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April 22, 2021 @ 10:00 am - 5:00 pm

North Carolina is a hot spot for gene therapy. The state is currently home to many university driven gene therapy startups, more than 1,800 clinical trials, 120 CRO/CDMOs, and 200 manufacturing firms. In just five years, the North Carolina gene therapy market is booming and is expected to grow 5x by 2026.

So what makes North Carolina great for gene therapy? Our experts from Sarepta, Novartis Gene Therapy, Beam Therapeutics, Audentes Therapeutics, and North Carolina Biotechnology Center will discuss the emergence of the state’s gene therapy ecosystem and share their predictions for the future of the industry.


Vivian W. Doelling, PhD, VP, Investments Emerging Company Development, NC Biotech Center


Dr. Doelling is the Vice-President of Investments at the NC Biotechnology Center in Durham, NC. She provides strategic direction to the team’s evaluation and execution of 15-20 annual investments, the management of a $15-20 million portfolio of existing investments and of the Center’s investments in angel and venture capital funds. Dr. Doelling has a strong background in life science R&D leadership, including senior roles at Pfizer, Embrex, Integrated Laboratory Systems (ILS) and SCYNEXIS.

James Weirich – VP Operations, Novartis Gene Therapies

Currently VP – Operations and Site Head for the Durham, NC Novartis Gene Therapies site. Worked with Merck for 21 years prior to joining Novartis Gene Therapies. 20+ years of experience in GMP Manufacturing, including sterile biologics manufacturing, vaccine bulk manufacturing, formulation, vial and syringe filling, lyophylization, product inspection and packaging.


Certified Six Sigma Black Belt and Lean Expert. Graduated from Clemson University with a degree in Chemical Engineering.

Brian Riley, MBA, SVP of Technical Operations, Beam Therapeutics

Brian Riley, an experienced leader in operations, quality and manufacturing, is Senior Vice President of Technical Operations at Beam. Prior to Beam, Mr. Riley spent five years at Catalent Pharma Solutions, initially as General Manager, Biologics and most recently as the Vice President of Operations. There, he helped to cultivate the Company’s biologics business, managing five biologics plants supporting the Company’s drug substance and products across North America and Europe. Prior to Catalent, Mr. Riley served as the site director of Durham, NC operations at bioMerieux, where he led both the company’s compliance remediation effort and global growth platform.

Don Mather, Executive Director, Manufacturing & Site Head Ops, Astellas Gene Therapies

Don Mather is the Executive Director, Manufacturing and Site Head of Operations for Audentes Therapeutics (an Astellas Company) new State-of-the-Art Gene Therapy Manufacturing Facility in Sanford, NC. Don comes to Audentes with 24 years of operations experience manufacturing clinical and commercial large molecule biologics and has significant facility start-up, commissioning, validation and licensure experience.

Fred Schnell, PhD, Associate Director, Business Development, Sarepta

Dr. Schnell joined Sarepta in 2008. Over the decade plus since, Dr. Schnell has passionately helped advance therapeutics for the treatment of DMD, including EXONDYS 51 (eteplirsen), which became the first approved drug to restore dystrophin protein in DMD patients. Dr. Schnell joined the business development team at Sarepta in 2018 as the company moved aggressively into gene therapy. He has played a prominent role in identifying strategic collaborations, including Sarepta’s partnership with Stride Bio, while also being instrumental in the formation of the Gene Editing Innovation Center in Durham, NC


April 22, 2021
10:00 am - 5:00 pm