Executive Staff Biographies

Derek Rapp President & CEO

Derek Rapp is President and Chief Executive Officer of JDRF. Prior to his appointment, Derek served as Vice-Chairman of the Board of Directors for JDRF International and was formally JDRF Research Chair. He has been involved in the research funding and oversight activities of JDRF since 2005.

Previously, as Mergers and Acquisitions & New Growth Platform Lead for Monsanto Company, Derek was responsible for the oversight of the company’s acquisitions and divestitures, as well as the assessment of a wide variety of investment opportunities.

From early 2001 until February 2011, Derek was Chief Executive Officer of Divergence, Inc., a science-based company finding solutions in the prevention and control of pest infections. He led the successful sale of the company to Monsanto Company in February 2011. As CEO of Divergence, Derek’s main responsibilities included developing and implementing the company’s strategy, ensuring suitable financing of the company, implementing relationships with licensees and collaborators, and overseeing operations. Derek led more than $6 billion of acquisitions and divestitures on behalf of Monsanto and Divergence, as well as negotiated a number of in-licensing, out-licensing, and cross-licensing relationships.

Derek holds a Bachelor of Arts degree from Brown University with concentrations in Economics and German and a Master in Business Administration from The Wharton School, University of Pennsylvania with concentrations in Corporate Management and Finance.

Derek is married to Emily Rapp, and they have three children (Helen – 22, Turner – 20, who was diagnosed with T1D in 2004, and William – 17).


David E. Wheadon, M.D. Executive Vice President, Research and Advocacy

David E. Wheadon, M.D., is the executive vice president of research and advocacy, overseeing all aspects of JDRF’s efforts to accelerate the discovery, development, and delivery of life-changing therapies for type 1 diabetes.

Prior to joining JDRF, Dr. Wheadon served as senior vice president of scientific and regulatory affairs at Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America, providing strategic leadership in setting the scientific and regulatory advocacy agenda for the biopharmaceutical industry while also building and strengthening collaborative alliances.

Throughout his career, Dr. Wheadon has been a recognized leader in R&D, with excellent experience in drug development and translational research, regulatory and medical affairs, and patient advocacy. Working in leadership roles with major pharmaceutical companies, Dr. Wheadon was integral to the successful development and approval of several important drugs for central nervous system diseases, diabetes, gastrointestinal disorders, and diseases in other therapeutic areas. Dr. Wheadon began his career as a clinical research physician at Eli Lilly and Company and has served as vice president of global pharmaceutical regulatory and medical sciences at Abbott Laboratories and senior vice president of U.S. regulatory affairs at GlaxoSmithKline Pharmaceuticals. Through his various roles, Dr. Wheadon has worked with many government agencies around the globe and has worked extensively with the U.S. regulatory agencies. He also has represented pharmaceutical research companies in various public forums, including testifying before Congress.

Dr. Wheadon received his medical doctorate from Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine and completed his postgraduate training in psychiatry at Tufts-New England Medical Center.


Richard A. Insel, M.D. Chief Scientific Officer, Research

Richard A. Insel, M.D., is the chief scientific officer for JDRF, where he has responsibility for heading up the strategic direction and oversight of all JDRF research projects.

Dr. Insel has had a distinguished medical and research career in pediatric immunology. Prior to joining JDRF in 2003, he held various leadership positions at the University of Rochester Medical Center during a 26-year tenure there. Dr. Insel was the founding director of the Center for Human Genetics and Molecular Pediatric Disease and a member of the departments of pediatrics and microbiology & immunology. Among other responsibilities, Dr. Insel served as acting chair of pediatrics; professor of pediatrics, microbiology & immunology, and the Cancer Center; associate chair for pediatric research; director of the Strong Children’s Research Center; and chief of the Division of Pediatric Immunology, Allergy and Rheumatology.

Dr. Insel was the scientific co-founder of Praxis Biologics, a biotechnology company established in 1983 and subsequently acquired by Wyeth, the global pharmaceutical and health care products company. Praxis Biologics was responsible for bringing a new vaccine to market that resulted in the virtual elimination of the most common form of childhood meningitis among American infants and children.

Dr. Insel has served on the National Advisory Allergy and Infectious Diseases Council of the National Institutes of Health. He has been a visiting associate professor of biochemistry and biophysics at Columbia University’s College of Physicians and Surgeons, a fellow in pediatrics (research) at Harvard Medical School, and a fellow in medicine (immunology) at Children’s Hospital Medical Center in Boston. He also served in the Laboratory of Parasitic Immunochemistry at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta.


Cynthia Rice Senior Vice President, Advocacy and Policy

Cynthia Rice is the senior vice president of advocacy and policy at JDRF, where she manages JDRF’s legislative and grassroots programs as well as initiatives to accelerate access to new therapies.

