The pivotal bioventure partners TEAm

Vincent Cheung
Founder and Managing Partner

Vincent Cheung founded Pivotal in 2017.  Vincent is also the Managing Director and the Chief Operating Officer of the Nan Fung Group, an international business conglomerate with global interests in property, financial investments and a diverse range of business partnerships.  Mr. Cheung is responsible for the Group’s strategic development as well as overall operations. 

Mr. Cheung has been a member of The National Committee of the Chinese People’s Political Consultation Conference for Shanghai City (中國人民政治協商會議上海市委員) since 2012, a Committee Member of the All-China Youth Federation, and a Council Member of the Hong Kong United Youth Association since 2010. 

Mr. Cheung graduated from the University of California, Berkeley, graduating with honours in Molecular and Cell Biology. 

Rob Hopfner
Managing Partner

Rob Hopfner, RPh, PhD, MBA joined Pivotal in 2017, and brings a long track record of working successfully with entrepreneurs to get novel, important medicines through development and onto the market.  Rob is a member of the Board of Directors of Entasis Therapeutics, Iterum Therapeutics, Oculis, and Sutrovax.  He was formerly either a board member or board observer on Aciex Therapeutics (sold to Nicox S.A.), CivitasTherapeutics (sold to Acorda Therapeutics), Cydan, Dermira (NASDAQ: DERM), Hyperion Therapeutics (sold to Horizon Pharma), Imara Pharmaceuticals, NextWave Pharmaceuticals (sold to Pfizer), PharmakeaTherapeutics, and Vtesse (sold to Sucampo Pharmaceuticals).  Other past investments where Rob played a key role included Kezar Life Sciences, Madrigal Pharmaceuticals (NASDAQ: MDGL), Menlo Therapeutics (NASDAQ: MNLO), Merus BV (NASDAQ: MRUS) and Tetraphase Pharmaceuticals (NASDAQ: TTPH).

Rob was previously a Managing Director at Bay City Capital and prior to that worked in business development and investment roles at DuPont Pharmaceuticals and at Ag-West Biotech, respectively.  Rob holds a PhD in Pharmacology from the University of Saskatchewan and an MBA from the University of Chicago Booth School of Business.  He completed his post-doctoral work at Harvard Medical School.  Rob won numerous awards during his research career, including the Governor General of Canada Gold Medal Award in 2000, and he published several articles in top medical journals based on his work.  Rob started his career as a pharmacist.

Ash Khanna
Venture Partner

Ash Khanna, PhD, MBA joined Pivotal in 2017.  Ash brings 20 years of experience in the venture capital, pharmaceutical and biotech arena.  Most recently, he co-founded SutroVax, a Pivotal bioVentures portfolio company, where he served as Chief Business Officer.  Previously he was President & Chief Business Officer of Imagen Biotech, a VC-backed startup developing treatments for severe ophthalmic diseases.

Prior to his operating roles, Ash was a Principal at SV Life Sciences (SVLS), a healthcare focused venture capital firm, where he led and managed investments in many biotech and diagnostic companies including, among others, Ophthotech, Mpex Pharmaceuticals, Good Start Genetics and Itero Biopharmaceuticals.  He started his career in the pharmaceutical industry at Bristol-Myers Squibb where he held various positions including Team Leader responsible for the clinical advancement of multiple Diabetes programs including the currently marketed products, Onglyza® (Dipeptidyl peptidase-4 inhibitor) and Farxiga® (SGLT2 inhibitor).  Ash is a co-inventor on the Onglyza® patent.

Ash has an MBA from The Wharton School and a PhD in Pharmaceutics from SUNY-Buffalo.  He is also a Kauffman Fellow and initially trained as a pharmacist.

Karoly Nikolich
Venture Partner

Karoly Nikolich, PhD, joined Pivotal in 2017 and brings a long and successful track record in biotech entrepreneurship and drug discovery.  He led Genentech’s entry into neuroscience during the 1980s and led and participated in the development of numerous protein therapeutics.  He was Vice President of Research and Development at Lynx Therapeutics, a company that pioneered massively parallel nucleotide sequencing.  He also served as Executive Director of the Stanford Neuroscience Institute in 2005-2007. 

Karoly was also co-founder of AGY Therapeutics, Amnestix, Neurofluidics, Chase Pharmaceuticals, Circuit Therapeutics, and Alkahest.  He has served on the boards and scientific advisory boards at a number of neurotherapeutics and biotech companies, including Neuropore, Angiochem, Hummingbird, Pascal, as well as several investment funds. 

Dr. Nikolich is a graduate of Eotvos University in Budapest and worked as postdoctoral fellow at Tulane University and UCSF before joining Genentech. He has been Adjunct Professor in the Department of Psychiatry at Stanford University Medical School.

Jim Trenkle
Senior Associate

Jim Trenkle, PhD, MBA joined Pivotal in 2017.  Before joining Pivotal, Jim spent 10 years at Gilead Sciences, where he held positions of increasing responsibility in medicinal chemistry, project and portfolio management, and commercial strategy.  Much of his work was in liver diseases, where he contributed to the discovery of ledipasvir and other clinical candidates for Hepatitis C (HCV).  He moved out of the laboratory to direct development strategy for HCV, HBV, and liver fibrosis, leading development teams from IND through drug filings and approvals for a number of important drugs (Sovaldi®, Harvoni®, Epclusa®, Vosevi®).

His most recent role at Gilead was as Associate Director of Commercial Strategy, Liver Diseases with responsibility for forecasting, market research, and global launch readiness for the liver disease portfolio.  Jim earned his PhD in Organic Chemistry from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and his MBA from University of California, Berkeley – Walter A. Hass School of Business.  Jim is a board observer at Entasis Therapeutics.