About us

Our company

CDR-Life is a Zurich-based biotech company that develops innovative therapeutic antibody fragments with a focus on immuno-oncology and ophthalmology.

Our facilities are located in the Bio-Technopark in Schlieren-Zurich, Switzerland.


Our company was founded by a team of biotech leaders with a track record of delivering novel medicines to patients in the areas of ophthalmology and oncology. The team is diverse with deep knowledge in all the key areas of biologics discovery and development.

The founders of CDR-Life have a common history in ESBATech (Zurich), a biotech company founded in 1998 and acquired by Alcon in 2009. In ESBATech, we pioneered the single chain antibody fragment (scFv) technology resulting in four new biological entities proven to be safe and efficacious in humans including positive Phase 3 for the most advanced molecule.

To learn more about the people behind CDR-Life click here .


Building on our extensive past as entrepreneurs, drug developers, and antibody engineers, we use proprietary technology and a robust antibody fragment platform to develop highly effective and selective therapies against incurable diseases.

Our science


In CDR-Life we use decades of experience developing therapeutic antibody fragments to make uniquely targeted therapies thereby increasing both efficacy and safety. CDR-Life develops next generation immunotherapies in oncology as well as on novel therapies in retina disease.


CDR-Life’s proprietary technology: LocATE (Local Activator and T cell Engager)

LocATE molecules have shown superiority in vitro and in vivo to standard of care and some of the promising immunotherapies in development.

With a new mode of action (MoA), LocATE molecules engage T cells specifically with the tumor cells AND block the immunosuppressive signal in the synapse between tumor and T cells. Both effects occur at the same site within the immune synapse creating a potency synergy that makes LocATE molecules both highly effective and selective in eradicating tumor cells as demonstrated in a variety of preclinical models. This powerful MoA is intended to be combined with orthogonal MoAs to achieve the therapeutic goal of eradicating all tumor subclones to prevent relapse and move towards cancer cures.

Contrary to most multispecific antibodies, LocATE molecules are based on an antibody format that results in a number of advantages:

  • High production yield and purity
  • High stability
  • Good systemic half-life to avoid need for continuous infusion
  • No undesirable Fc effector functions
  • “Plug & Play” technology to target various tumor antigens

Retinal disease

CDR-Life’s antibody fragments are highly suited for treating retinal diseases given their small size and high concentration, which solves the major challenge of delivering more drug into the disease-relevant compartments in a safe manner.

The team has previously pioneered the development of such antibody fragments as therapies and have deep know-how around discovery, developability, and manufacturing process development of these therapies.

Investor relations

CDR-Life AG is a biotechnology company located in Schlieren-Zurich, Switzerland.

Our investors comprise both private individuals and institutions. They have extensive experience either in the biotechnology industry or in growing companies. As long-term strategic partners, we value their support much beyond the funding they provide.

To find out more about investment opportunities, please contact us.

«CDR-Life’s LocATE antibodies are potentially transformative in the field of cancer immunotherapies»,
Prof. Markus G. Manz, MD Head of Medical Oncology and Hematology, University Hospital and University of Zurich

Mission statement

In CDR-Life we want to shape the future of biological medicines.

The CDR-Life team invented and developed brolucizumab (Novartis) that was positive in Phase 3 against wet AMD.


Dominik Escher Executive Chairman
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Christian Leisner Chief Executive Officer
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Leonardo Borras Chief Scientific Officer
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Konstantin von Schulthess Chief Financial Officer
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Rouven Bingel-Erlenmeyer Head of Technical Development
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Stephanie Jungmichel Pharmacology Leader
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Thomas Schleier Research Scientist
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Philipp Richle Developability Leader
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Fabian Scheifele Discovery Leader
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Anna Howald Technical Scientist
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Dr. Dominik Escher

Dominik is a biotechnology entrepreneur. He was a founder of ESBATech and was leading the company as CEO since its inception in 1998 until 2016. He raised more than USD 90 million venture capital for ESBATech AG. In 2009, ESBATech AG was acquired for USD 589 million by Alcon.

Within Alcon Dominik continued to lead ESBATech and was Vice President of R&D Alcon and member of the group’s Global R&D Leadership Team.

In 2011, when Alcon was acquired by Novartis, ESBATech joined the Novartis Institutes of Biomedical Research (NIBR). As Head of ESBATech, a Novartis company, Dominik was a member of the NIBR Global Ophthalmology Leadership Team as well as the NIBR Global Leadership Team of Biologics.

