Executive Team

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Denise (“DeeDee”) is Founder, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of Bench International. With an indefatigable entrepreneurial spirit, she has taken the company from its founding in 1974 to its eminence today as the premiere specialized retained executive search firm focused on Life Sciences in the world. “DeeDee” is deeply committed to properly “shattering” the glass ceiling for women in the Life Sciences. She has spent more than a quarter of a century developing and promoting a network of women leaders in the biotechnology and pharmaceutical sectors. To that end, she has been a Hall of Fame Inductee of the National Association of Women Business Owners, Board Member for the West Coast Chapter of the Healthcare Businesswomen’s Association, Founder of The Forum of Global Pharmaceutical Diversity and Inclusion (FRxDI), Member of the Board, Learning Forum International as well as Member of the Board, Israel Cancer Research Fund (ICRF). In addition to her leadership and management roles, DeeDee recruits in the areas of Research and Development; Corporate Leadership; Clinical Development; Regulatory Affairs; Science and Medical Advisory Boards; and Boards of Directors. DeeDee holds double masters degrees in auditory and speech pathology and is a highly sought-after speaker and contributing writer for the industry.

Karen has 23 years of senior recruiting and consulting experience and re-joined Bench after spending three and a half years leading TRIOS Search Partners, Inc., a retained recruiting and consulting practice. Prior to running TRIOS, Karen worked for Pfizer Pharmaceuticals in their Global Staffing organization. At Pfizer, Karen supported recruiting activities in their San Diego, CA, San Francisco, CA and Groton, CT sites. Throughout Karen’s career, she has led searches spanning pre-IPO organizations, to fast moving mid-size companies, to large multinational corporations. Karen also has a great deal of experience in training and mentoring staffing professionals in external executive resourcing and market development at major medical and scientific conferences and has presented at numerous specialty sessions. Karen serves as part of the Bench senior leadership team and spearheads global recruiting efforts in all areas of R&D. Originally from the Midwest, Karen has lived in Southern California for 25 years and was recently elected to the Manhattan Beach Board of Education. Karen graduated from Central Michigan University with a degree in Psychology and Marketing.

Chris’ career in biotechnology has spanned 20 years, including 16 years with biotechnology pioneer Amgen where he held roles in research, human resources, product licensing and corporate development. During his tenure in human resources, Chris led the company’s recruitment activities during some of the company’s most dramatic periods of growth as it evolved from a biotechnology research and development organization into a fully-integrated pharmaceutical company. As a result, his recruitment responsibilities spanned the spectrum of the company’s operations including research, clinical development, manufacturing, and commercialization. As a business development executive with Amgen, Chris played a leadership role in the evaluation and negotiation of multiple corporate collaborations and partnerships focusing on both product and technology opportunities. Following Amgen and prior to Bench, he held executive management positions with two privately held biotechnology companies, where he played a leadership role in business development and financing activities. Chris holds a B.S. degree in microbiology from the University of Oklahoma, and an M.S. degree from the University of California, Riverside.

Fred joined the Bench team in 2005 with over 10 years of experience in senior-level recruitment for myriad leading companies, with particular emphasis in the pharmaceutical and biotechnology arenas. He has successfully recruited numerous leaders in line and staff functions within development stage ventures, public biotechnology companies and major pharmaceutical companies. Fred began his career in professional services with Coopers & Lybrand (now PriceWaterhouseCoopers) in the Business Assurance group. His clients included large, multi-national pharmaceuticals such as Rhone-Poulenc Rorer (now SanofiAventis) and small, privately-held companies in a variety of industries. Fred holds a B.S. in accounting from the University of Delaware.

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Gail joined the Bench team in 2001, following careers in both corporate law and international management. After working as a corporate attorney, she served as the Vice President of Business and Legal Affairs for an international management company. Gail particularly enjoys working in a global environment and brings extensive business, contract, licensing, marketing and intellectual property experience to Bench. Gail received a B.A. in Economics from Fordham University (Summa Cum Laude) and a Juris Doctorate degree from Benj. N. Cardozo Law School in New York City.

Kimberly began her recruiting career in 1999 and worked across various business services clients; including spending several years in the Aerospace Industry. Kimberly joined the Bench team in 2007, having been inspired by how the application of recruitment within the Life Sciences industry can ultimately bring meaning and impact to the lives of patients. Over the past seven years, Kimberly has progressed within the firm from candidate management and recruitment to now also playing a key role in client management and business development. In 2012, Kimberly was honored as a HBA Rising Star. Kimberly holds a BS degree in Psychology from California Polytechnic University of San Luis Obispo and an MBA in International Business from the University of Hawaii.

Ellen brings over 27 years of professional full-cycle recruitment and generalist human resources experience in the healthcare/pharmaceutical, financial services and management consulting industries. Prior to joining Bench, Ellen served as a senior recruitment leader for Summit, NJ-based Celgene Corp., an $81 billion specialty biotechnology company. She began her life sciences recruiting career at Aventis Pharmaceuticals, Bridgewater, NJ, where she served as a staffing consultant for several Aventis business units, including the company’s U.S. Commercial Operations and Global Drug Innovation and Approval units. Ms. Travers has also served as an executive recruiter for UBS, a leading financial services company, as well as for management consulting firm McKinsey & Company. She holds a master’s degree in organizational psychology from Columbia University and a bachelor’s degree in political science from the Catholic University of America.

