD from Johns Hopkins University defending his PhD Neuroscience. He completed his residency training in Otorhinolaryngology - Head and Neck Surgery at the University of Pennsylvania where he stayed to complete a Rhinology and Skull Base Surgery fellowship in 2004 after which he joined the faculty and established the Rhinology Translational research effort. His current research interests include upper airway innate immunity with a focus on molecular modulation of mucociliary clearance specifically studying cilia function in the healthy and disease state. He is also involved in developing novel therapeutic interventions to restore normal mucociliary clearance in inflammatory respiratory disease states such as Chronic Rhinosinusitis. Additionally, he is focused on developing both cell culture models for studying the molecular processes implicated in Chronic Rhinosinusitis and animal models to screen topical therapeutics. 

Brian Rogers, Ph.D. | Founder - Pacific Biodevelopment | Preclinical Toxicology

Dr. Rogers is the founder of the Pacific BioDevelopment, LLC a company which specializes in providing drug development consultation services to biotechnology and pharmaceutical companies. He has 25 years of industrial toxicology experience, including five years at Genentech. During this time he has extensively interacted with the FDA and authored over 100 IND and over 20 NDA and BLA nonclinical sections on behalf of clients working on various types of medical products. He is a 22- year Diplomat of the American Board of Toxicology and also holds an MBA from and was an adjunct professor at the UCDavis School of Management.

Mark Staples, Ph.D. | Founder-Cusp PharmaTech | CMC

For more than 25 years, in various positions from Director to VP, Dr. Staples has helped transform scientifically interesting projects into commercial products. He has played critical operating and leadership roles in five early stage companies, in addition to founding and leading the Biogen Formulation and Analytical Development Group from 1988-1997. He has extensive experience with project management and compilation of the technical (CMC) portion of regulatory submissions. Dr. Staples has chaired the American Association of Pharmaceutical Scientists (AAPS) Biotechnology Section and has served as President and Treasurer of the Parenteral Drug Association (PDA) New England Chapter.


corporate board of advisors


Jim Sergi | Drug Development and Regulatory Affairs

During his time as C.E.O. of ProED, Mr. Sergi's company was responsible for over 50 successful NDA/BLA and EMA applications and defenses for various drugs, biologics, and diagnostic tests, including over 150-510(k) submissions. Jim has played a major role in the commercial success and launch of over 400 drugs and biologics worldwide for various indications and special patient populations. As President of CSSi LifeSciences, he has established a paradigm for helping clients create a strategic pathway from discovery to commercialization resulting in a reduction of development time, costs and resources. Mr. Sergi's academic and medical experience includes Director for Department of Experimental Therapeutics at the Cleveland Clinic Cancer Center, Research Manager, Case Western VA Medical Center, and Associate Professor of Medical-Surgical Nursing at the Case Western Reserve University, and Cleveland State University. Jim also serves on the boards of numerous drug, non-profit and venture firms, including UC San Francisco Board of Overseers. 

Doug Martin, J.D. | Strategy

Mr. Martin serves as Vice President and Assistant General Counsel to Fireman’s Fund Insurance Company, a subsidiary of Allianz SE, the world’s largest property and casualty insurer. He has held various positions at the company for the past 32 years. His experience includes management of regulatory approvals and operational interface for the sale of a $950 Million book of business. As VP and Assistant General Counsel he oversees insurance regulatory and legal matters for Fireman’s Fund’s $2 Billion book of business in the United States.  He leads a team of 10, comprised of lawyers, paralegals and insurance specialist and focuses on legal advice to business product development division, distribution management, regulatory complaints and inquiries and direct lobbying and negotiations with key insurance regulatory agencies nationally. His key accomplishments include passage of tax and financial reform legislation in California for Fireman’s Fund and the insurance industry.

Ben Bedi, M.S., J.D. | General Counsel

Mr. Bedi is the founder of EcoTech Law and is a patent attorney with more than 16 years of experience in various aspects of patent law, including prosecution, patent portfolio design, due diligence, and litigation. He has expertise in creating effective strategies which maximize intellectual property asset value and has litigated patent infringement cases in district courts and at the International Trade Commission. Mr. Bedi’s area of expertise includes patent valuations, portfolio analysis, and licensing advice. He provides patent due diligence for clients involved in various corporate transactions, including mergers and acquisitions and other investments in companies developing innovative technologies. In addition, Mr. Bedi and his team provide full patent support for AccenGen Therapeutics, Inc. to ensure a legal and IP strategy consistent with the overall business plan.

Edward Hamati, B.S., M.B.A. | Business Development and Strategy

Mr. Hamati has over 15 years of management experience in finance, business strategy, M&As, laboratory research and management consulting roles. He currently serves as Director at Biogenerator, an early-stage venture capital firm in the life sciences.


Strategic Partnership

CSSi LifeSciences | AccenGen Therapeutics, Inc. has partnered with CSSi Life Sciences™ to ensure the most efficient path to drug development. CSSi LifeSciences™ team members have played a key role in developing over 400 drugs, biologics, compounds, medical devices and in-vitro diagnostics for clients as a trusted biopharmaceutical partner from discovery to commercialization.