Cate Murray, President & CEO

Cate Murray is President and CEO for Canada’s Stem Cell Network. Cate is an experienced not-for-profit executive with a background in public policy and communications. Cate has been leading and growing the Stem Cell Network since 2017 when she took on the role of Executive Director.

Cate began her career in the mid-90s as a Ministerial policy advisor. After leaving politics she joined the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR) where she combined her knowledge of government and communications to support Canada’s health research community. Building on her experience at CIHR, Cate joined the Council of Canadian Academies as a member of the senior leadership team where she worked with over a dozen expert panels to raise awareness of their work and see its adoption into public policy.

Today, Cate leads a team of talented professionals, Board members and stem cell and regenerative medicine scientists and scholars who are passionate about delivering Canadian innovations to patients.

Cate has an Honours Degree from King’s College at the University of Western Ontario. She is a mother of two daughters and stepmother to two sons. Cate is passionate about STEAM and  lives by the mantra that every great scientist needs an arts major.

Jon Draper, Ph.D., Vice-President, Research & Training

Dr. Jon Draper joined SCN in 2018, where he is responsible for the strategic design and rollout of SCN’s research and training programs. Prior to joining SCN, Jon worked extensively with human pluripotent stem cells for two decades. He made numerous contributions to the characterization of these remarkable cells, including identifying their capacity to accumulate genetic abnormalities that have implications for their use in regenerative medicine applications. For 10 years, Jon held a Canada Research Chair and led a research group within the Stem Cell and Cancer Research Institute at McMaster University. His group used human pluripotent stem cells to investigate mechanisms of fate commitment within stem cells, in addition to establishing <em>in vitro </em>human model system, including gut organoids, for use in the investigation of disease pathogenesis. Jon has been an active participant within the stem cell community, contributing to endeavours such as the International Stem Cell Initiative, serving as a council member for the Ontario Institute for Regenerative Medicine, and more recently as a taskforce member of the International Society for Stem Cell Research’s (ISSCR) Standards Initiative for Pluripotent Stem Cell Research.

Samantha Rae Ayoub, MA, CMP, Vice-President, Communications & Knowledge Mobilization

Samantha Rae Ayoub is a seasoned communication professional with 15 years experience leading high-performing teams and developing strategies to increase the visibility and impact of organizations. Throughout her career she has worked in the non-profit, hospitality, and volunteer sectors, and she has advised numerous CEOs, COOs, Executive Directors, scientists and researchers, coaching them on effective communication strategies, knowledge mobilization tactics, and media relations. Prior to joining SCN in 2021, Samantha ran her own consulting practice and held positions at the Council of Canadian Academies and the Office of the National Science Advisor. Samantha holds a Masters degree in Professional Communication and is an internationally certified Communication Management Professional.

Passionate about leadership and communication overall, Samantha served on the Board of the International Association of Business Communicators (IABC Ottawa Chapter) from 2016 to 2020, sitting as President in 2018/19. She remains an active volunteer and mentor within the IABC community and is a regular contributor to Fellow’s blog on the topics of management, leadership, and organizational communication.

Shannon Sethuram, Vice-President, Corporate Services

Shannon Sethuram has over 25 years experience working in the finance profession, both in the not-for-profit and private sectors. As Vice-President, Corporate Services for the Stem Cell Network, Shannon is responsible for overseeing SCN’s finance, human resources, and data management functions.

Having joined the Network in 2008, Shannon has been instrumental in helping SCN achieve its mandate through maintaining the organization’s financial accounting and reporting systems, internal policies and controls, and accounting operations. Shannon also has experience in corporate strategic planning and research administration.

Shannon is a graduate of the Business Administration program at Mount Saint Vincent University and began her career at Coopers and Lybrand in Halifax. She has also held positions at BioCanRX and Sustainable Development Technology Canada.

In her spare time, Shannon is committed to her family, both in Ottawa and in Nova Scotia, as well as enjoying her weekend outings cycling with family and friends.

Ellie Arnold, Ph.D., Training Coordinator

Ellie Arnold joined the Stem Cell Network in 2021. As the Training Coordinator, Ellie is responsible for rolling out SCN’s annual training workshops and events. Ellie is passionate about helping move scientific ideas forward and training the next generation of scientific leaders. Ellie holds a PhD in Chemistry/Biomedical Engineering from the University of Toronto, where she worked on developing new treatments for glioblastoma. Prior to joining the Stem Cell Network, she held previous roles as a business development officer at the University of Prince Edward Island and as a researcher in a biotechnology company.

Rebecca Cadwalader, CMP, Manager, Corporate Events & Governance

Rebecca Cadwalader joined the Stem Cell Network in November 2011. As Manager, Corporate Events & Governance, Rebecca ensures the delivery of SCN’s research and training program activities, and supports the work of the Stem Cell Network’s Board of Directors, Research Management Committee and trainee committees. Prior to joining SCN, Rebecca was Manager at the Pacific Institute for the Mathematical Sciences (University of British Columbia), a research institute which builds communities of scientists to promote collaboration and applications in the mathematical sciences. Rebecca brings to the Network over 15 years experience in administration, finance and event management across a variety of organizations in Canada and the United Kingdom. Rebecca holds a degree in Law & Politics from Cardiff University (UK), and a certificate in business accounting from the Chartered Institute of Management Accountants (UK).

