Meet the River BioMedics' team


Nicky Cooper
Chief Executive Officer

Nicky has a background in biology and a PhD in pharmacology from the University of Greenwich, and more than 30-years’ experience in drug discovery. She has served in a range of lead drug discovery positions, including head of discovery at Sosei Group and Acacia Pharma, CSO at Peptinnovate and VP Drug Discovery Alliances at C4X Discovery. Nicky’s experience and knowhow in drug discovery is key for River BioMedics’ drug discovery strategy and execution.

Marcelo Ribeiro
Chief Scientific Officer

Marcelo holds a Bachelor’s degree in Biochemistry from Lisbon University, Portugal. In 2008 he moved to the Netherlands, where he completed his Masters in Drug Innovation at Utrecht University. He performed his PhD research at the department of Anatomy and Embryology of the Leiden University Medical Center on hiPSC derived cardiomyocyte maturation and disease modelling, and thereafter held a Postdoc position at the department of Applied Stem Cell Technologies at the University of Twente. Marcelo performed his scientific research with an entrepreneurial spirit and the ultimate goal of societal valorization. 

Lisanne Blauw
Chief Operational Officer

Lisanne has a unique combined background in Medicine and Biomedical Engineering. She obtained her Bachelor’s degree in Medicine at Leiden University, and decided thereafter to make the switch to the Master of Biomaterials & Tissue Biomechanics at Delft University of Technology. Lisanne holds a PhD in Medicine from Leiden University on genetic epidemiology of cardiovascular diseases. 


Julian Gilbert

Julian has more than 30 years of commercial and technical experience in the pharmaceutical industry gained at a number of companies including Chiroscience, Mundipharma, BTG and GSK. Most recently, Julian was co-founder and CEO of Acacia Pharma Group, a hospital pharmaceutical company, raising c.£100m in private and public funding to develop and commercialise BARHEMSYS®. Prior to this, he was co-founder and Commercial Director of Arakis Ltd, a specialist pharmaceutical company, that was sold to Sosei in 2005 having licensed Seebri®/Ultibro® to Novartis. Julian has a degree in pharmacy and a PhD in pharmaceutics, both from the University of Nottingham and is currently the Chairman and Non-Executive Director of Exvastat, and a Non-Executive Director of Nuformix and Monument Therapeutics.

Robert Passier
Scientific founder

Robert is Professor and Chair of the Department of Applied Stem Cell Technologies of the University of Twente and Professor at the Department of Anatomy and Embryology of the Leiden University Medical Center. His research group focuses on cardiac disease modelling based on human pluripotent stem cells (hPSC). He has extensive experience on cardiotoxicity and cardiac disease using hPSC-derived cardiomyocytes. Besides, Robert is leading  the research theme “heart disease” of the Institute for Human Organ and Disease Model Technologies (hDMT). 

Johan Sebregts
Non-executive director

Johan Sebregts is co-founder and managing partner of the early stage investment funds KIKK Capital and the Zeeland Investment fund. Before that, he was founder and director of the start-up program Starterslift. Johan is also non-executive director of the biotech companies Toxys and Pepscope.

Jaap De Bruin
Non-executive director

Jaap is Investment Manager, leading BGV’s Fonds Investerings Rijpe Starters (FIRST) fund. He joins BGV from Utrecht Health Seed Fund where he was Fund Manager with oversight for a series of successful investments in health and life sciences companies such as TargED Biopharmaceuticals, NTrans Technologies and Moveshelf. Prior to this, Jaap was an Investment Manager and Senior Business Developer at Utrecht Holdings where he led a number of investments, including the investment in Quantib, which was successfully sold to RadNet, Inc. He directed over 15 intellectual property tech license deals including the MR-STAT technology to Philips Healthcare. Prior to this, Jaap held several roles at Philips Healthcare’s Image Guided Therapy business and corporate incubator. Jaap holds a master’s degree in Aerospace Engineering from Delft University of Technology.