At the same time as ESBATech AG was sold to Alcon, Dominik was a founder of Delenex Therapeutics. He served on the board of this new biotech company until it was acquired by Cell Medica in 2016.

Dominik obtained his Ph.D. from the University of Zurich. He also holds a Master of Science in Molecular Biology and Immunology from the University of Zurich and a Masters Degree in Education with specialization in Management and Organization from the ETH of Zurich.

Since 2002 he is a Board Member of the Swiss Biotech Association, the biotech industry organization of Switzerland which he leads as President since 2013.

Dr. Christian Leisner

Christian is a seasoned drug developer. He has worked in all phases of drug development within the areas of ophthalmology, oncology, autoimmunity, cardiovascular disease. Christian has led several global programs with new biologic entities including LME636 (Novartis) from the preclinical stage up through successful Phase 2 in two different ophthalmic diseases. He has also played lead roles in the clinical development of Rydapt (Approved in rare hematological disease) and brolucizumab (positive Phase 3 in retinal disease).

Christian has served in Business Development & Licensing teams in Alcon and Novartis and was part of the senior management in ESBATech.

He obtained his Ph.D. in biochemistry from ETH Zurich, Switzerland. In addition, he holds a Master of Science in Molecular Biology and in Chemistry from Roskilde University, Denmark.


Leonardo Borras


Leonardo is an accomplished protein engineer with a track record in preclinical development of antibodies. After joining ESBATech in 2004, he designed and optimized numerous scFvs including brolucizumab (RTH258), which recently achieved positive Phase III against wet AMD in Novartis and is now being prepared for approval and launch.

In his role as Head of Protein Engineering at ESBATech, Leonardo was responsible for leveraging the scFv platform for the generation of bispecific antibodies, directed strategies to assess manufacturing properties and risks of antibody fragments, and led multiple projects from antibody discovery to early development for Alcon and later for Novartis.

More recently Leonardo led the scaffold technologies group at Novartis Biologics Center where he continued his work in antibody based scaffolds and multispecifics for different disease areas including immuno-oncology, cardiovascular diseases, and ophthalmology.

Leonardo developed a generically applicable antibody humanization procedure that for the first time resulted in highly stable and potent antibody fragments. He is inventor on numerous patents and his scientific work has been published in peer-reviewed journals.

Leonardo is heading the Research Unit in CDR-Life.

Konstantin von Schulthess

Konstantin von Schulthess’ experience stretches over more than 15 years in financial leadership roles. He looks back on 9 years in R&D finance – first as global controller at Hoffmann-La Roche and then as CFO at ESBATech. He is the founder and owner of Goldhalden, a consultancy focusing on leadership in finance roles.

At ESBATech, Konstantin oversaw all financial and business activities including funding, investor relations, budgeting, reporting, IT and infrastructure. Together with Dominik Escher he took part in the transaction team during the USD 589 million trade sale of the company to Alcon in 2009.

Prior to joining ESBATech Konstantin was the first global life-cycle controller at Roche. Building up this new role, he managed a total R&D and marketing budget of more than USD 400 million for Roche’s Anti-CD 20 (Rituximab / Ocrelizumab / Obinutuzumab).

Konstantin holds a law degree of the University of St.Gallen and an MBA from Babson College, Massachusetts (summa cum laude). He is a Swiss Certified Accountant. Konstantin is also a board member at Schulthess Klinik, Uznaberg AG, and Goldhalden.

Dr. Rouven Bingel-Erlenmeyer


Rouven is an accomplished leader in technical development and manufacturing of biologics. He was Head of Downstream Processing & Analytics in ESBATech and Novartis (>6 years) and subsequently worked as Global Drug Substance Lead in Novartis.

Rouven played leading roles in successful development of manufacturing processes for multiple therapeutic antibody formats including antibody fragments, multi-specific antibodies, and monoclonal antibodies via both microbial and mammalian processes. In addition, he was part of the team that prepared the IMPD and BLA submissions for brolucizumab (Novartis).

Rouven is heading the Technical Development Unit in CDR-Life.

Dr. Stephanie Jungmichel


Stephanie Jungmichel is an experienced science leader with over 10 years in research and drug discovery. She led a screening technology team in ESBATech with focus on assay development and antibody screening as part of the antibody discovery function. This led to the generation of several promising antibody candidates against highly challenging targets. In addition, she spent over 8 years in academic research, which led to a number of scientific publications within the area of proteomics.

