About Phythera

Phythera Therapeutics, Inc. was started to test, develop and improve promising metastatic cancer herbal medications. Many small bioactive phyto-molecules used in biomedicine have been derived from plants (hence –Phythera Therapeutics). The cocktail of drugs is expected to be better than one molecule for managing complex diseases with no available treatments. We see the potential of these medicines carrying a cocktail of many small bioactive molecules to substantially improve the treatment of cancer, either as an auxiliary or even as the main treatment method. Optimizing and improving these small molecules to maximize their efficacy to combat metastatic cancers, and converting them into potent and robust novel bioactive compounds is Phythera’s main overarching goal.

We leverage our expertise in 3D cell biology and transcriptomics to test the small molecule compounds to define and improve their efficacy in 3D tissue model systems, either as a single compound or as a combination of several most potent small molecule drugs. The 3D biology (organoids) provides a wealth of information about in vivo biology, which the 2D conventional approaches may not provide, and are the most relevant models for testing novel drugs. The team’s proven deep expertise in stem cell biology enables us to study the impact of our candidate molecules on the most elusive and most malignant cancer stem cells and develop drug combinations, optimized for a specific disease. Last but not least, our team has a strong interest in regenerative medicine approaches for inducing tissue regeneration and improving tissue homeostasis, the key to wellness and enduring health. Small molecule compounds derived from plants possess many of the properties promoting tissue regeneration and modulating homeostasis in tissue. Enhancing these properties and converting them into new treatments is Phythera’s 2nd overarching goal.

Our Team


Igor O. Nasonkin, PHD
CEO &  Co-Founder

Igor is a former faculty member with a Ph.D. in human genetics from the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, and training from MIT, Johns Hopkins, and NIH. He left academia to join a clinical-stage company BioTime(now Linage Cell Therapeutics) to pursue his passion in developing therapies, which help patients. While directing BioTime's R&D team, Igor brought $2.4M in SBIR funding from NIH to develop the company's preclinical research and published numerous papers, 4 of them featured on the cover of leading scientific journals. He started Phythera in 2021 to continue developing new Therapies for patients.


Ngoc-T. Tran, CPA
Chief Marketing Officer, Treasurer

Ngoc T. Tran, is a Certified Public Accountant with over 23+ years’ experience in accounting, audits, tax consulting, and entrepreneurism. She is also a Licensed Life Insurance Agent, Global Business Connector, Speaker, and an International Bestselling Author.

Ngoc has a Bachelor of Science in Business Administration, emphases in Accounting & Finance, from San Francisco State University and started her career in Corporate America as an Auditor and Tax Consultant for Ernst & Young, LLP. Over the last two decades, Ngoc has managed and performed over 100 Audits and tax returns and managed accounting, tax, and audits for over $1.5B in cumulative company revenues. She was responsible for the day-to-day operations of the accounting department, financial reporting, budgets, cash flow projections, accounting systems & process implementations in the construction, real estate development, renewable energy, and professional service industries.


Charles Irving, PhD
President, Chief Development
Officer, Co-Founder

Charles has spent over 30 years, after an academic career, leading the commercial development of biomedical and biologic products. Among these a recent cell therapy product for retinal disease was out - licensed to pharma. Much of this time in industry, he spent in startup companies as CEO or other high management positions.

Dmitri Kapitonov, DO, PHD, DABCC
Chief Medical Officer

After completing PhD in Biochemistry and Molecular Biophysics (Virginia Commonwealth University, Richmond, VA) and postdoctoral training in cancer cell signaling and bioactive lipids, Dr. Kapitonov finished medical school (LECOM, Erie, PA), residency and fellowship training in pathology and neuropathology (University of Utah, Salt Lake City, UT) and is American Board of Pathology-certified in anatomic pathology, neuropathology, and American Board of Clinical Chemistry-certified in molecular diagnostics.