Ian Nicoud
Non-executive director

Ian joined Libertatis Ergo Holding as investment manager following 5 years of business development with LURIS, the technology transfer office of the University of Leiden and Leiden University Medical Center. He obtained a PhD in Cancer Biology at Vanderbilt University before beginning a 10-year career in cell therapy, first with Seattle-based BioLife Solutions where as Director of Technology Business Development he enabled innovative product offerings for blood banking as a new market segment and added to the patent portfolio. He then spent the next 8 years in cell therapy manufacturing, first at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, where he managed the R&D and production of expanded cord blood-derived stem and progenitor cells for hematopoietic transplantation that ultimately led to incorporation of NOHLA Therapeutics, before moving to The Netherlands and heading manufacturing of Kiadis Pharma’s ATIR101 for haploidentical stem cell transplantation.


Jiayi Pei
Senior Scientist

Jiayi obtained a Master’s degree in Molecular Life Science from Wageningen University. During her PhD training at the University Medical Center Utrecht, she focused on acquired and inherited heart diseases and identified several pathomechanisms underlying those diseases. She then took a post-doc position at Netherland Heart Insitute and investigated potential druggable candidates for developing new therapeutic strategies for heart failure patients. Now, Jiayi aims to discover promising (novel) drugs for patients.

Chloë Kaal

Chloë holds a bachelor’s degree in Biology from the Radboud University Nijmegen, specialized in medical and molecular biology. She holds a master’s degree in Molecular Mechanisms of Disease from the Radboud University Nijmegen, focused on studying underlying processes of disease and translating them into treatments for patients. During her internship and employment at the University of Twente in the group of prof. Passier, she worked on maturation of hiPSC-derived cardiomyocytes in a heart-on-chip model. Chloë aims to translate research on heart disease models to effective treatment for patients.

Daphne Laarveld

Daphne holds a bachelor’s degree in Biomedical Laboratory Research from Saxion Enschede. Afterwards, she moved to Nijmegen to obtain her master’s degree in Biomedical Sciences from the Radboud University. Through several internships, she has gained a special interest and knowledge in using microfluidic technology for (disease) modelling and drug evaluation. In Nijmegen, she worked on the vascularization of a tumor-on-a-chip model for enhanced evaluation of an anti-cancer adenoviral-mediated IgA therapy. Now, Daphne aims to use improved heart disease models for better drug discovery and development.

Anke Vollertsen
 Senior Engineer

Anke has a Master’s degree in Biophysics from the Humboldt University of Berlin and completed her PhD in the BIOS Lab on a chip group at the University of Twente. During her PhD and postdoc she focused on the parallelization and automation of microfluidic cell culture. As part of her work, she contributed to the development of the Translational Organ-on-Chip Platform which uses standardized interfacing of (bio)microfluidic modules to create a ‘plug and play’ system. Anke aims to use microfluidic technology to streamline and optimize the creation and maintenance of heart tissues for disease modeling.

Amélie Bocquet
PhD candidate

Amélie obtained a bachelor’s degree in digital sciences and biology, and a Master’s degree in Bionanotechnologies, from the JUNIA ISEN Lille engineering school, in France. During her Master’s internship, she worked on a microfluidic label-free method to analyse the viability of boar spermatozoa, in the group of Prof. Albert van den Berg, at the University of Twente. After graduating, Amélie started her PhD by joining River Biomedics and the BIOS lab-on-a-Chip group. She aims to develop a new microfluidic device to maintain heart tissues oxygen and nutrients supply, through flow recirculation automation. This technology will enable high-throughput drug screening for heart disease modeling.

Manuel Sambrotta
Junior Engineer

Manuel holds a Bachelor’s degree in Biomedical Engineering from the University of Pisa, with an industrial specialisation. He subsequently obtained a Master’s degree in Biomedical Engineering from the Politecnico di Milano, specialising in cells, tissues, and biotechnology engineering. During his Master’s internship, he worked on a 3D culture model for spinal cord regeneration, focusing on the analysis of a material based on Self-Assembling Peptides. Through this, he acquired knowledge and skills on neural regeneration, 3D cultures techniques and 3D bioprintig. Now, Manuel aims to reproduce cardiac models and tissues to use them as devices for the study of new drugs and therapies.


Marcel Zwaal
Strategy advisor

Marcel holds a Master degree in corporate finance from the Vrije Universiteit of Amsterdam, and has over 15-years of experience in business development in pharmaceutical and biotech companies. He served in a range of management positions, including director of business control and planning at Crucell, CEO at DC Prime, director of corporate development at Galapagos and senior VP corporate development at Kiadis. Marcel’s extensive expertise has been instrumental in the development of River BioMedics.