Board of Directors


Ran Nussbaum – Chairman
Ran is a managing partner and co-founder of The Pontifax Group. The fund runs more than 50 portfolio companies around the globe. Ran’s work revolves around constant and active involvement in companies, providing them with strategic and business development oversight.

In the past Ran served on the Boards of Kite Pharma (sold to Gilead) and cCEM Therapeutics (sold to Merck). He also chaired Ocon Medical, Nasvax, Spearhead and Biomedix.Currently Ran sits on the Boards of many Pontifax portfolio companies including: Eloxx (ELOX), UroGen (URGN), ArQule (ARQL) and Prevail.
Julius Knowles

Jay Knowles is a Partner at Partners Innovation Fund, the venture arm of Partners HealthCare.  Partners was founded by Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH) and Brigham and Women’s Hospital (BWH), the two principal teaching hospitals of the Harvard Medical School.  At Partners, Jay focuses on creating and helping to grow drug discovery companies. 

Prior to Partners, Jay was CEO of X-BODY Biosciences (acquired by Juno).  Previously, he was at Novartis in charge of the Platforms team for Strategic Alliances, responsible for global technology and drug discovery collaborations.  Jay was also President of Novalar Pharmaceuticals, a specialty pharmaceutical company that brought a drug from idea stage through the clinic and onto the market.  Before that, he was Vice President, Business Development, at Novacea and at Structural Genomix, and Director, Research and Development Planning at Vertex Pharmaceuticals.  Jay earned his MBA in Finance from Wharton Business School, an M.Sc. in Chemistry from UC Berkeley, and a BA with Distinction in Chemistry from Carleton College.  He is a member of the board of directors at Aurigene, represents Partners on the boards of Abcuro, Keros, Swan and Tilos, and is a board observer for LTI (Lysosomal Therapeutics Inc.) and Akouos.

Alon Lazarus, Ph.D.
Alon Lazarus is a Biotech Investment Manager for Arkin Holdings’ Pharma Division. He is a member of the Board of several of its pharmaceutical companies, including Oncorus, Lutris Pharma, Redpin Therapeutics and Explore Bio.

Prior to joining Arkin, Alon Lazarus worked for the Healthcare Business Development Department of Yissum – the Research & Development arm of the Hebrew University and as an analyst for the University’s Integra Holdings. Alon holds a Ph.D in Molecular Biology and an MBA – both from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem in Israel.

Ohad Hammer
Ohad is a Partner at Pontifax, where he is in charge of scouting and project evaluation. In his role at Pontifax, Ohad is also involved in the formation and development strategy of the fund’s early-stage portfolio companies. He serves as a director in Metabomed, Dynacure, Camel-IDS, Eyevensys and Horama. Ohad obtained his M.S. in Biology from Tel-Aviv University.
Zafi Avnur
In October 2016 Ms. Avnur Joined Quark Venture Inc. as Chief Scientific officer at Quark Venture Inc., a venture investment fund focused on life sciences investments. Quark Venture Inc 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 startup 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.