Jen Chappell, Digital Communications Specialist

Jen Chappell joined the Stem Cell Network team in spring of 2017. Jen provides support with the written and creative development of digital communication materials and management of SCN’s website and social media accounts. Her background includes over ten years of experience in the not-for-profit sector, working for charities and foundations in Canada and Australia, with a focus in communications, volunteer management, and program and event planning.

Seohyun In, Accounting Specialist

Seohyun In joined SCN’s finance team in March 2022 in the role of Accounting Specialist. She is responsible for managing the financial activities of the organization and supporting the financial reporting requirements for Stem Cell Network. Seohyun has 10 years of experience working at not-for-profit organizations overseeing all areas of finance and administration, as well as project management and coordination. She brings strong leadership and is a valuable team member who prides herself on the ability to bring efficiency, reliability, loyalty, dedication, and a strong work ethic to an organization. In her spare time, Seohyun enjoys travelling and learning new things.

Eleni Kanavas, Communications & Events Coordinator

Eleni Kanavas is a corporate communications and event management professional with more than a decade of experience working in the academic health, science and research fields. Eleni joined SCN’s communications team in summer 2021 to support the written and creative development of SCN’s social media and digital communications strategies. Her expertise includes story development, project management of marketing and communications initiatives, event planning, and media and stakeholder relations. Eleni is also a member of the International Association of Business Administrators (IABC Toronto Chapter).

Melodie Robertson, Executive Assistant

Melodie Robertson joined the Stem Cell Network’s team at the beginning of February 2023 in the role of Executive Assistant. She is responsible for the executive administration support of the President & CEO as well as operational and project management support for SCN.

Melodie has been working as an Administration Ambassador for many years within the Healthcare Sector in areas such as Home Care Provider Organizations, Health Care Institutions, Ontario Crown Agencies, and not-for-profit organizations overseeing all areas of executive administration, stakeholder relations, project coordination and board governance within multiple portfolios. She provides great organizational skills, scheduling, risk, and data management among many other abilities that enhance the team.

Before working for SCN, Melodie supported the Executive Team at eHealth Centre of Excellence, a digital not-for-profit organization that supports the deployment of digital health tools and prior to that she worked with the Covid-19 Secretariat Portfolio at Ontario Health. She is a valuable team member with a Human Resources Management Graduate Certificate from Conestoga College and brings a strong work ethic to the table. Outside of her work life, Melodie enjoys family time, boating and is soon to be a famous artist in the making. (LOL)

Jonathan Rudnicki, Communications Assistant and Writer

Jonathan Rudnicki joined the Stem Cell Network team in 2019 where he led the research, analysis, and writing of SCN’s training program report. In 2020, Jonathan pursued graduate studies at Carleton University’s Master of Journalism program where he honed his storytelling and communications skills. Jonathan rejoined SCN in 2023 where he is responsible for writing and developing communications and corporate materials and supporting SCN’s Communications and Knowledge Mobilization Team.

Gustavo Scola, MBiotech, Ph.D., Research and Funding Specialist

Gustavo Scola joined the Stem Cell Network as Research and Funding Specialist in January 2023.

Gustavo has a notable professional experience in addition to his academic career. In 2017, Gustavo held the role of Community-based Researcher working in regulated clinical trials in Northern Ontario. In early 2019, Gustavo joined the Ontario Brain Institute, a not-for-profit organization funded by the Government of Ontario. He held the role of Contracts Specialist and has helped in the development of research strategies and operational plans while supporting the implementation of these strategies on countless initiatives.

Since 2019, Gustavo has been exposed to the management of six research networks across Ontario and developed vital research and organizational management expertise. In addition to research management, Gustavo has managed several online platforms, including a Grant/Contract portal for the Ontario Brain Institute.

Gustavo began his career as a physiotherapist specializing in neurological rehabilitation and obtained both Masters’ and Ph.D. degrees in Biotechnology at the University of Caxias do Sul, Brazil. Gustavo also completed post-doctorate studies at the joint Centre for Addiction and Mental Health and the University of Toronto, as well as formal training in Management at MIT.

Outside of work, Gustavo places a focus on enjoying a healthy lifestyle. He enjoys almost any outdoor activity, like hiking and cycling, travelling, and spending time with family and friends. 

Joanna Valsamis, MHSc, CHE, Director, Knowledge Mobilization

Joanna Valsamis is a health executive with broad experience in strategic planning, stakeholder engagement, health research, health advocacy, knowledge translation, and building partnerships that span Industry, academia, government, non-profit, research institutes, and the healthcare sector.

Joanna’s expertise is rooted in an extensive academic background and enriched by over 15 years working and volunteering in the health charitable sector, forming successful collaborations with diverse stakeholders, implementing effective business solutions, developing business plans and impact reports to attract capital, and strategically investing in programs and priority areas to improve community health. Joanna is a transformative healthcare leader who has consistently demonstrated results in managing high-performing teams, complex projects and programs, and innovative partnerships.

Joanna completed a Master of Science in Health Administration at the University of Toronto and concurrently earned her Certified Health Executive designation. Joanna holds an Honours Bachelor of Science in Nutrition and Nutraceutical Science from the University of Guelph, and a Bachelor of Education from the University of Toronto. Outside of work, Joanna spends most of her time chasing after her three young children.