Hal Sternberg, PhD
Vice President, Research & Development

Hal Sternberg has been in biotech for over 30 years. He is a co - founder of a biotech startup and was the lead investigator in the development of a medical product. He also played a critical role in its successful clinical studies, FDA approval, licensing to big pharma and commercialization. Dr. Sternberg received his M.S. in Chemistry (1979) and Ph.D. in Biochemistry (1982) from the University of Maryland.

Judy Segall
Corporate Secretary

Judith Segall has been an executive in the biotech industry for 3 2+ years. She is currently the Director of Administration and Corporate Secretary of AgeX Therapeutics , Inc. Prior to joining AgeX, Ms. Segall was the Vice President of Administration of BioTime, Inc. (now Lineage Therapeutics, Inc.). As one of BioTime’s co - founders in 1990, she served on the BioTime Board of Directors and as an executive worked with other management on bringing a medical produc t (a plasma volume expander for treating blood loss ) throug h the FDA’s regulatory approval process for biologics. Ms. Segall received her B.S. in Nutrition and Clinical Dietetics from the University of California at Berkeley


Sergey Lushpa, MD
Medical Consultant, Botanicals

Dr Lushpa has been working in medicine for over 45 years, specialty- pulmonologist. For the past 30 years he has been developing different formulations of various botanical extracts to augment the treatment of his patients, who had a concomitant tuberculosis and lung cancer. Developing new botanical drug formulations became the main focus of his work in the past 10 years. He is a renowned and respected physician in his country.


Zamira Nazirova, AS
Research Manager

Zamira received a degree in biotechnology from the City College of San Francisco and was one of the first to join Phythera Tx. She is currently a research manager in charge of coordinating the ongoing research on Phythera’s botanical drug candidates. She also was an intern at UCSF in Dr. Aldino’s lab where she participated in generating and screening libraries of mutant proteins with an overall goal of vaccine development.


Oscar Cuzzani, MD, PhD
Consultant, Cancer Therapeutics & Ophthalmology

Physician scientist, Board eligible ophthalmologist with 20 years of experience in the pharmaceutical and biotechnology industries in ophthalmology, dermatology, immunology, and oncology. Extensive experience in developing and launching small molecules, biologics, gene therapy, stem cell therapy, and medical devices in ophthalmology and dermatology. Have spearheaded phase III studies that led to FDA approval for the drug candidates and early stage clinical development with phase I and II studies in 3 therapeutic areas. Worked as a medical monitor, for global multi-center studies, authored three IND and two Pre-IND submissions, two DSURs, five Investigator’s Brochures, and five Clinical Study Reports. Participated in Type B and Type C meetings in FDA and created several advisory boards and steering committees in the US and the EU to help with protocol designs, improve enrollment numbers, and support the science behind the products.


Nadya Issarev
Research Associate II

Ms. Nadya Issarev joined Phythera Therapeutics, Inc. as a Research Associate II. She brings her 12-year BioTime experience in microscopy and testing drugs in cancer, primary human cultured cells and stem cell cultures. We are delighted to have Nadya on our team, as she fills the much-needed role in our R&D team in San Leandro, CA. 


Ivan Labat, Ph.D
Lead Bioinformatician

Ivan Labat, Ph.D., is a veteran of research and development of genome informatics. Over the last 25 years, he has held several biotech industry leadership positions in design, development, and implementation of the next-generation DNA sequencing methods and data analysis and curation. Skilled in NGS Sequencing, Genomic and epigenomic data analyses (RNASeq, ATAC-Seq, Histone modifications, DNA methylation analysis), Ivan has received his M. S. in Molecular Biology and Physiology, and Ph. D. in Molecular Biology from the University of Belgrade


Hooman Altafi
Director of IT Operations

Hooman is a seasoned and highly versatile technology and operations professional with extensive experience with expansions at startups and at public companies. He is the founding member of Brown Hamilton, a consulting firm that helps startups and small companies mange all aspects of their Operations and Information Technology. He has led cross functional teams and enjoys contributing to entire projects from strategy and discovery, to design, technical development, implementation, and support. His strengths include strategic planning, mergers & acquisitions, process optimization, IT Management and Cyber Security.


