meet our team!
Board of Directors
Emily Collins joined the PheoPara Alliance Board of Directors in 2007 to further her commitment and dedication towards achieving increased awareness and research of Pheochromocytoma and Paraganglioma. In addition to her service on the PheoPara Alliance Board, Ms. Collins has long advocated and participated on behalf of various public interest organizations in the Washington, DC area. While Ms. Collins plays an active role in multiple community initiatives, she has made the advancement of Pheochromocytoma research a primary objective. As both the wife and mother of Pheochromocytoma patients, Ms. Collins understands the far reaching effects of this disease and pledges to work with the Board towards achieving a national awareness of this disease and eventually a cure. Ms. Collins received her Bachelor’s degree from Chestnut Hill College in Philadelphia and resides in Washington, DC. She is married and has three children.
Dr. Stephen Furlong joined AstraZeneca in 1997 where he worked for nearly 18 years in both pre-clinical drug discovery and clinical drug development. His pre-clinical work encompassed several disease areas including respiratory, inflammatory, and infectious disease, as well as neurology and psychiatry. He has also managed both global and local pre-clinical projects, including collaborative projects in psychiatric genetics with Shanghai Jiao Tong University and The University of Pennsylvania. In 2004, Dr. Furlong joined Discovery Medicine in AstraZeneca Clinical Development where he was responsible for defining biomarker technologies to support late stage Discovery and early Clinical Development projects in psychiatry. These biomarker approaches ranged from cognitive and electrophysiological measures to biochemical biomarkers for efficacy, tolerability and safety. While in Discovery Medicine, he also worked with pre-clinical and clinical project teams to help develop molecular diagnostics for infectious disease.
Beginning in 2008, Steve was Safety Science Lead in the Safety Science Section of Patient Safety where he had a global role in providing safety biomarker support to clinical project teams. In this role, he led cross-functional teams that coordinated biomarker work for drug-induced organ toxicity. He also had responsibility for overseeing collection of human biological samples used for biomarker qualification. Prior to joining AstraZeneca, Steve was on the faculty of Harvard Medical School and an Associate Immunobiologist at Brigham and Women’s Hospital. In 2015, he founded Better Biomarkers, a consulting company focused on clinical biomarker services. Steve has two nephews living with Pheo and is grateful for the opportunity to work with the Pheo Para Alliance.
Matthew is the Program and Events Coordinator for the Upstate Cancer Center. Having started as a public school teacher Matthew is determined to bring awareness and support to those who share in his disease and those who have yet to learn about it. He was first diagnosed with bi-lateral carotid paragangliomas asymptomatic at the age of 25 after insisting on testing due to a familial history.
During the course of treatment a third tumor was discovered behind the ear near the brain. Both carotid tumors were successfully removed and the brain tumor was treated both surgically and with Gamma Knife radiation. A few years later elevated heart rate and palpitations lead to the discovery of pheos on both adrenal glands and a heart paraganglioma. All three were treated surgically at the NIH and Matthew is currently tumor free. There have been nine documented cases of this disease in Matthew’s family including his father, who lost the battle due to complications with a heart paraganglioma in 2009, and his brother.
Matthew has long lived by the motto “Seven times down, eight times up” and hopes to help relay that to the fight for all pheo para related diseases and the efforts of the Pheo Para Alliance.
After graduating Hofstra law school in 1982, Mr. Spelke began his legal career with a law firm in Long Island, New York litigating transportation issues. In 1983, he joined the United States Department of Justice with the Civil Rights Division, Special Litigation Section. There, Mr. Spelke protected the federal constitutional rights of institutionalized individuals. This included those incarcerated in state institutions as well as patients housed in state mental health facilities. In 1987, Mr. Spelke joined the United States Attorney’s Office for the District of Columbia where he prosecuted a variety of local and federal crimes committed in the District of Columbia. He served in the Appellate Division, Misdemeanor Trial, Felony Trial, Grand Jury, Violent Crimes, Narcotics Section and the Homicide Unit. He completed well over fifty jury trials, twenty non-jury trials and countless motion hearings/arguments. In 1997, Mr. Spelke accepted a position with the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) where he was appointed chief of the Domestic Criminal Law Section. This section was responsible for providing legal advice to DEA Special Agents, Chief Counsel of DEA, United State’s Attorney’s Offices and other key Department of Justice components on current law, DEA operations, policy and procedures. In January of 2003, Mr. Spelke took a position with the Narcotics and Dangerous Drug Section, Criminal Division, United States Department of Justice. In this position, Mr. Spelke investigated and prosecuted high-level commanders and those in control of international drug organizations. He would work with both national and international law enforcement to break criminal syndicates that were equally coordinated, international in scope, violent and well financed. In 2011, Mr. Spelke left the federal government and started his own law firm in Washington, DC that focuses on foreign nationals accused of crimes in the United States.
