Chief Executive Officer & Founder
Former Research Fellow, Boston Children’s Hospital, Harvard Medical School
Mass Challenge Winner 2019,
Boehringer Ingelheim Innovation Prize and Golden Ticket Winner 2019
Joanna Stanicka, Ph.D. is an entrepreneur, scientific co-founder, and CEO of AXONIS Therapeutics, Inc, a pioneering biotech company developing first-in-class therapies to treat unmet neurological needs based on unbiased in vivo phenotypic screens. She is a passionate inventor and innovator, and a Harvard-trained expert with 15+ years in biochemistry and neuroscience. Her multidisciplinary training in genetics, biochemistry, cell biology and neuroscience, combined with strong leadership and management skills, provides her with a strong background to develop breakthrough therapies treating incurable neurological diseases.
Joanna finished undergraduate studies in University College Cork first in her class and was awarded a Prof. Art Champlin Medal for Excellence in Biochemistry, and received the prestigious Irish Cancer Society Research Scholarship to support her graduate work. Three years later she earned a PhD degree in Cancer Biology and then undertook postdoctoral research work in Cell Biology. In 2017 she was invited to join Prof. Zhigang He at Harvard Medical School to continue her postdoctoral research in neuroscience, with the goal of translating her cancer/growth signaling knowledge into novel strategies for neuroregeneration and neuroprotection after CNS injury. As a research fellow in Prof. He’s laboratory, she led a genome-wide screen in vivo to discover new drug targets acting as inhibitors of neuron survival and regeneration. The large-scale project involved AAV-mediated CRISPR-mediated deletion of >2,000 genes in a CNS injury model in mice. Following twelve years studying cell growth, cell death and repair signaling pathways in various disease models, she was recommended for the CSO position at AXONIS. Here she began to translate Dr. He’s discoveries into transformative treatments for spinal cord injury and other neurological disorders. Later the same year Joanna was promoted to CEO, to lead AXONIS’s growth and fulfill her vision of building a neuro-focused company to transform the therapeutic landscape and improve the quality of lives for people living with chronic neurological disorders. She established a new R&D program developing a small molecule treatment that restores KCC2 function. Recently she expanded the company’s portfolio by adding her own inventions from Dr. Zhigang’s lab, a library of disease targets that includes novel inhibitors of neurodegeneration.
Under her leadership AXONIS has received state and federal non-dilutive funding of ~$5M, including most recently awards from NIH SBIR ($2.2M) and DoD SCIRP ($1.8M), and raised Seed financing of $9M. As a further validation, AXONIS was awarded Golden Tickets/Innovation Prizes from Boehringer Ingelheim and Astellas Pharma for free lab space at LabCentral, a leading biotech incubator at Kendall Square. Joanna also received the Massachusetts Next Generation Award, a prestigious prize in entrepreneurship and leadership for woman-CEO in life sciences. She established R&D operations at LabCentral and Tufts Launchpad and now leads a team of 9 full-time employees and 12 experienced consultants while directly overseeing the drug discovery process at the company.