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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. He spearheaded the development of the company's lead compound, RP-G28, which has the potential to become the first FDA-approved treatment for lactose intolerance. The therapeutic is currently in Phase 3 clinical trials. 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 over a dozen patents with over twenty additional patents pending in the United States and other key international markets. In addition, Mr. Ritter has co-published articles in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, Nutrition Journal, Food Technology, 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, Mr. Ritter is a guest lecturer of entrepreneurship at various business schools throughout Los Angeles, including: UCLA Anderson School of Management, USC Marshall School of Business and Pepperdine's 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. In addition, Mr. Ritter received his MBA from The Wharton School, University of Pennsylvania.

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 children's 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.

Jeffrey Benjamin
Vice President, Finance

Mr. Benjamin has over 25 years of experience in accounting and finance. Prior to joining Ritter Pharmaceuticals, Inc., Mr. Benjamin has consulted or worked for a diverse group of public and private Companies in financial services, technology, construction, managed services, retail, wholesale distribution and manufacturing. From 2015 to 2017, Mr. Benjamin served as Principal Consultant for Tatum where he was responsible for a variety of finance and accounting projects. During his tenure at Ocwen Financial Corporation, Mr. Benjamin successfully completed IPO's, negotiated and closed in excess of $1B of one-off term financing transactions. Mr. Benjamin began his career in New York City in public accounting and has worked in a variety of finance and accounting functions prior to 2013. Mr. Benjamin holds a Bachelor of Arts Degree in Accounting & Information Systems from C.U.N.Y. Queens College. In addition, Mr. Benjamin is licensed in the State of New York as a certified public accountant, though is currently on inactive status.

Diane J. Plotkin, Ph.D.
Vice President, Clinical Development

Dr. Diane J. Plotkin has over 25 years of experience in global clinical drug development, both in large-scale pharmaceutical companies and biotechnology companies. From 2014-2017, Dr. Plotkin served as a clinical development consultant providing guidance on various clinical development topics, including strategic program planning, IND filing, CRO selection, clinical study design, conduct and analysis to biotechnology companies. From 2005-2014, Dr. Plotkin served as Senior Director of Clinical Development Worldwide for ActivX Biosciences, Inc., a subsidiary of Kyorin Pharmaceuticals, Inc., where she was head of clinical development responsible for evaluating therapeutics for metabolic disorders and providing translational biology guidance for drug discovery. From 1991-2005, Dr. Plotkin conducted Phase II-IV trials at Merck Research Laboratories in cardiovascular, endocrine and metabolic therapeutic areas as well as lead teams in clinical development process improvement. Dr. Plotkin holds a Bachelor of Arts Degree Magna Cum Laude in Biology from Wheaton College, a PhD in Biology from University of Chicago and was a Post-doctoral Fellow in the Department of Biology at Yale University.

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