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Leadership Team

Ritter Pharma has recruited and assembled an outstanding team of talented and experienced individuals with extensive big pharma & biotech experience.

Michael D. Step
Chief Executive Officer

Prior to joining Ritter, Mr. Step was the Senior Vice President of Corporate Development for Santarus, Inc., now a wholly owned subsidiary of Salix Pharmaceuticals, Inc. Mr. Step served in this role for nine years up until the 2014 sale of Santarus to Salix. Mr. Step was responsible for leading all licensing and M&A activities at Santarus and was a member of its executive team. Prior to his tenure at Santarus, Mr. Step held various commercial and business development roles at Amylin Pharmaceuticals for 5 years, culminating in the role of Vice President of Corporate Development and was responsible for leading Amylin’s license of Byetta to Eli Lilly. Before joining Amylin, Mr. Step was Sr. Director of Business Development at Dura Pharmaceuticals and served in licensing, management and sales roles at Hoffmann-La Roche and Syntex Labs. Mr. Step has an MBA degree in marketing and finance from the USC Marshall School of Business and an undergraduate degree from Vanderbilt University.

Andrew J. Ritter
Co-Founder & President

Mr. Ritter co-founded Ritter Pharmaceuticals, Inc., upon his own personal affliction with lactose intolerance and spearheaded a global team of cross-functional, clinical, manufacturing, and regulatory experts to design and develop its first novel therapeutic called, RP-G28. This product has been successfully tested in a Phase 2a trial and has the potential to become the first FDA-approved drug for the treatment of lactose intolerance. The company was originally launched out of Ritter Naturals Sciences, a direct-to-consumer healthcare marketing company, founded by Mr. Ritter in 2004, which developed and commercialized digestive healthcare products: Lactagen®, Health Essentials™ and Better Digestion™. Mr. Ritter holds six patents and over fifteen additional international patents are pending. In addition, he has co-published articles in the following journals: Nutrition Journal, Gastroenterology, and Food Technology. He has also given presentations at major healthcare and medical conferences such as Digestive Disease Week, among others.

Since 2010, Mr. Ritter has also acted as Managing Partner of Stonehenge Partners, a private investment fund, which provides working capital and executive leadership to a variety of businesses and industries including, real estate, technology, biotechnology, entertainment and service businesses. In addition, he is a guest lecturer of entrepreneurship at various graduate and undergraduate academic institutions throughout Los Angeles including: University of Southern California Marshall School of Business, University of California at Los Angeles Anderson School of Business, and Pepperdine University Graziadio School of Business and Management.

Mr. Ritter has been an active leader in his community, including being appointed as a Los Angeles City Commissioner to the Commission for Children, Youth and Their Families from 2000-2002 (the youngest appointed Commissioner in Los Angeles history). Mr. Ritter holds a Bachelor of Arts Degree in Political Science and a minor in Business from the University of Southern California and was a member of the 2002 Pac-10 Champion baseball team.

Ira E. Ritter
Co-Founder & Chief Strategic Officer

Mr. Ritter has extensive experience creating, building and managing diverse business enterprises. His success has been his ability to take ideas and grow major businesses. He currently serves as Chairman of Ritter Pharmaceuticals. In addition he provides corporate management, strategic planning and financial consulting for a wide range of market segments. In the health and beauty sector, Mr. Ritter was President and Vice-Chairman of Quality King Inc, the nation’s largest wholesale distributor for health care products with $5 billion in annual revenues (ranked the 18th largest privately held company, Forbes Top 100 List). Simultaneously, he worked as President and Chairman of Rockwood, a business he developed that produced private label HBA products for major national retailers including GNC and K-Mart. In the entertainment sector he served as Chairman of ON-TV, a division of Oak Industries (NYSE Company), where he managed the television division initiating exclusive broadcasts of Los Angeles, Chicago, and New York professional baseball, basketball, and hockey games. During 1980-1985, he produced the first televised home shopping program and directed development of the largest “pay-per-view” channel system for its time. In the personal services market, Mr. Ritter grew a people-to-people business, Elite Personal Search and Lifemates personal matchmaking service, in the U.S. and Canada. In the finance field, Mr Ritter served on the board of directors for the Martin Lawrence Art Galleries (NYSE Company). During his 20 years as a publisher, he produced monthly national consumer magazines including Playgirl. and released books that included It’s OK to Say No childrens’ series and Patti Regan Davis’ Homefront. Mr. Ritter also has a long history of public service that includes appointments by three Governors to several State of California Commissions, including eight years served as Commissioner on the California Prison Industry Authority. In 1981, Mr. Ritter was honored with the City of Hope’s Man of the Year award.

AnnKatrin Petersen Jappelli, M.D., MSc.
Chief Medical Officer

Dr. Petersen has more than 25 years of drug development experience. She has worked extensively on diverse therapeutic areas for global studies, notably Gastroenterology, HIV-AIDS, Rheumatoid Arthritis, Transplant Medicine, Oncology and Infectious Diseases. Besides her extensive regulatory, medical and scientific knowledge, she has built international clinical research teams that were instrumental in the conduct of several Phase 2 and registration Phase 3 studies for groundbreaking HIV/AIDS treatments. She has worked for several small to mid-size biotech companies, including Agouron, Migenix, and Santarus. This included pivotal drug trials in infectious diseases and gastrointestistinal disorders for HIV, HCV, and enteric pathogens. Previously Dr. Petersen was the Director of Infectious Diseases at Pfizer, Project Leader for pancreatitis clinical research at Sandoz (Novartis) and previously Medical Monitor for the SandImmune and Sandostatin products. Dr. Petersen studied Medicine and Economics at the University of Lausanne, Switzerland.

William M. Merino
Senior Clinical & Regulatory Advisor

William M. Merino is a former pharmaceutical senior executive with experience in worldwide drug and device registration, quality assurance, quality control, and drug safety. During his tenure as a senior executive, Mr. Merino had extensive interaction, and conducted negotiations, with senior members of the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and foreign regulatory authorities. Mr. Merino’s skills also include drug development and the resolution of development issues. Most recently, Mr. Merino served as the Sr. Vice President of Worldwide Regulatory Affairs for Warner Lambert Pharmaceuticals (1987-2000). While at Warner Lambert, Mr. Merino was responsible for the registration and approval of pharmaceuticals products with the FDA and external regulatory authorities. He was also tasked with ensuring quality assurance, quality control, and drug safety. Additionally, during his time at Warner Lambert, Mr. Merino served as a member of the Office of the Chairman, where his advice and experience were relied upon in making decisions regarding research direction and drug development. Mr. Merino developed a one year plan to expedite the registration of Lipitor in the US and 20 other countries. Moreover, Mr. Merino served as the President of the Regulatory Affairs Committee (RAC) within the Pharmaceutical Manufacturers Association (PMA), where he worked closely with senior FDA officials, as well as Congress. Previously, Mr. Merino was the Director of International Regulatory Affairs for Alcon Pharmaceuticals (1985-1987), where he was responsible for the registration of devices and pharmaceutical drugs in international countries. Prior to that, Mr. Merino was the Vice President of Worldwide Regulatory Affairs at G.D. Searle & Co., (1975-1985), where he worked with the FDA and regulatory agencies worldwide for the registration and approval of drugs both nationally and internationally. Before that, he was the Director of Regulatory Affairs at Riker Laboratories (1967-1975), where he was in charge of new drug registrations in the US. Mr. Merino received his PhD in Pharmacology from Purdue University.

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