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Our Team

We bring deep industry expertise to our investment activities, and our passion is to ensure our portfolio companies achieve their maximum potential to deliver patient value.

Picture: Team Group Photo
Our UCB Ventures team is partnering with leading companies and institutions to make a difference to patients living with debilitating diseases.
Picture: Erica Whittaker

Erica is Vice President & Head of UCB Ventures. She began her career at UCB in 2010 as VP Strategy & Partnering, NewMedicines (drug discovery through clinical proof of concept), where she developed and led the UCB-Harvard Research Alliance. In 2012, she became a member of an internal strategy team which shaped UCB's Patient Value Strategy that is being implemented today.

As Head of Market Access EMEA 2013-2017, Erica was instrumental in developing regional patient access and pricing strategies, working with affiliates to drive local execution. During her tenure, Erica was the Chair of the Healthcare Systems Working Group of the European Federation of Pharmaceutical Industries Association (EFPIA).

Prior to joining UCB, Erica spent 10 years as a top-ranked biotechnology equity analyst for Merrill Lynch in London, where she conducted financial, valuation and commercial analyses for publicly listed European biotechnology and mid-cap pharmaceutical companies.

Erica attended Brown University (Rhode Island, USA) where she received her BA degrees in Biology and in Comparative Literature. She travelled to the UK on a Marshall Scholarship and obtained a PhD in Molecular Biology from the University of Edinburgh, followed by an MBA from Heriot-Watt University Business School in Edinburgh.

Erica enjoys running, skiing and family holidays, especially spending time with her two daughters.

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Erica Whittaker Head of UCB Ventures
Picture: Fiona de Hemptinne

Fiona de Hemptinne joined UCB Ventures in March 2018, as Corporate Venture Funds Lead. Her UCB career began in 2014 when she was appointed as commercial lead (bone) and Head of the Bone Patient Value Unit for Europe. In that role she built the European country teams in preparation for the launch of UCB-Amgen's anti-sclerostin product, EVENITY.

Fiona has previously worked in Business Development for GlaxoSmithKline Biologicals in Belgium. In 2002, she moved to the US and worked at McKinsey & Company, based in their New Jersey office, covering healthcare clients in the US and Europe. From 2006 to 2014, she held several leadership roles at Lilly UK, Northern Hub and Europe contributing to the launches, new indications and relaunches of several drugs across different therapeutic areas (Neurology, Cardiovascular, Osteoporosis and Immunology), working with alliance partners, managing patient support programs and leading changes through patent exclusivities and new models.

Fiona graduated with a MSc in Management from the Solvay Business School (ULB) and an MBA from Harvard Business School. She is a Fulbright Scholar and a Recipient of a Belgian American Education Foundation (BAEF) scholarship. She has been a board director at Medifin, a medical Imaging start-up, since 2015 and at the financiere de Tubize since 2014. She is on the governors' body at the London Business School since 2015 and a member of their audit and risk committee.

Fiona is Belgian and lives in London with her husband and her four children.

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Fiona de Hemptinne UCB Ventures Partner
Picture: Emmanuel Lacroix

Emmanuel Lacroix joined UCB Ventures in March 2017, as Senior Director, Venture Investments. He is currently a member of the Board of Syndesi Therapeutics, a UCB spinout company that he helped to launch in early 2018. Syndesi Therapeutics develops novel therapeutics addressing cognitive deficits in, for example, people with Alzheimer's Disease. Emmanuel also holds a Board observer position with Lumos Pharma, a company developing therapeutics for rare and neglected diseases, with focus on neurodevelopment disorders.

Emmanuel served as UCB's Head of Business Development Neurology where he was instrumental to the execution of multiple partnership and license agreements, product acquisitions, and other investments, including the discovery collaboration with Q-State Bioscience in Epilepsy; the R&D partnership with Neuropore Therapies in Parkinson's Disease; and the Series A and B investments in Lumos Pharma. In an earlier Sales and Global Marketing position, Emmanuel contributed to the coordination of global pre-launch activities for Vimpat® and the business planning for UCB's other CNS products.

Before joining UCB, Emmanuel led multidisciplinary teams at Cellectis SA, a biotechnology start-up. He received an MBA from IMD (Switzerland), a PhD in Molecular Biology from ULB (Belgium) based on protein engineering research conducted at the European Molecular Biology Laboratory (Germany), and a MSc in Biochemistry from the ULG (Belgium).

Emmanuel is based in Belgium with his wife and two children and enjoys scuba diving and trail running.

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Emmanuel Lacroix UCB Ventures Partner
Picture: Alicia Irurzun-Lafitte

Alicia Irurzun-Lafitte joined UCB Ventures in March 2019 as Partner. Alicia joined from M Ventures, the corporate venture arm of Merck KGaA. Since 2014, she was instrumental in the closing of multiple new investments in Oncology, Immunology and Fertility areas in the US and Europe for the M Ventures Healthcare fund. Alicia was also closely involved with the built-up of Merck spin-offs. While at M Ventures, she served on the Board of Rewind Therapeutics as Director and Artios, iOnctura, Ribometrix, and TocopheRx as Observer.

Prior to ventures, Alicia held roles in global business development at Merck Serono in Geneva and EMD Serono in Boston. During her time in business development she closed multiple early stage transactions and was involved in strategic corporate development initiatives.

Alicia holds a MSc from Leiden University in Biopharmaceutical Sciences. She holds a Bachelor in Biomedical Sciences and completed her undergraduate studies between the University Claude Bernard Lyon 1 and Napier Edinburgh University.

Alicia is based at the UCB Ventures’ Boston office and she lives in New York.

Alicia Irurzun-Lafitte UCB Ventures Partner
Picture: Jenny Needham

Jenny Needham joined UCB Ventures in April 2018 following 11 years' service at UCB supporting the Early Pipeline Team in Slough.

Jenny has extensive senior administration experience which she brings to this role to support the UCB Ventures team.

Jenny is locally based to the Slough office and has one daughter.

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Jenny Needham Team Coordinator