About Us

Management Team

Julia C. Owens, Ph.D.
President and Chief Executive Officer

Dr. Julia C. Owens has an extensive background in venture-backed biopharmaceutical companies and particular expertise in pharmaceutical company transactions. Prior to co-founding Millendo, she served as senior vice president, corporate development and strategy at Lycera Corp., where she led the partnering process that led to Lycera's major research partnership with Merck & Co. She also acquired a new platform discovery program for the company and negotiated its partnership with the University of Michigan, moving the company to the North Campus Research Complex. Prior to Lycera, Dr. Owens served as head of business development at QuatRx Pharmaceuticals for six years. There, she established several key partnerships, including one with Shionogi for the approved drug, Osphena®. Earlier in her career, Dr. Owens worked at Tularik Inc. (now Amgen San Francisco) in business development for five years, where she led partnering for the oncology and immunology areas, as well as chaired the company's technology acquisition efforts. Dr. Owens began her business career at the University of California, San Francisco Office of Technology Management.

Dr. Owens holds a Ph.D. in biochemistry from the University of California, San Francisco and a B.S. in chemistry and B.A. in molecular and cellular biology from the University of California, Berkeley.

Jeffery M. Brinza, J.D.
Chief Administrative Officer and General Counsel

Mr. Jeffery Brinza has extensive experience in operations and as in-house counsel for pharmaceutical and life sciences companies and has been engaged in the practice of law for 30 years. Before joining Millendo, he was general counsel, secretary and chief compliance officer for RGIS, LLC, a Blackstone portfolio company, where he led the legal and human resources departments for this large, global enterprise. Prior to RGIS, Mr. Brinza served as general counsel and secretary at QuatRx Pharmaceuticals, where he managed the legal, IT and human resources functions, negotiated numerous product licensing agreements, and worked on several financing transactions. His career has also included acting as outside general counsel for several startup companies from the University of Michigan, and working for the international legal group of Abbott Laboratories. Earlier in his career, Mr. Brinza was Assistant General Counsel for the Parke-Davis pharmaceutical research division of Warner-Lambert where he was involved in mergers and acquisitions, the negotiation and drafting of numerous technology and product licenses, research collaborations, clinical development agreements and product manufacturing agreements. Mr. Brinza has been a life sciences company investor and is currently a member of the Board of Directors of ENT Biotech Solutions, a medical device startup.

Mr. Brinza is a member of the Michigan Bar Association, American Bar Association, and Association of Corporate Counsel. He holds a Juris Doctorate degree from the University of Michigan Law School, and a B.A. in computer and communications sciences and economics from the University of Michigan.

Pharis Mohideen, M.D.
Chief Medical Officer

Dr. Pharis Mohideen has extensive experience across the full spectrum of drug development in a broad range of therapeutic areas, including orphan, endocrine and metabolic diseases. Prior to Millendo, Dr. Mohideen was vice president of clinical development at Shionogi Inc., a global pharmaceutical company. There, he designed and led the company through its first full Phase 3 development program outside of Japan, and was a core member of the team that gained approval of ospemifene. Previously, he was global clinical program head at Novartis Oncology, where he was responsible for leading all clinical development and registration activities for three key compounds, including pasireotide, a second generation somatostatin analogue for rare endocrine indications like Cushing’s disease, acromegaly and neuroendocrine tumors. Dr. Mohideen began his career at Bristol-Myers Squibb in a global clinical development role working in diabetes and metabolic diseases. Prior to joining the pharmaceutical industry, Dr. Mohideen maintained an academic position at the University of Hawaii, department of internal medicine (endocrinology), where he treated patients and served as an investigator on multiple pharmaceutical-sponsored clinical trials.

Dr. Mohideen holds an M.D., M.S. in human physiology and B.A. in biology from the University of Hawaii. He also holds an M.S. in clinical investigation from Vanderbilt University.

Thomas Hoover
Senior Vice President, Commercial Strategy

Mr. Thomas Hoover is a skilled commercial strategist with over 15 years of experience in the pharmaceutical industry in a number of therapeutic areas. Prior to joining Millendo, Mr. Hoover served as vice president of new products planning and corporate development at Sunovion Pharmaceuticals (formerly Sepracor), where he held responsibilities for product strategy, portfolio management and business development. Prior to Sunovion, Mr. Hoover was a senior director in the global commercial strategy group at GlaxoSmithKline, where he provided commercial input into R&D decision making. Before starting his pharmaceutical career, Mr. Hoover spent 4 years at The Boston Consulting Group.

