DI People: Taysha Gene Therapies, FranFund, PureAcre, and More Make Moves

In this weekly roundup of executive moves in North Texas, you'll also find news from Azzur Labs, The RealReal, Harvest Returns, OxeFit, and KAI Engineering.

Across North Texas, companies are promoting and hiring people to take on leadership positions within their organizations.

Dallas Innovates covers prominent personnel moves in Dallas-Fort Worth businesses and nonprofits—from the newest startups to well-established companies. Here are the people moves tied to innovation and technology in the region.

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Taysha Gene Therapies forms an Independent Scientific Advisory Board

Dallas-based Taysha Gene Therapies, a a patient-centric gene therapy company that develops AAV-based gene therapies to treat monogenic diseases of the central nervous system, has set up an independent Scientific Advisory Board to collaborate with senior management on advancing clinical development and commercialization efforts.

The SAB is comprised of esteemed independent scientists and clinicians who focus on Taysha’s key areas of monogenic diseases and gene therapy products. Each member will provide guidance related to R&D and other business-related activities.

“We are excited and privileged to have the opportunity to work with this cross-functional group of esteemed scientific and clinical thought leaders on initiatives from discovery, through pre-clinical and clinical development and commercialization,” Suyash Prasad, the chief medical officer and head of Research and Development for Taysha, said in a statement. “They bring a wealth of knowledge in the development of gene therapy products and diseases of the CNS that will be invaluable as we advance our extensive pipeline of AAV-based gene therapies for the treatment of monogenic diseases of the CNS.”

Members of the SAB include:

• Deborah Bilder, an associate professor at the University of Utah in Educational Psychology, General Pediatrics, and Child Psychiatry;
• Alan Boyd, CEO and founder of Boyd Consultants and a fellow and immediate past-president of the faculty of Pharmaceutical Medicine at Royal Colleges of Physicians, U.K.;
• Wendy K. Chung, a Kennedy Family professor of Pediatrics in Medicine, attending physician in the division of Molecular Genetics, department of Pediatrics and Medicine, and the director of Clinical Genetics, Clinical Cancer Genetics, and Precision Medicine Resource at the Irving Institute for Translational Research, all at Columbia University;
• David P. Dimmock, senior medical director of Rady Children’s Institute for Genomic Medicine;
• Michael W. Lawlor, professor of Pathology, Biomedical Engineering, Physiology, Cell Biology, Neurobiology, and Anatomy, and the associate director of the Neuroscience Research Center at the Medical College of Wisconsin; and
Gerald S. Lipshutz, professor-in-residence in the Departments of Surgery and Molecular and Medical Pharmacology, surgical director of the Pancreas/Auto-islet Transplant Program, and chairman of the Academic Medicine College at the David Geffen School of Medicine at University of California.

Azzur Labs opens an analytical laboratory in Dallas and names its new senior director

Anita Boye

Azzur Labs, an Azzur Group company that provides professional analytical compliance testing and consultative services for the pharmaceutical, biotechnology, and medical device industries, has established its newest analytical laboratory in Dallas under a near senior director, Anita Boye.

Pennsylvania-based Azzur Labs set up its Dallas location to meet the needs of the burgeoning life science industry in the Texas. Boye will be tasked with leading the lab and overseeing operations and client relations. She brings more than two decades of experience in the regulated microbiology and analytical laboratory space, previously serving as a manager for a leading laboratory that specializes in nutraceuticals, dietary supplements, personal care products, and food analysis.

“We are excited to welcome Anita as the leader of our newest laboratory in Dallas,” Azzur Labs President Kym Faylor said in a statement. “Client success is indeed an essential part of Azzur Labs’ success, and Anita’s leadership and technical experience will play an essential role in our ability to grow alongside our valued clients.”

PureAcre hires an account director

Brandon Badgley

Argyle-based PureAcre, an agricultural innovation company that provides Earth-friendly nutritionals and biostimulants to maximize plant performance and fertilizer efficiency, has added Brandon Badgley to its team as an account director.

In his new role, Badgley will oversee sales and account relationships and introduce new products to the row crop and specialty crop markets. He has vast experience in U.S. agriculture, most recently holding sales management roles at Corteva and Compass Minerals Plant Nutrition. He also raises horses, bison, and row crops on his farm in western Missouri.

“As we prepare to reveal new high-performance and Earth-friendly products to help farmers, having a long-time agriculture expert like Brandon is a valuable addition for the PureAcre team,” John Appel, president of PureAcre, said in a statement. “His years of expertise in the field and extensive knowledge within the U.S. agriculture industry will help PureAcre successfully introduce and distribute new products aimed to solve challenges associated with large-scale farming.”

