Chief Executive Officer
Molly is Chief Executive Officer in charge of leadership, strategic direction and administrative oversight for the comprehensive programmatic and fundraising efforts of the Foundation and its staff. Molly has over 25 years of leadership-level experience building, implementing and running award-winning domestic and international community programs for organizations in both the private and nonprofit sectors. She has created partnerships with a range of governmental, nonprofit and private sector stakeholders that have included Gap, Inc., Nike, Inc., Visa, Inc., Sony, Williams Sonoma/Pottery Barn, AAA, The Estate Project for Artists with AIDS, Canyon Ranch Institute, the Ford Foundation and The Wilderness Society, to launch initiatives targeting key national issues such as childhood obesity prevention and components of healthcare reform.
Molly earned her Bachelor of Arts from the University of Montana, and her Master of Arts from the University of Iowa. She has received certification from the Center for Corporate Community Relations, Boston University; the Fund Raising School, Center on Philanthropy, Indiana University; and has served as a board member for numerous community organizations.
Elizabeth Ackermann, PhD
Chief Science Officer
Lisa has over 20 years of pharmaceutical drug discovery and development experience with both small-molecules and RNA-targeted therapeutics. She has extensive experience leading both preclinical and clinical teams in the areas of rare genetic disorders and Alzheimer’s Disease. Prior to joining MDF she worked for over 8 years at Ionis Pharmaceuticals serving as the Project Team Leader for the inotersen development program. Inotersen is a novel therapy to treat a rare and severe disease, Transthyretin Amyloidosis. She led the program from Phase 1 testing to submission of the NDA/MAA for regulatory approval. Lisa received her Ph.D in Biochemistry from UCSD and completed a NIH post-doctoral fellowship in pharmacology at UCSD followed by an industrial post-doctoral fellowship at Ionis Pharmaceuticals.
Administrative and Operations Manager
Robin Avant joined the Myotonic Dystrophy Foundation in 2018 as the Administrative and Operations Manager. Prior to joining MDF, Robin spent two years at Singularity University where she was the executive producer for the Innovation Partnership and Digital Education Learning Programs. She also spent more than ten years as marketing and communications manager for HopeLab and Omidyar Network, both organizations are a part of the Omidyar Group. Robin graduated from the University of California Irvine with a Bachelors Degree in Spanish and spent the summer of her junior year studying Spanish at the Universidad de Salamanca in Salamanca, Spain. Robin has served on the boards of Harbor House in Oakland and Health Access Foundation in Sacramento.
Leah Hellerstein joined the Myotonic Dystrophy Foundation in 2018 as the Program Director. Leah is tasked with overseeing and expanding the current slate of MDF Care and program initiatives while also creating and developing new strategic projects to provide support and resources to the DM community. She is part of the leadership planning team for the MDF Annual Conference and represents MDF at meetings and conferences around the nation. Prior to joining MDF, Leah worked at the University of California, San Francisco as an Oncology social worker. Leah is an Licensed Clinical Social Worker (LCSW), and holds a Masters in Social Work (MSW) and Masters in Public Health (MPH) from UC Berkeley.
Kleed joined MDF in 2018 as Program Associate to assist the Program and Development Directors with Patient Support and Education as well as various aspects of program research and content development, communications and fundraising. MDF’s holistic approach to the issue of an uncured disease attracted Kleed to MDF, due to his desire to find meaningful work at an ethical and fast moving organization. Prior to joining MDF, Kleed interned at the Investment Center of the United Nations Federal Credit Union in New York City. He earned his Bachelor of Science in Business and Technology Management from New York University.
Elizabeth joined the Foundation in 2015 as its Grants Manager to oversee the administration of incoming grant applications and awarded research projects. She has 9 years of experience managing grants for patient advocacy groups such as the Muscular Dystrophy Association, Parent Project Muscular Dystrophy and the Lymphoma Research Foundation, including venture philanthropy and milestone-driven projects. She has several years of experience planning and organizing informal advisory committee meetings as well as large scientific conferences for hundreds of attendees. Elizabeth received her Master’s Degree in Library Science from the University of Arizona and her Bachelor's Degree in Education from Ball State University.