Mr. Hoover holds a B.A. in economics from Harvard College and an M.B.A. from the Kenan-Flagler Business School at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Andrew G. Spencer, Ph.D.
Senior Vice President, Preclinical Research and Development

Dr. Andrew G. Spencer is an experienced research and development scientist who has contributed to programs from drug discovery into Phase 3 development. Since 2004, he has worked to develop new treatments for diseases in therapeutic areas including autoimmunity/inflammation, cardio-renal disease, and gastroenterology. Prior to joining Millendo, Dr. Spencer was vice president of pharmacology/DMPK at Ardelyx and a member of the senior management team. As program manager for the Ardelyx NHE3 inhibitor program, he made extensive contributions to the discovery and development of tenapanor and served as head of alliance management during partnerships with Sanofi and AstraZeneca. He served on multiple drug discovery project teams focused on discovery of new molecular entities and selection of compounds for clinical development. Before his time at Ardelyx, Dr. Spencer made significant early contributions to emerging treatments for celiac disease as a scientist at the Celiac Sprue Research Foundation and Alvine Pharmaceuticals. In addition, he worked on early drug discovery applications of siRNAs at Mirus Bio (now part of Arrowhead Research), and spent two years at humanized monoclonal antibody innovator PDL BioPharma.

Dr. Spencer holds a Ph.D. in biochemistry from Michigan State University and a B.S. in chemistry from Hope College. He completed a N.I.H. Postdoctoral Fellowship at the Howard Hughes Medical Institute at the University of Colorado at Boulder and in the Department of Biochemistry at the University of Wisconsin at Madison.

Soraya Allas, M.D., Ph.D.
Vice President, Clinical Development

Dr. Soraya Allas has a broad drug development background and extensive experience in strategic and operational roles in the biotech industry. Prior to joining Millendo, she served as Medical Director for 9 years at Alizé Pharma, Lyon (France) and was a member of the executive management team, where she was responsible for the overall development and regulatory activities of the Company’s drug candidates. Dr. Allas directed the development of livoletide from selection of lead to a large Phase 1 clinical program and a Phase 2a multi-center study in patients with PWS. She also led the development of Asparec®, a recombinant asparaginase, to clinical stage. Prior to Alizé Pharma, Dr. Allas held leadership roles of increasing responsibilities in the clinical development of drug candidates in endocrine and metabolic diseases at Theratechnologies, Montreal. She was a core member of the development team and notably provided scientific and medical leadership to the global clinical development program from Phase 1 to NDA of company’s lead candidate Growth Hormone Releasing Hormone analog Egrifta®, approved for HIV-lipodystrophy. Earlier in her career, Dr. Allas worked in preclinical R&D in academic and industry settings in Montreal and served as a pathologist in academic hospital institutions in Algiers and Paris.

Dr. Allas holds an M.D. from the University of Algiers and a Ph.D. in biomedical sciences from the University of Montreal.

John R. Kirk, Sc.D.
Vice President, Regulatory Affairs

Dr. John Kirk has over 20 years of experience in the regulated drug development industry, with extensive knowledge of the approval processes in the US, EU, and the major ICH markets. Prior to joining Millendo, Dr. Kirk was vice president of regulatory affairs and quality assurance at Amicus Therapeutics, where he was responsible for the preparation and submission of the marketing authorization application for GalafoldTM, an orphan product indicated for the treatment of patients with Fabry disease. Prior to Amicus, Dr. Kirk served as executive director of regulatory affairs at Aegerion pharmaceuticals, where he was responsible for all regulatory activities in the metabolic disease therapeutic area. Previously, Dr. Kirk held positions of increasing responsibility in regulatory affairs within the Parke-Davis Pharmaceuticals and Pfizer organizations, where he was directly involved in original marketing applications for successful branded products including Accupril®, Accuretic®, Rezulin® and Lipitor®. Early in his career, Dr. Kirk served as senior manager of regulatory affairs at Cetus-Ben Venue Therapeutics and manager of scientific affairs at Eurand America.

