Skip to content


The Brain Tumor Investment Fund is a growing and diverse venture philanthropy fund that leverages the National Brain Tumor Society’s (NBTS) 30 years of experience, expertise, and achievement. The fund will support NBTS’s vision to conquer and cure brain tumors by investing in biotechnology, pharmaceutical, and medical device companies developing products to improve the lives of brain tumor patients. 

The Brain Tumor Investment Fund sparks private sector investment in brain tumor research and to create a robust and diverse market for drug development, while increasing the likelihood of success for companies bringing life-changing products to market.

Why Now? 

It is a pivotal moment. New platform technologies and therapeutic modalities can target previously considered undruggable targets, allowing for the development of novel therapeutics and diagnostics that were unthinkable and unachievable 10 years ago. New scientific discoveries are transforming our mechanistic understanding of brain tumor vulnerabilities, and the number of brain tumor spin-out companies is rising (most of them being within the NBTS network), offering a unique opportunity to invest in a growing market. In fact, it is estimated that the global market for brain tumor therapeutics should grow from $1.1 billion in 2018 to $2 billion by 20231.


live with a primary brain tumor

88,970 americans

will receive a primary brain tumor diagnosis in 2022

36 percent

is the five-year relative survival rate for all malignant brain tumor patients

18,200 americans

will die from a malignant brain tumor in 2022

Meet the Team

The Brain Tumor Investment Fund, a subsidiary of the National Brain Tumor Society, is the convener and a catalyst for private sector investment, led by a distinguished team of experts with deep experience in brain tumor research and drug development.

Management Team

Senior Principal and Co-Founder

Vanessa Almendro, PhD, MBA
Vice President of Science and Technology at Danaher Corporation

Vanessa has more than 18 years of leadership experience in translational research and drug development in a broad spectrum of common and rare disease areas. She has a PhD from the University of Barcelona, Post-doctoral training from Dana-Farber Cancer Institute and Harvard Medical School, and an Executive MBA from MIT Sloan School of Management.

Managing Director

John Higgins

John Higgins is Managing Director at the Brain Tumor Investment Fund. John’s career spans 30 years in biopharma commercialization and business development, progressing in roles of increasing responsibility within both large and emerging companies. Prior to BTIF, John served as VP Commercial and Corporate Development at Istari Oncology, a clinical-stage company formed to develop and commercialize an investigational immune activator for glioblastoma and other solid tumors. John was integral in Istari’s Series B raise of over $40M, as well as starting the business development function and creating a significant number of business relationships for the company. Prior to that, John served as President and General Manager of ProStrakan Inc., (now Kyowa Kirin) leading the transformation of that oncology business into a profit-contributor. John’s range of experience also includes AstraZeneca, Baxter Healthcare, NicOx Inc. and Cytogen. John’s role in BTIF is to raise philanthropic capital and leverage the National Brain Tumor Society’s (NBTS) expertise to identify and purposefully invest in emerging biotechnology, pharmaceutical, and medical device companies developing new treatments and diagnostics for brain tumors. John leads the end-to-end process, including identification, outreach, due diligence and investment with the goal to fuel the development of new and promising brain tumor treatments that might otherwise be stalled by funding gaps. John received his B.A. from Villanova University.

Scientific Advisory Council Lead

Kirk Tanner, PhD
Senior Vice President, Brain Tumor Investment Fund
Chief Scientific Officer at the National Brain Tumor Society

Kirk is an oncology research leader with two decades of experience in discovery and development projects and programs resulting in multiple clinical candidate therapies and investigational new drugs. He leads the National Brain Tumor Society’s research program that aims to catalyze treatment development through philanthropic investment in medical research, engaging scientists, clinicians, patients, and care partners in research programs.

Investment Committee

Yury Kukushkin, PhD
Managing Director, JDRF, T1D Fund
Co-founder, Future Biotech

Prior to this role, Yury was a Principal and later Venture Partner at 4BIO Capital, a London-based fund investing in public and private life sciences companies. Prior to this role, he was Chief Analyst and Associate at RBV Capital, an early-stage life sciences venture fund. Originally from Moscow, Russia, Yury received his M.S. in Biochemistry with specialization in Virology from Moscow State University and a Ph.D. in Cellular Biochemistry from Max Planck Institute of Biochemistry, Martinsried, Germany.