Stefanie joined Bench in November 2014 and is headquartered in Basel, Switzerland where she leads European as well as Global search teams under Bench’s One Global Team concept. Stefanie earned her Ph.D. in Psychology and has also completed a Master of Advanced Studies in HR Management. She joined the Pharma industry wither first role as a Clinical Scientist and Senior Clinical Research Associate with Skye Pharma and subsequently transitioned to Novartis, where she spent approximately 6 years. As a Global Clinical Trial Leader at Novartis, Stefanie worked with clinicians in 100 hospitals and in 21 different countries, as well as with an interdisciplinary team of industry professionals, to bring the first Alzheimer’s transdermal patch to market. It was during this the process that she found her passion was working with professionals and enabling them to optimally perform in their roles. She then made the decision to transition her career out of R&D and into HR. This afforded Stefanie the opportunity to work both inside Pharma, as well as an external HR consultant to Pharma, creating a path toward building her expertise in Life Science executive recruitment. Over the past decade, Stefanie has gained global client leadership, as well as candidate recruiting and candidate management experience, which provides a powerful array of skills to Bench International’s clients. Stefanie speaks German, English and French fluently, thereby providing substantive leadership in the native language to a broad constituency of Bench’s clients.

Natasha joined the Bench team in 2006, bringing her extensive experience of recruitment, gained across a variety of clients and industries.  During the past 10+ years, Natasha has successfully segued into the life sciences sector and has continued to progress within the firm, from candidate management and recruitment through to client management and business development.  Educated and living in the UK, Natasha’s network and focus is naturally in Europe, but she is also heavily involved at the global level and is a key member of the senior recruiting team working across the US. Natasha’s recruitment experience covers full drug development, from discovery/research through to and including commercialization and all functions in between.  She has worked for a large variety of clients from biotech to small, medium and large pharma and also extends to the OTC, cosmetics and FMCG industries.

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Friederike brings broad and deep industry experience to Bench International. She has spent more than 20 years working in the pharmaceutical and healthcare industry worldwide and across divisions as a senior trainer and coach focusing on developing, directing and implementing a wide range of global initiatives and trainings. As Founder/Principal Consultant of Friederike Sommer Consulting based in Zurich, Sommer has contracted with Novartis Pharma, J&J, Sandoz, Alcon, NI and Boehringer-Ingelheim. In addition Friederike spent several years at RESMED Corporation, Healthcare devices as Director Learning for region Europe. From 2000 to 2006, Friederike facilitated numerous Headquarters-based, Change Management, Leadership Development and Organization Development programs for Novartis Pharma, working closely with Novartis’executive leadership team as the company continued to globalize their business throughout Europe, US, Japan, Asia and Canada. In 2007, Friederike founded HBA Europe (Healthcare Businesswoman’s Association). The HBA is a global nonprofit organization comprised of individuals and organizations from across the healthcare industry committed to:

  1. Achieving gender parity in leadership positions
  2. Facilitating career and business connection
  3. Providing effective practices that enable organizations to realize the full potential of their female talent.

The HBA accomplishes its mission through strong business networks, education, research, advocacy, and recognition for individuals and companies. Today there are chapters in Switzerland, France, Germany, Italy and the United Kingdom. Friederike leads Bench International’s business development and corporate partnership activities in Europe in addition to serving the firm as a global recruiting partner. This assures our European clients of our team’s commitment to delivering in direct response to their needs and adds valuable dimension to Bench’s global search assignments.

Natasha joined the Bench team in 2006, bringing her extensive experience of recruitment, gained across a variety of clients and industries.  During the past 11+years, Natasha has gained a significant reputation in the Life Science and Consumer Health sector as a trusted and insightful executive recruiter, possessing great industry wisdom. Recently, the firm promoted Natasha to Global SVP and she will lead in a dual capacity as General Manager for the UK. It is Bench International’s intention to retain its presence in the United Kingdom to continue to provide recruiting support to all Life Science companies prior to and post the full enactment of Brexit. Natasha is known as both a tenacious recruiter and a faithful, trusted extension of the clients Bench International serves throughout Europe and the US, with her deep involvement throughout the business, from candidate management and recruitment, through business development and client management, to exceptional candidate recruitment and management.  Educated and living in the UK, Natasha’s network and focus is highly visible in Europe, however, her global reach brings her onto serving as a key member of the firm’s senior recruiting team working across the US. Natasha’s recruitment experience covers the complete value chain of drug and consumer product development, from discovery/research through commercialization and Life Cycle Management. Natasha’s client leadership experience encompasses clients from biotech to small, medium and large Pharma and further extends to the OTC, cosmetics and FMCG industries.

Danny brings 15 years of high-level executive recruitment experience in the Healthcare and Life Sciences industries.  Over his career, Danny has worked with clients ranging in size from Fortune 100 to pre-IPO companies and partnering with these companies, he has filled searches for board seats, C-Suite, research and clinical development, commercialization and manufacturing.  Since joining Bench in 2013, Danny’s focus has been on identifying and recruiting senior-level talent for Bench’s high-profile clients.  Danny holds a M.Sc. degree in Life- Sciences from the Weizmann Institute of Science in Israel and a B.Sc. degree from the Hebrew University in Jerusalem.