About Us

Scientific Advisory Board

James Young, MD

Dr. James Young is the Chief Academic Officer at the Cleveland Clinic. He is also the George and Linda Kaufman Endowed Chair in the Kaufman Center for Heart Failure, Heart & Vascular Institute. Dr. Young is Professor of Medicine and Vice Dean for Academic Affairs at the Cleveland Clinic Lerner College of Medicine of Case Western Reserve University. Dr. Young is certified by the American Board of Internal Medicine, as well as the subspecialty of Cardiovascular Disease, and holds active medical licensure from the states of California, Illinois, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Texas. During his career, he has contributed substantially to the areas of heart failure and cardiac transplantation both clinically and through his extensive research career.

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Dr. Young has participated in more than 150 clinical trials as an investigator, and served as the U.S. Principal or Co-Principal Investigator for the HOPE, RESOLVED, SPICE, VMAC, MIRACLE-ICD, RED-heart failure, ACCLAIM, ONTARGET, TRENSCEND and CHARM multi-centre clinical trials. He has published almost 600 manuscripts and several textbooks.

Afsaneh Lavasanifar, PharmD, PhD

Dr. Afsaneh Lavasanifar’s area of expertise and interest is Pharmaceutics and drug delivery. She is a Professor in the Pharmaceutical Sciences division of the Faculty of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences at the University of Alberta and has a joint appointment in the Department of Chemical and Medical Engineering at the Faculty of Engineering in the same university. She is also the Chief Scientific Officer and Vice-President of Meros Polymers Inc., a privately-held Alberta corporation formed in 2009 to commercialize advanced drug delivery technologies developed within the Faculty of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences, University of Alberta.

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Dr. Lavasanifar’s research focuses on the design and development of polymer-based delivery systems that can increase solubility, modify the pharmacokinetic pattern, reduce toxicity, and increase the efficacy of different therapeutic agents. The ongoing research projects in her laboratory include the development of novel polymeric nano-carriers and stimulus-responsive gels for application in cancer, chemo, and immunotherapy or delivery of anti-inflammatory agents. Her research has been funded by grants from Natural Science and Engineering Council of Canada (NSERC), Canadian Institute of Health Research (CIHR), Canadian Foundation for Innovation (CFI); Alberta Innovates Health Solutions (AIHS) and Alberta Cancer Foundation (ACF).
Dr. Lavasanifar has more than 120 peer-reviewed published/in press manuscripts in highly-ranked journals in pharmaceutical sciences, three book chapters, several abstracts and numerous conference presentations. Inventor on five patent/patent applications on novel polymer-based formulations for drug and siRNA delivery. She has been the recipient of the 2007 GlaxoSmithKline/CSPS Early Career Award; the 2009 Sanofi-Aventis/AFPC award in recognition of outstanding research in Pharmacy and the 2013 and 2016 TEC Edmonton Innovation Makes Sense prize. Dr. Lavasanifar is the Associate Editor of Journal of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences and a member of the Editorial Board in Materials Sciences and Applications, and Iranian Polymer Journal. She has an active teaching program in both undergraduate and graduate levels in pharmaceutics and nanotechnology for drug delivery.

Jonathan Howlett, MD, FRCPC, FACC

Dr. Jonathan Howlett graduated from the University of Toronto Medical School in 1989 and received specialty certification for Cardiology at Dalhousie University in 1994. He pursued further training at the Toronto Centre for Congenital Cardiac Diseases for Adults until 1995 when he joined Faculty of Medicine at Dalhousie University.

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In 2008, Dr. Howlett became Clinical Professor of Medicine and Staff Cardiologist at the Libin Cardiovascular Institute of Alberta / University of Calgary. Dr. Howlett’s current activities include clinical trial research in heart failure, end of life care, evaluation of health care delivery systems, healthcare outcomes, and knowledge translation.
Dr. Howlett serves on several international clinical trial steering and executive committees, as reviewer for numerous medical journals and national funding agencies, and serves or has served on several international consensus guideline committees, including the European Society for Cardiology, Heart Failure Society of America, Canadian Cardiovascular Society, the Canadian Heart Health Strategy and Action Plan, and the Heart Rhythm Society.
Dr. Howlett is currently a member and past Chair of the Canadian Cardiovascular Society Heart Failure Guidelines Committee, a member of the CCS Scientific Program Committee, Heart Failure Key Performance Indicator Working Group and the 2008 Canadian Heart Health Strategy initiative. He is a former President of the Canadian Heart Failure Society.

Business Advisors

Steven Grasso

Mr. Grasso began his career on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange in 1993. He joined Stuart Frankel & Co. as an institutional sales trader in 1999. As Director of Institutional Sales for Stuart Frankel & Co., Steven has worked closely with some of the largest mutual funds, pension funds, insurance companies, and hedge funds in the world directly from the floor of the Stock Exchange. Over his 27-year career, Steven has actively participated in various Stock Exchange committees ranging from allocating new listings to designated market makers to developing standardized tests that the floor community uses for continuing education. Steven closely follows the Washington D.C./Markets connection, using his extensive Capitol Hill and SEC relationships to better inform his clients on policy changes and regulation.

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Steven is perhaps best known for being a CNBC market analyst and is a regular on CNBC’s popular “Fast Money” show, which airs daily during the business week and has an average daily viewership that currently exceeds 250,000. Mr. Grasso also speaks at many traders’ conferences across the country on a regular basis, as well as business round tables with many influential leaders of industry where he addresses a broad range of market related issues, including the effects of regulation and the political process on equities.


Michael J. Willner, Esq.

Mr. Michael J. Willner, Esq. is both an Attorney and a Certified Public Accountant. He graduated from Emory University Law School as a member of the Emory Law Review. Subsequently, he practiced real estate law with New York City-based Milbank, Tweed, Hadley & McCloy, one of the nation’s most prominent international law firms. Prior to his legal career, Mr. Willner was employed by the former Arthur Andersen & Company, a national accounting firm, where he practiced in Arthur Andersen’s tax department.

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Mr. Willner has been an active investor for over forty years and is the founder of Willner Capital, Inc., an investment company specializing in both public and private equities, as well as debt instruments. In addition, Mr. Willner is the founder of Willner Properties Services, Inc., a real estate development, leasing, and management company specializing in both commercial and residential properties.

Willner Capital primarily uses fundamental analysis as an evaluation method and event-driven strategies. Over the past several years, Willner Capital has made significant investments in both the biotechnology and medicinal cannabinoid industries, focusing primarily on clinical-stage companies that seek to address significant unmet medical needs. Mr. Willner has served on numerous panels and advisory boards and as a judge in the medicinal cannabinoid industry start-up competitions. He has been quoted in the New York Times regarding his investments and is considered an expert in the medical/pharmaceutical cannabis industry.

Mr. Willner currently serves on the advisory boards of CannaVC Advisory Board, a cannabis-focused venture capital fund for the Israeli market, managed by the Everest Group, which invests in companies that have developed an innovative solution/service/product for the cannabis sector, and CURE Pharmaceutical®, a vertically integrated drug delivery and development company that partners with biotech, pharmaceutical, and wellness companies worldwide and has positioned itself to advance numerous therapeutic categories, including the pharmaceutical cannabis sector, with partnerships in the U.S., Canada, Israel, and other markets.