Dr. Kirk holds a Sc.D. in outcomes research from the Tulane University School of Public Health and Tropical Medicine, Department of Health Systems Management. He earned his M.S. in chemistry and B.S. in biological sciences from Wright State University.

Stéphane Milano, Ph.D.
Vice President, Preclinical Development & Pharmacology

Dr. Stéphane Milano has over 20 years of experience in management of preclinical activities and drug development projects from multiple perspectives, having worked both for R&D departments in the pharmaceutical industry and preclinical CRO industry. He has co-authored over 50 scientific publication and abstracts. Most recently, he served as Director for Preclinical Development and Pharmacology at Alize Pharma. Previously, Dr. Stephane Milano was the CSO at WIL Research Europe, Lyon, France, where he provided strategic scientific leadership for European operations as appropriate to the executive management team of WIL Research Company. Dr. Milano was also responsible for developing the Safety Pharmacology and Discovery Services in Europe.

Dr. Milano holds a Ph.D. in Pharmacology from the University of Marseilles, where he was engaged in research on the neurophysiology and pharmacology of the autonomic functions and was the recipient of a SmithKline Beecham scholarship.

Jennifer Minai-Azary
Vice President, Finance

Jennifer Minai-Azary has over 15 years of accounting and finance experience in public accounting and private industry. Prior to joining Millendo, Ms. Minai-Azary was director of technical accounting at PAREXEL International, where she was a key member of the corporate accounting group responsible for worldwide consolidation, SEC reporting, SOX compliance, and overseeing the external audit. Previously, Ms. Minai-Azary held positions of increasing responsibility at Ernst & Young LLP, where she managed financial statement audits for publicly and privately held clients within the consumer, industrial products, and retail markets.

Ms. Minai-Azary holds a Master of Accounting and a B.B.A. with a concentration in accounting and finance from the University of Michigan and is a Certified Public Accountant.

Marianne R. Plaunt, Ph.D.
Vice President, Clinical Operations

Dr. Marianne Plaunt has more than 28 years of experience in clinical and diagnostic research in the academic, applied R&D, pharmaceutical and biotechnology industries. For the past 15 years she has provided executive level clinical and data operations leadership within mid-sized contract research organizations. Most recently, she served as vice president, global central services for Paragon Biomedical, Inc. (now Clinipace), where she was responsible for the overall quality of the services provided by each of the functional areas including: clinical site selection and study startup, clinical monitoring, data entry/cleaning, data analysis and reporting and creation of clinical study reports. Prior to that she served as vice president, data management for STATPROBE/i3 Statprobe (United Health). She also contributed technical expertise for the procurement and/or development of various technology platforms to support these functional areas. Her experience includes oversight of Phase 1-4 clinical trials in a variety of therapeutic areas including cardiovascular, anti-infectives, immunology, CNS and oncology. Following post-doctoral fellowships in both basic and clinical research of infectious diseases, Dr. Plaunt began her career in industry at DIFCO Laboratories (Detroit, MI), where she held positions of increasing responsibility in R&D related to microbial identification and anti-microbial susceptibility testing.

Dr. Plaunt holds a Ph.D. in microbiology from the University of Minnesota and a B.A. in biology from Hope College, Holland, Michigan. She completed a post-doctoral fellowship at the University of Tennessee, Memphis and another at St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, Memphis, Tennessee.

Naidong Ye, Ph.D.
Vice President, Chemistry, Manufacturing and Controls

Dr. Naidong Ye is an experienced drug developer with more than 20 years of pharmaceutical experience in CMC activities ranging from early development to commercial planning. Prior to joining Millendo, Dr. Ye served as senior director, head of CMC operations, at AstraZeneca’s Neuroscience iMed division in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Previously, he was chief technology officer at Dongguan Jinmeiji Pharmaceutical Co. where he led research and development. Since joining the pharmaceutical industry, Dr. Ye has held positions of increasing responsibility in several companies including Vela Pharmaceuticals (acquired by Pharmos), ViroPharma and Nycomed. Dr. Ye’s academic career included a postdoctoral fellowship with Daryle H. Busch at the University of Kansas.

Dr. Ye holds a Ph.D. in chemistry from the Ohio State University and a B.S. in chemistry from Zhongshan University, Guangzhou, China.