Mr. Spelke is no stranger to the goals of the Pheo Para Alliance. His first tumor appeared in 1975, when he was just 18 years old. After surgeries for a tumor in his stomach, a carotid body tumor, a pheo in his adrenal gland, radiation for a glomus jugulare tumor, Mr. Spelke was accepted at NIH in 1988. He underwent chemotherapy and has been a patient for the past 26 years. In this time, Mr. Spelke has seen the number of patients, research and treatment for our disease at NIH grow exponentially. Mr. Spelke has expressed his gratitude for the opportunity to serve this worthy cause.
Elizabeth (Betsy) Herold
As Betsy likes to say, she spent twenty years raising children and then thirty years raising money for and serving on boards and committees of non-profit organizations.
Some of the many organizations she has fundraised for include the Huntington Hospital in Huntington, New York and the Martin Health System in Stuart, Florida. She has chaired several major fundraisers, most recently the 2016 Chrysanthemum Ball in Stuart, Florida which raised over $650,000.
Named to the National Register of Historic Places, the Lyric Theatre in Stuart, Florida has served the community of Stuart since 1926. As a member of the Lyric Theatre’s Board of Directors, Betsy raised funds for and helped to implement major renovations in 2014. Since 1996, Molly’s House in Stuart, Florida has provided a home away from home for more than 17,000 while they or a loved one were receiving medical treatment. Besides being a long time supporter of Molly’s House, Betsy has served on the Board for three years and is currently serving as Vice President of the Board.
In addition to the Board and fundraising experience Betsy brings to the Alliance, she also brings passion as a dear friend of hers from childhood and his family have the disease. Betsy has seen what this disease can do but she has also seen the results brought about by research and education and she looks forward to the opportunity to see this continue and ultimately find a cure.
Sharif Taha works in scientific communication at NantBioScience, an LA-based biopharma company focused on developing cancer diagnostics and therapies. Sharif’s professional background includes experience in the biotech, philanthropic, and academic sectors. Before joining NantBioScience, Sharif was a Program Officer at the Kavli Foundation, a nonprofit foundation supporting basic scientific research in nanoscience, neuroscience, and astrophysics.
Prior to his work at the Kavli Foundation, Sharif conducted neuroscience research at the University of Utah, where he focused on understanding brain mechanisms underlying addiction. Sharif was trained in neurobiology and physiology and received his Ph.D. from UC San Francisco. Sharif’s family has been affected by pheochromocytoma/paraganglioma, and he looks forward to increasing patient awareness and research efforts focused on the disease through his work with the Pheo Para Alliance.
E. Allen Wilson
Allen Wilson is a business graduate with over 20 years experience in both the financial and manufacturing sectors. He is Managing Director of the Wilson Group of Companies, based in Belfast, N. Ireland since 1998, which remains on an expansionary path within the chemical manufacturing and specialist recycling markets throughout Ireland and Europe. An avid sportsman, qualified instructor and Hatha yoga tutor, Allen has a zest for life and energy that he is keen to put to good use. He was diagnosed with sporadic metastatic paraganglioma in October 2006 and was appointed to the Board of the Pheo Para Alliance in 2009.
Allen is passionate about using his experience, networking and managerial skills to increase awareness of the work of the all forms of patient support through Pheo Para Patient Initiative. His emphasis is to reach out to patients throughout the world by promoting the pursuit of earlier and better detection and diagnosis of Pheochromocytoma whilst helping to develop improved treatments and ultimately pursue a cure for this rare and orphan group of diseases.
Salley has worked on Capitol Hill for over 10 years working to develop and execute strategic initiatives related to legislative and organizational operations and communications. Prior to her work on the Hill, she spent 6 years working at the National Association of Broadcasters where she worked on the conception and management of national consumer, public policy, and grassroots campaigns. Salleyhas been diagnosed with the familial SDHB genetic mutation associated with paragangliomas. She lives in Washington, D.C. with her husband and two children.
Interim Executive Director
Interim Executive Director
Diane Silverman began work with the Pheo Para Alliance in 2017 before assuming the role of Interim Executive Director in 2018. Diane holds both a Bachelor’s of Science degree in Nursing and a Master of Science degree in Management. She has brought her organizational leadership skills and her background in healthcare and management to many nonprofits. An award-winning fundraiser, Diane uses her skills in strategic management and fundraising to help reinvigorate and grow organizations. She lives in central Virginia with her family.
