Christopher & Dana Reeve Foundation Welcomes New Chair
SHORT HILLS, NJ. April 23, 2020
Jay Shepard to lead Foundation’s efforts to accelerate most promising functional recovery/care research toward cures for people living with paralysis
The Christopher & Dana Reeve Foundation today announced the election of Jay Shepard as chairman of its board of directors. Shepard, a board member since 2016, becomes only the sixth chair in the Foundation’s 37-year history.
As chairman, Shepard said he will focus on broadening the base of scientific and academic experts collaborating with the Foundation and each other in order to hasten advances in care and progress toward cures for people living with paralysis.
President and CEO Peter Wilderotter praised Shepard’s commitment to the Reeve Foundation’s ambitious research and development agenda.
“The best of a person is often revealed by the worst of circumstances. Jay Shepard found the Reeve Foundation when his daughter was newly injured five years ago. Shepard quickly immersed himself with Reeve’s mission, serving as co-chair of our research and planning committee,” Wilderotter said. “His leadership has served our Foundation immensely, in both a scientific capacity and in his ability to apply business models for sustainability and growth to our nonprofit. His dedication to the Foundation will help ensure that we continue to provide the care, functional recovery and – one day – deliver the cures that our community and his daughter deserve.”
Shepard, who recently retired as CEO of Aravive, a clinical stage biopharmaceutical company developing treatments designed to halt the progression of life-threatening diseases such as cancer, first became involved with the Reeve Foundation after his daughter Ellie sustained a spinal cord injury in a 2015 diving accident.
After the accident, Shepard became one of the thousands of people who reach out to the Reeve Foundation each year as they navigate the immediate shock of these injuries.
“The same day I was told my daughter would probably never walk again, I put in a call to the Foundation,” he said. “That call altered the course of the desperation and isolation we were dealing with and gave us real hope.”
Shepard brings extensive experience in the pharmaceutical/biotech and drug delivery industries to his role as chairman. Prior to his retirement from Aravive, he was president and CEO of Versartis until its merger with Aravive; executive partner at Sofinnova Ventures; president and CEO of both NextWave Pharmaceuticals (acquired by Pfizer) and Ilypsa, Inc. (acquired by Amgen); and interim president and CEO of Relypsa. In addition to his chairmanship at the Reeve Foundation, Shepard currently serves on the board of directors of Esperion Therapeutics, Inc., Inovio Pharmaceuticals, Inc., and Craig Hospital, a world-renowned center for specialty rehabilitation and research for people with spinal cord injury and brain injury. Shepard earned a B.S. in business administration from the University of Arizona.
“I believe that in the next decade, there will be life-changing advances in functional recovery that point toward real cures for spinal cord injury. My confidence is not because I’m a misty-eyed father and biotech CEO, but because we’ve already seen real breakthroughs,” Shepard said. “The advances on the horizon are the culmination of a collective effort of many who have dedicated their careers to identifying a clear path forward to full recovery. With the Reeve Foundation, we will build on all that’s been accomplished – much of it achieved through Reeve’s support – and create a new era of scientific collaboration because we know that this injury requires each of us to bring all we have to bear to achieve Christopher Reeve’s vision of ‘a world without wheelchairs.’”