María del Pilar Díaz Espejo-Saavedra

Chief Financial Officer

María del Pilar Díaz is the Chief Financial Officer (CFO) at Vivacell Biotechnology España, SL, a privately held, preclinical-stage pharmaceutical company based in Córdoba, Spain. She has 6 years of expertise in audit process at Deloitte. As auditor, she was team leader in different audits including multinational companies.

Maria del Pilar Díaz received her Audit and Executive Development Master from Loyola Business School

Valeriano Díaz, MSc.,

Quality Assurance Manager

Valeriano Díaz, MSc Biochemistry and Quality Assurance Manager at VivaCell Biotechnology España SL, a privately held, preclinical-stage pharmaceutical company based in Córdoba, Spain. After graduation, he started his international career in industrial Pharma Biotech in multidisciplinary area. Always with the spirit of contributing to the development focused on increasing life span, Valeriano has forged an extensive experience in pharmaceutical drug development assuring quality of manufacturing processes for new candidates from early discovery to the market.

Board of Directors

Avtar Dhillon, B.Sc., M.D.

Avtar Dhillon is a life sciences entrepreneur with more than 20 years experience building public companies through mergers and acquisitions, leading innovation in scientific, engineering and farming enterprises, securing government grants and NGO funding (more than $75 million U.S. to date), and building dominant IP portfolios through partnering. During his tenure as President and CEO at Inovio (NASDAQ: INO), he led the turnaround of the company through restructuring and acquisitions. Under his leadership, Inovio completed financing totalling over $250 million and several licensing deals with global pharma leaders Merck, Wyeth (now Pfizer) and Roche. Before joining Inovio, Avtar was Vice President of MDS Capital Corp., now Lumira Capital Corp., a leading healthcare venture capital organization. In 2016, he was appointed to the board of the Cannabis Association of Canada, which comprises key opinion leaders and executives who provide the Canadian government with their input to the formation of the recreational cannabis regulatory framework.

Avtar practiced family medicine for over 12 years after receiving a B.Sc. (Honours) in Human Physiology and an M.D. from the University of British Columbia.

Jim Heppell, B.Sc., LLB

Jim Heppell was co-founder, President and Director of BC Advantage Funds (VCC) Ltd., a venture fund that invests in and builds successful technology, life science and clean technology companies. His first fund, the Advantage Life Sciences I Fund, won the Canadian Venture Capital Deal of the Year Award in 2006 for having the highest realized return (23.4x its investment in Aspreva Pharmaceuticals). Early in his career, Jim practiced corporate securities law with Fasken Martineau DuMoulin, one of Canada’s leading law firms. He then became President and CEO of Catalyst Corporate Finance Lawyers, a boutique corporate finance law firm for life science and tech companies. During his career, he has helped build a number of successful life science companies, including Aspreva Pharmaceuticals (acquired by Galenica Ltd. SW: GALN), Immgenics (acquired by Amgen NASDAQ: AMGN), Inovio Pharmaceuticals (NASDAQ: INO), and Sophiris Bio Inc. (NASDAW: SPHS).

Jim has a B.Sc. in Microbiology and a law degree from the University of British Columbia.

Punit Dhillon, B.A.

Punit Dhillon is the co-founder and CEO of a leading biopharmaceutical company based in the U.S. that develops advanced-stage immunotherapy to treat solid tumors. Punit served as Vice President of Finance and Operations at Inovio Pharmaceuticals, Inc., where he raised more than $160 million through multiple financings and several licensing transactions, including early stage deals with Merck and Wyeth. His management experience spans corporate finance, M&A integration, successful in-licensing of key intellectual property, strategy implementation, corporate transactions and collaborations with leading universities and key global opinion leaders. Punit is also the founder of, an online community for cancer patients. In 2013, he was recognized as one of the “Top 100” CEOs by PharmaVoice and “Most Admired CEO” by the San Diego Business Journal. In 2014, Punit was recognized as a finalist for Ernst & Young’s “Entrepreneur of the Year”.

He holds a B.A. (Honours) in Political Science and a minor in Business Administration from Simon Fraser University

Mr. Stefan Meyer

CEO and co-founder of PhytoPlant Research SL. Mr. Meyer started his career in the hotel business by studying and then working in marketing and quality control for major international hotel chains. He continued his career as a Europe-wide sales representative for a fertiliser producer, then as a marketing consultant for a web design agency. He co-founded Phytoplant Research SL and has coordinated the business since 2008, involved in both administration and research and development in the field of phytotherapy, specially in the topic of medicinal Cannabis.

Scientific Advisory Board

Prof. Dr. Eduardo Munoz, Ph.D.

Dr. Eduardo Muñoz is full Professor of Immunology in the Department of Cell Biology, Physiology and Immunology of the University of Córdoba (Spain) and Director of the research group Inflammation and Cancer at the Institute Maimonides for Biomedical Research of Córdoba. Dr. Muñoz has more than 30 years of experience in Biomedical Research, and is the author of near 200 peer-review articles, patents and book chapters with almost 5.000 citations. He is an expert in the study of the mechanism of actions of cannabinoids and endocannabinoids as well as in the development of cannabinoid-based new chemical entities. Prof. Muñoz belongs to the editorial board of several scientific journals and is a co-founder of two biotech companies, VivaCell Biotechnology (Spain) and Glactone Pharma AB (Sweden).

He received a Ph.D. in Medicine and Surgery at the University of Córdoba and was an associate researcher at Tufts University in Boston, and at the Institute Pasteur in Paris.

Dr. Giovanni Appendino, Ph.D.

Dr. Appendino has studied cannabis and cannabinoids for more than 15 years and is regarded by the global scientific community as one of the worlds thought leaders in cannabinoid research. He was the keynote speaker at the 2014 ICRS Symposium, held in Baveno, Italy. He has been Director of Research and Development in Indena S.p.A. since 2006 and is a Professor of Pharmaceutical Chemistry at the University of Eastern Piedmont (UPO) in Italy. Dr. Appendino has been the local coordinator of three EU research programs, and his research on natural products chemistry focuses primarily on medium-sized cyclic compounds, such as cannabinoids.

He also serves as Editor in Chief of the scientific journal Fitoterapia, and belongs to the publishing advisory board of several journals of the area of Organic Chemistry and Natural Products. Dr. Appendino is the author of more than 250 articles and 10 book chapters, and holds six patents (four of which relate to cannabinoids).

Prof. Dr. Javier Fernández
Professor at Biochemistry and Molecular Biology Departament of Complutense University of Madrid. PhD in Biology (Biochemistry) at Complutense University of Madrid (1986). During more than 30 years, he has combined the teaching experience in Neurochemistry and Neurobiology areas with scientific research in several diseases of central nervous system. He is author of 180 papers and 30 reviews in international reviews, as well as numerous book chapters. Prof. Fernandez was President of International Cannabinoid Research Society (ICRS) (2002-2003).

Scientific Team

The scientific team of VivaCell comprises a group of young scientists (PhDs and technologists) with a solid training and a proven experience in the fields of:

  • Immunopharmacology
  • Cell and Molecular Biology
  • Plant Biotechnology
  • Pharmaceutical Chemistry of Natural Products
  • Chemistry
  • Pharmacology
  • Inflammation
  • Cancer
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