Medical Advisory Board
Justin Annes, MD PhD
Justin Annes received his MD PHD degrees from New York University Medical School (2004) where he studied the regulation of Transforming Growth Factor-β (TGF-β) activity with Dr. Daniel Rifkin. He subsequently trained in Internal Medicine and Clinical Genetics at Brigham and Women’s Hospital (BWH) / Harvard Medical School (2004-2009). During this period, he worked with Dr. Douglas Melton at Harvard University on understanding the molecular pathways that govern islet β-cell growth. His laboratory interest in Neuroendocrine Cell Biology led him to develop Neuroendocrine Tumor (NET)-focused clinical programs at BWH and the Dana Farber Cancer Institute while a Harvard Medical School Instructor (2009-2012). In 2012, Dr. Annes moved to Stanford University (Assistant Professor) where his Laboratory explores the growth-control of islet β-cells and develops novel animal models of the hereditary Pheochromocytoma and Paraganglioma (hPPGL) Syndrome. The goals of this research are to understand the molecular mechanisms that control NET development, identify growth-associated cellular weaknesses that may be therapeutically leveraged and prove the benefit of these therapeutic targets in a pre-clinical mouse disease model. Accordingly, Dr. Annes’ laboratory has incorporated the power of medicinal chemistry to explore novel therapeutic approaches to hPPGL-related tumors. Clinically, Dr. Annes has run a hereditary NET-focused clinic at Stanford (Endocrinology) since 2012, which cares for pre-symptomatic and symptomatic NET-affected patients and families. He is Head of Stanford’s Pheochromocytoma and Paraganglioma Program within the Endocrine Oncology Cancer Program (2018).
Roderick Clifton-Bligh, BSC MB FRACP PhD FFSc
Associate Professor Roderick Clifton-Bligh is Head of the Department of Endocrinology at Royal North Shore Hospital, and conjoint associate professor in Medicine at the University of Sydney. He completed a PhD in the genetics of thyroid disorders at the University of Cambridge. He now supervises dual research groups, one of which focuses on the genetics of endocrine neoplasms, and the other on metabolic bone disease. The Cancer Genetics Unit studies the molecular bases of thyroid cancer, phaechromocytoma/paraganglioma syndromes, adrenal cancer, and pituitary neoplasms. The Metabolic Bone Research Unit studies calcium-sensing receptor gene mutations and FGF23 biology. His scope of clinical practice remains broad. He has co-supervised 8 completed PhDs, including five Endocrinologists. He maintains a strong involvement in teaching and mentoring young physicians.
Lauren Fishbein, MD PhD MTR
Lauren Fishbein, MD, PhD, MTR is an Assistant Professor in Medicine at the University of Colorado School of Medicine in the Division of Endocrinology, Metabolism and Diabetes with a secondary appointment in the Division of Biomedical Informatics and Personalized Medicine. She received her bachelor’s degree in Biochemistry from Vassar College and earned her MD, PhD degree from the University of Florida with a PhD in Molecular Genetics. She completed her Internal Medicine Residency at Harvard’s Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston and her Endocrinology Fellowship at the University of Pennsylvania where she also completed a Master’s in Translational Research. Her research and clinical interests are in neuroendocrine tumor genetics with a special focus on pheochromocytomas and paragangliomas. Dr. Fishbein has a strong interest in personalized medicine including understanding the impacts and implications of germline predisposition genetics, as well as understanding tumor development and transformation to aggressive and metastatic disease. Among her contributions to the field, she was the first to report the association between somatic ATRX mutations and aggressive pheochromocytoma, and she was the data coordinator for The Cancer Genome Atlas (TCGA) integrative genomics study on pheochromocytoma and paraganglioma which revealed potential new markers for aggressive disease. She has served and continues to serve on committees for the Endocrine Society and the North American Neuroendocrine Tumor Society.
Jacques Lenders, MD PhD FRCP
Jacques Lenders received his MD Degree in 1975 at the Radboud University in Nijmegen, The Netherlands. After his training as internist he served as staff member of the Department of General Internal Medicine of the Radboud University Medical Centre. He was deputy-chair of the department from 2005 until he retired at the end of 2012. Since 2008 he works also as a part-time affiliate staff member of the Department of Internal Medicine III, University Medical Center Gustav Carus, Dresden, Germany.
In 1988 he defended his thesis ‘Blood pressure and catecholamine reactivity to adrenergic stimulation in essential hypertension’. From 1-8-1991 to 31-12-1992 he worked as a visiting associate in the Clinical Neuroscience Branch of the NINDS at the NIH in Bethesda, USA, under supervision of Dr. I. Kopin. There he developed, together with Prof. Graeme Eisenhofer, an assay for measurements of plasma free metanephrines as a diagnostic test for pheochromocytoma. On his return to Nijmegen as staff member, he focused his research on diagnostic and clinical aspects of catecholamine-producing tumors. In Nijmegen he was one of the founders of the Radboud Adrenal Center. He initiated the Working Group on Endocrine Hypertension of the European Society of Hypertension and he is a member of the executive board of the Pheochromocytoma Research Support Organization. He has (co-)authored over 260 research articles, reviews and book chapters. Recently he served as chairman of the Pheochromocytoma/Paraganglioma Clinical Practice Guideline Task Force of The Endocrine Society.