Former Neiman Marcus CEO joins The RealReal’s Board

Karen Katz

Karen Katz, who is best known locally for being the former CEO of Dallas-based luxury department store chain Neiman Marcus, has been appointed to the Board of Directors at San Francisco-based The RealReal, an online marketplace for buying and reselling luxury goods.

Katz is a Dallas native who began a long career at Neiman Marcus in 1985. While there, she was CEO for around eight years, giving her vast experience in the world of luxury retail. She left Neiman Marcus’ Board last year. Also joining her on TheRealReal’s Board is Emma Grede, co-founder and CEO of jean brand Good American.

 “Among the 3,000 largest U.S. publicly traded companies, one in 10 boards still have no women,” TheRealReal Founder and CEO Julie Wainwright said in a statement. “We have been intentional in our efforts to expand diversity within our board, and we believe this further strengthens our ability to capitalize on the significant opportunity ahead of us.”

FranFund names a VP of Finance & Human Resources

Carly Lywood

Fort Worth-based FranFund, a provider of franchise and small business funding solutions, has promoted Carly Lywood from controller to vice president Finance & Human Resources. 

Since 2013, Lywood has served as controller, overseeing all aspects of FranFund’s accounting and human resource functions. In her new role, she will work to streamline accounting and human resource processes while maintaining FranFund’s standards of accounting practices. Before joining FranFund, she was a financial auditor at a Big Four accounting firm, in which she analyzed accounting practices and records of companies in a number of industries.

“Carly has proven to be a tremendous asset to our FranFund leadership team,” Geoff Seiber, president and CEO of FranFund, said in a statement. “We are confident that Carly’s extensive finance background, passion for our employees and experience with FranFund will play an essential role in FranFund’s continued growth.”

Harvest Returns adds an Advisory Board member

Sara L. Faivre

Fort Worth-based Harvest Returns, an agriculture investment platform that helps investors diversify their portfolios with investments in sustainable and progressive private agriculture assets, has named Sara L. Faivre to its Advisory Board.

Faivre brings experience in agriculture, mortgage banking, biotechnology, and sustainability as a former scientist and board director. In 2010, President Obama appointed her to the Board of the Farmer Mac, in which she chairs the Strategy & Business Development Committee and serves on the Compensation Committee and Public Policy & Corporate Social Responsibility Committee. 

“We are delighted to have someone with Sara’s depth and breadth of experience in agribusiness and finance on our advisory board,” Chris Rawley, CEO of Harvest Returns, said in a statement. “She will be an essential part of the company’s growth strategy for 2021 and beyond.”

OxeFit expands its  Board of Directors and Technical Advisory Board

Plano-based OxeFit, a newly launched company that wants to revolutionize strength training through advanced robotics and artificial intelligence, has appointed Hassan M. Ahmed to its Board of Directors and Nick Sagar to its Technical Advisory Board.

Most recently, Ahmed served as chairman of the Board and CEO at Affirmed Networks, which was acquired by Microsoft last year. Before founding Affirmed Networks, he was a senior advisor at Charles River Ventures. Sagar is a professional rock climber who has experience in the fitness space. He will work to advance OxeFit’s development of current and future generations of world-class athletes.

“[Hassan’s] expertise coupled with Nick’s perspective will be invaluable to OxeFit as we launch our innovative products and focus on rapidly scaling our business,” OxeFit Co-Founder, CEO, and Chairman of the Board Mohammed “Rab” Shanableh said in a statement. “Hassan brings an extensive technology background accompanied by a proven track record of disrupting industries through successful ventures, while Nick offers insight into the unique physical and mental mindset of an elite athlete.”

OxeFit recently closed on a $12.5 million Series A funding round led by Lydia Partners with additional participation from preeminent professional athletes and sports medicine experts. That includes renowned orthopedic surgeon James R. Andrews, NFL wide receiver Dez Bryant, and Super Bowl Champion Demaryius Thomas.

You can read more about that here.

KAI Engineering brings on a mechanical engineer in DFW

Mike Tamagni

KAI Engineering, a business unit of KAI Enterprises, a national design and build firm that offers delivery-oriented building solutions, has hired Mike Tamagni as a senior mechanical engineer in its Dallas-Fort Worth office.

Tamagni brings more than two decades of mechanical engineering experience in HVAC and plumbing design to KAI. He has previously worked on projects in industries that include airport facilities, industrial shops, military barracks, office buildings, retail, military hangars, critical facilities, higher education, and dining facilities. In his new position, he will work with clients to determine the type of mechanical systems they need, design HVAC systems, develop design fees, and provide mentorship to new designers and engineers.

“The majority of Mike’s engineering experience has been focused on designing HVAC systems, an integral part of most contemporary buildings. His expertise will serve our clients well as he works with the rest of our engineering team to advance KAI’s mission to Transform Communities,” KAI President Darren L. James said in a statement. “We are proud to have a mechanical engineer of Mike’s caliber and experience working for KAI in Texas.”

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