John Frishkopf, MMS
CEO, Klocke Estate; Partner, QLS Advisors

John is a founder of NewStar Financial, Inc., from which he retired as Treasurer and Head of Asset Management. A graduate of MIT and MIT Sloan, John Frishkopf has spoken at conferences and has published on using financial engineering techniques to speed the drug discovery process. John served on the NBTS Board for seven years to honor the life of his late husband, David King, who passed away in 2014 from GBM.

Davina Bruckner
Chairwoman and Managing Partner, Eastbridge Group

Davina is the Chairwoman and Managing Partner of Eastbridge Group, a Family Holding Company that invests in private equity, venture capital and real estate. Davina became Chairwoman after her father, the founder of the firm, passed away after an eight year fight against GBM in 2013. Prior to Eastbridge, she worked at McKinsey & Co. and graduated Magna Cum Laude from ULB Medical School in Brussels, Belgium, the city where she grew up. She joined the investment committee of the BTIF in 2022 to honor her father.

Board of Directors

Eric Olson, PhD
Chief Scientific Officer at Syros Pharmaceuticals

Eric has over 30 years of experience in the life sciences industry, most recently as Research Vice President for respiratory diseases at Vertex Pharmaceuticals. During his 12 years at Vertex, he led research, development, and commercial teams in bringing to patients the first cystic fibrosis (CF) treatment resulting from discovery of the CF gene.

David Arons, JD
President and Chief Executive Officer of the National Brain Tumor Society

David previously served in leadership and external positions at the American Cancer Society in Minnesota, the Center for Lobbying in the Public Interest, and in the Independent Sector. As an attorney, he previously represented patients facing disabilities and serious health conditions. He has previously served on then Vice President Biden’s Cancer Moonshot Blue Ribbon Panel, as Chair of the National Cancer Institute’s Council of Research Advocates and as a Member of its Clinical Trials Advisory Committee.

Tom Roloff, MBA
Former Senior Vice President of Information Technology & Business Transformation at Dell Technologies Corporation

Tom was also a vice president of EMC and Chief Operating Officer at EMC Consulting. He has also held senior management positions at Perot Systems and HomeLife Medical. He earned his undergraduate degree at Lafayette University, a master’s degree at Virginia Tech University, and an MBA from MIT Sloan School of Management.

Scientific Advisory Council

Michelle Barton, PhD

Michelle (Shelley) Barton is a Co-Director of the Cancer Early Detection Advanced Research (CEDAR) center and professor in the Division of Oncological Sciences at the Knight Cancer Institute, Oregon Health & Science University (OHSU) in Portland, OR. Prior to CEDAR, she was a professor and Dean for Graduate Studies in the Department of Epigenetics and Molecular Carcinogenesis at the MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston, TX. Shelley’s research areas of interest are epigenetics, p53 signaling and breast cancer.

Manmeet Ahluwalia, MD, MBA

Manmeet serves as the Deputy Director, Chief of Medical Oncology, Chief Scientific Officer, Miami Cancer Institute, Miami, Florida, where he subspecializes in treatment of patients with brain tumors and brain metastases. His research focuses on the development of new therapies for patients with brain tumors and brain metastases. He is currently leading several clinical trials involving new targeted therapies as well immunotherapeutic approaches.

Ranjit S. Bindra, MD, PhD

Ranjit is a Yale University Harvey and Kate Cushing Professor of Therapeutic Radiology Vice Chair, Translational Research & Therapeutic Radiology and Scientific Director at Chênevert Family Brain Tumor Center. A physician-scientist and an entrepreneur, Dr. Bindra feels a deep commitment to improve the lives of cancer patients. At Yale Cancer Center, Dr. Bindra treats adult and pediatric patients with primary CNS brain tumors and cancer metastases. At Yale, Ranjit manages research focused on synthetic lethal screening strategies to exploit DNA repair defects in cancer and translates the results into Phase I and II clinical trials. A serial biotech entrepreneur with passion for developing oncology therapeutics, Bindra has co-founded several companies: Cybrexa Therapeutics, Alphina Therapeutics, B3 Therapeutics, and Modifi Bio.