Ms. Rice joined JDRF in September 2005 and was promoted to director of new technology access in January 2006. She has been a major catalyst for accelerating JDRF’s Artificial Pancreas Project, leading a cross-departmental staff team in implementing the program’s research, government relations, communications, and development goals.

Ms. Rice has extensive experience leading complicated advocacy projects in both the government and nonprofit sectors. In President Clinton’s White House from 1997 to 2000, she served as a special assistant to the president for domestic policy, coordinating numerous high-profile policy initiatives involving experts from multiple agencies and employing various legislative, regulatory, and communications tactics.

In the mid 1990s, she served in the U.S. Senate as a legislative assistant to two senior members of the Finance Committee, Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan and Senator John B. Breaux, helping to advance and amend a variety of budget, health, and domestic policy legislation.

From 2001 to 2005, Ms. Rice served as vice president for policy at the New Democrat Network, where she led efforts to promote the group’s policy agenda to elected officials and the public.

Ms. Rice received an undergraduate degree from Harvard University and a master’s in public policy from the University of California at Berkeley.


Sandra Hijikata Senior Vice President, U.S. Field Development

Sandra Hijikata is the senior vice president of U.S. field development at JDRF, where she is responsible for executing fundraising strategies, campaigns, and programs in the chapters and branches. She partners with senior leadership and the Core Operations team to ensure continuity between the fundraising strategies and regional objectives.

Sandra joins JDRF from the March of Dimes, where she was responsible for its revenue-generating programs. Her extensive experience working with chapters, regions, and field-based organizations—combined with her strong fundraising background—will help JDRF realize the revenue growth needed to achieve our vision.

Prior to the March of Dimes, Sandra spent 30 years at the American Heart Association, where she oversaw multiple regions, each with $20–$40 million in revenue and about 200 employees. Sandra began her career with the American Diabetes Association and is passionate about the mission of JDRF.


Julia L. Greenstein, Ph.D. Vice President, Cure Therapies

Julia Greenstein is currently the vice president of cure therapies. The Cure Therapies group at JDRF is responsible for the beta cell replacement and regeneration and imaging portfolio and the immune therapies portfolio at JDRF, the leading nonprofit nongovernmental funder of international research in type 1 diabetes.

She has more than 20 years of experience in the corporate biotechnology arena. She was the chief executive officer and president of Immerge BioTherapeutics, a Novartis Pharma/BioTransplant joint venture focused on the development of pig xenotransplantation for clinical practice. Prior to that, she held the roles chief scientific officer and senior vice president of research at BioTransplant Incorporated and vice president of discovery research at ImmuLogic Pharmaceutical Corp.

Dr. Greenstein serves on the Board of Directors of the MGH Institute of Health Professions and the Mass BioEd Foundation and was on the Board of the Massachusetts Biotechnology Council and the Massachusetts Society for Medical Research.

She received her Ph.D. in microbiology from the University of Rochester Medical School based on work in the laboratory of Philippa Marrack, Ph.D. She did postdoctoral training at the University of Rochester Medical School and the Dana Farber Cancer Institute of Harvard Medical School. Dr. Greenstein was an assistant professor at Harvard Medical School and the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute.


Aaron J. Kowalski, Ph.D. Vice President, Treatment Therapies

Dr. Kowalski oversees JDRF-funded research aimed at accelerating the delivery of therapies that will help keep people healthy while living with diabetes and minimize their risk for developing diabetes complications, as well as treatments that will help those who have developed diabetic complications. Dr. Kowalski is an internationally recognized expert in the area of diabetes technologies and has been a leader since its inception in 2005 of the JDRF Artificial Pancreas Project, a multimillion-dollar initiative aimed at accelerating progress towards a closed-loop automated insulin-delivery system and diabetes technologies that will improve blood sugar control in people with diabetes. He has published numerous articles in the field, including co-authoring the landmark New England Journal of Medicine publication demonstrating the effectiveness of continuous glucose monitors in type 1 diabetes. Dr. Kowalski has been an invited speaker at the ADA Annual Scientific Sessions, EASD, AACE, AADE and many other national and international conferences and was the keynote speaker at the 2008 Diabetes Technology Society Meeting.

Dr. Kowalski has traveled widely across North America and abroad describing diabetes research progress and is known for his ability to translate complicated science into easily understandable concepts. He has been a voice for diabetes research in the popular press, appearing on The Martha Stewart Show, dLife, Fox Business, NPR and many others and is often quoted in print media including The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, USA Today, and People magazine.

Prior to joining JDRF he completed his Ph.D. in molecular genetics from Rutgers University and the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey.

In 1977, at the age of three, Dr. Kowalski’s brother Stephen was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes and in 1984, at the age of thirteen, he, too, was diagnosed with type 1. It is their collective experiences over the past 30+ years that provide the daily motivation to fight for a cure.