Moshe Hukaylo
Advisory Board Member, Financial, Investment, & Business Consultant.

Moshe has more than 30 years of experience in Finance,15 years from it within International Corporates. Specific experience in all aspects of Pharma industry, including in Biotech Manufacturing, R&D, Marketing & Sales.

Since 2011, he founded Hukaylo Financial Management, an On Demand CFO Financial Services consulting firm, aimed at escorting SMB's in all Financial Management Aspects.

his vision is to allow SMB's and start-up companies to "think big" early at their initiation phase. There is no reason why these companies will not establish the right way of thinking, especially in aspects of Strategic planning, Budgeting, Controlling, Pricing & Costing etc. He and his staff, render these type of service based on the specific need ("On Demand").


Natalia Dudareva, PhD.
Advisory Board Member
Plant biochemistry and molecular biology

Research in the Dudareva laboratory focuses on understanding of biochemical and molecular mechanisms controlling the formation of primary and secondary (phenylpropanoid and terpenoid) metabolites in plants using the power of genetic and biochemical approaches combined with metabolic flux analysis and modeling. Her research addresses fundamental questions including: Elucidating the molecular architecture and dynamics of phenylalanine biosynthesis in plants. Deciphering the complex terpenoid metabolic network and its regulation; Discovering the biochemical pathways leading to benzoic acid formation. Identification of biomolecular processes involved in the release of plant volatiles into the atmosphere. Deciphering molecular mechanisms involved in plant-plant and inter-organ communication.


Ed Inal
Advisory Board Member

Ed has over 30 years of executive experience in operations, team management, supply chain, customer relationship management, global sales in the highly competitive and rapidly changing Medical Device, Life Sciences and Cosmeceutical markets. Phythera has high expectations for Ed to contribute his management experience and spearhead the commercialization of some of Phythera's leading consumer health products based on botanicals.


Jim Knight, MBA
Advisory Board Member
Business and Corporate Development

James Knight has 25 years of experience in biotech. Previously he was the SVP,  and Head of Corporate Development at BioTime, Inc. (the OpRegen product), and before that, the of Portfolio Strategy at Questcor Pharmaceuticals where he was responsible for leading the expansion of Acthar Gel from two to nine promoted indications across five specialty areas including rheumatology. Questcor's success in expanding Acthar use lead to its acquisition by Mallinckrodt for $5.6 billion.

After serving as the SVP at BioTime, Inc., Mr. Knight also served as the CBO of TXP Pharma and is currently the CBO at Synact Pharma ApS.  Prior to Questcor, Jim Knight held positions of increasing responsibility at Elan Pharmaceuticals, Dura Pharmaceuticals, and Biogen. Jim has a Bachelor of Science in Biology from the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, and a Master of Business Administration in High Technology from Northeastern University in Boston.


Mahendra Rao, MD, PhD
Advisory Board Member
 Business and Corporate Development

Dr. Mahendra Rao is a renowned stem cell expert and a serial entrepreneur. After medical training in India, Dr. Rao obtained a doctorate at Caltech and embarked on a career in developmental biology that included faculty positions of increasing seniority at the University of Utah and the NIH (NIA). Dr. Rao has served on several editorial boards, review panels scientific advisory boards, and company boards. Dr Rao served as the Chair of the CBER (FDA)advisory committee (CTGTAC) and has served on advisory panels of the governments of the U.S., Singapore, and India on stem cell policies. He continues to work with the FDA and other regulatory authorities on stem cell-related issues most recently as the ISSCR liaison to the ISCT.  Dr. As a Board Advisor, Dr. Rao brings his extensive experience in the commercialization of biotechnology products, as well as stem cell biology experience, directly relevant to cancer stem cell biology.