Frederick F. Lang, MD

Frederick is professor and chairman of the Department of Neurosurgery at MD Anderson. He is Co-Director of the MD Anderson Brain Tumor Center and Co-Leader of the GBM Moon Shot. He is the Principal Investigator on MD Anderson’s SPORE in Brain Cancer. He is a NIH-funded translational researcher focused on developing novel biological therapies. He is past president of the Society of Neuro-oncology and past chair of the CNS/AANS Section on Tumors. He is the recipient of numerous awards and honors, including America’s Top Doctors for Cancer, the Preuss Research Award, the Mahaley Award, and the Otis W. and Pearl Walters Faculty Achievement Award in Clinical Research.

Mariella Gruber Filbin, MD, PhD

Mariella is a Pediatric Neuro-oncologist and Principal Investigator at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute (DFCI) and Boston Children’s Hospital (BCH), Co-Director of the Brain Tumor Center for Excellence at DFCI/BCH, and an Assistant Professor in Pediatrics at Harvard Medical School. Her research focuses on pediatric brain tumors, particularly high-grade gliomas and malignant embryonal brain tumors. She is combining single-cell genetics and transcriptomics with gene editing, epigenetic, stem cell, and pharmacologic methods to identify networks underlying tumorigenesis.

Len Post, PhD

Len’s experience spans 30 years and all stages of drug development, from early discovery through FDA approval with a focus on oncology and genetic diseases. Len was a founder of LEAD Therapeutics, which led to the discovery of Talazoparib, and was later acquired by BioMarin Pharmaceuticals where he served as the Chief Scientific Officer. His current position is Chief Scientific Officer of Vivace Therapeutics and Virtuoso Therapeutics. Len received a B.S. in Chemistry from the University of Michigan and a Ph.D. in Biochemistry from the University of Wisconsin, Madison.

Duane A. Mitchell, MD, PhD

Duane A. Mitchell, M.D., Ph.D. is the Phyllis Kottler Friedman Professor in the Department of Neurosurgery and Co-Director of the Preston A. Wells, Jr. Center for Brain Tumor Therapy at University of Florida (UF) Health.   He serves as the University of Florida (UF) Assistant Vice President for Research, Associate Dean for Clinical and Translational Sciences at the UF College of Medicine, Director of the UF Clinical Translational Science Institute (CTSI), Chair of the Scientific Advisory Board for the Florida Center for Brain Tumor Research (FCBTR), and Associate Director of Innovation and Discovery at the UF Health Cancer Center. Dr. Mitchell leads a comprehensive neuro-oncology program focused on translational brain tumor research and is a leading expert in the development of innovative immunotherapy treatments for adults and children with malignant brain tumors. He has pioneered many novel brain tumor immunotherapies that have been translated into first-in-human clinical trials and multi-center phase 2 studies.  Dr. Mitchell is an inventor on over 25 patents for novel cancer therapeutics, has received over $40 million in research awards and is continuously funded and supported by the NIH, the Department of Defense, and numerous private foundations since 2009. 

John Pollard, PhD

John is CSO at Dark Blue Therapeutics, a precision medicine oncology company based in Oxford, UK. He has over 20 years-experience in drug discovery and development focused in oncology. Prior to Dark Blue Therapeutics, he was VP and Global Head of Early Development and Translational Medicine for the Oncology Group at Bayer Pharmaceuticals where he was responsible for multiple clinical assets across a range of indications and mechanisms. John started his career at Vertex Pharmaceuticals where he served as VP, Principal Research Fellow, and Head of Biological Sciences. John was also global oncology research lead and co-franchise head, where he led the delivery of multiple oncology clinical candidates including a series of first-in-class ATR kinase inhibitors that were licensed to Merck KGaA. John has a BSc(Hons) in Chemistry and a PhD in Bioorganic Chemistry, and held post-doc positions in chemical and molecular biology. John is a passionate collaborator and has led myriad partnerships across academia and the pharmaceutical industry and has been a member of several scientific boards including the Rosalind Franklin Institute.


  1. Quinn T Ostrom, Gino Cioffi, Kristin Waite, Carol Kruchko, Jill S Barnholtz-Sloan, CBTRUS Statistical Report: Primary Brain and Other Central Nervous System Tumors Diagnosed in the United States in 2014–2018, Neuro-Oncology, Volume 23, Issue Supplement_3, October 2021, Pages iii1–iii105,

Sign Up to Stay Informed!