Stephanie is also a highly skilled manager and leader of scientific teams and she is leading the Pharmacology Group in CDR-Life.

Thomas Schleier


Thomas Schleier is a highly experienced protein engineer with deep knowledge in protein production and characterization. Thomas worked 6 years at the Paul Scherrer Institute (PSI) in a basic cancer research group on a broad variety of state of the art techniques and contributed to several publications.

Thomas was also part of the ESBATech team where he established the production and characterization of multispecific antibody derived formats and made considerable improvements of the mammalian cell expression platform.

With his deep expertise in mammalian cell expression, Thomas oversees the mammalian cell-based research production in CDR-Life.

Philipp Richle


Philipp Richle is an accomplished drug substance and drug product developer with 10 years of experience in the field of protein formulation, protein characterization and bio-analytics.

Philipp was part of the ESBATech team for 9 years first as an engineer and later as Head of the Formulation Development group. During this time, he delivered several safe and stable formulations of lead candidates resulting in positive clinical proof of concept (PoC), e.g. for brolucizumab intravitreal formulation and LME636 topical formulation (both Novartis). He was also leading early development CMC teams enabling fast translation from research candidates to PoC-ready drug product.

Philipp is leading the Developability Group in CDR-Life.

Fabian Scheifele


Fabian Scheifele has more than 10 year experience in antibody discovery and engineering. He was part of the ESBATech team from 2011 where he performed B-cell high throughput screening and B-cell cloning from immunized animals for the successful screening of antibodies towards a variety of targets. Later, he became responsible for developing and executing research strategies, involving in vitro display technologies, to enable the optimization of therapeutic antibodies. This work helped the successful transitioning of several therapeutic candidates toward clinical development within ESBATech and Novartis Institutes for Biomedical Research (NIBR).

Fabian is leading the Discovery Group in CDR-Life.

Anna Howald


Anna Bianca Howald is a highly experienced laboratory research technician with over 10 years of broad experience in production and characterization of antibodies including scFvs.

Anna worked for over 5 years at Delenex Therapeutics, an oncology based spin-off from ESBATech, which is now part of Cell Medica. There she produced, engineered, and characterized scFvs, playing an important role in the preclinical development of antibodies such as brolucizumab for use in oncology. She has also worked at Cytos Biotechnology, where she carried out diverse roles in cell culture, molecular biology, and biotechnology. Most recently, Anna worked on antibody production and purification at the Department of Molecular Mechanisms of Disease at the University of Zurich. Anna furthermore has experience as biosafety officer.

Our leadership team consists of highly experienced entrepreneurs and drug developers in the biotechnology industry. Together we look back on:

  • The foundation and growth of 5 startup companies.
  • More than 30 years as entrepreneurs.
  • More than 50 years in drug discovery and development.
  • The development of 4 compounds from discovery to clinical proof of concept.
  • The successful trade sale of our companies for more than USD 600 million, creating highly attractive returns to our investors.
  • Raising more than USD 100 million in venture capital.
  • The direct creation of more than 100 jobs.
  • 6 years of working as a team at ESBATech, a Novartis company.

Scientific Advisory Board

The Scientific Advisory Board consists of experts within the fields of  immuno-oncology and ophthalmology and will serve as a vital strategic resource to the company to develop novel and impactful medicines.

In addition to guiding CDR-Life’s research and development activities, including clinical trial designs, the SAB will also identify new target indications and will evaluate strategic assets that leverage the management’s expertise in therapeutic antibody fragments.

Ulrich Jaeger, MD Professor in Hematology at Medical University of Vienna & Head of Hematology at Vienna General Hospital
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Markus Manz, MD Professor in Hematology & Head of Center for Hematology and Oncology at University Hospital Zurich
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Joshua Richter, MD Assistant Professor of Medicine, Mount Sinai, New York
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Pravin Dugel, MD Managing Partner, Retinal Consultants of Arizona (RCA)
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Frank G. Holz, MD Chairman and Professor at the Department of Ophthalmology, University of Bonn
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Stephan Michels, MD Professor at the University of Zurich and Vice Chair at City Hospital Triemli, Zurich, Switzerland
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Manfred Zierhut, MD Professor at University Hospital of Tuebingen, Germany
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Ulrich Jaeger, MD

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Dr. Jaeger is Professor in Hematology at the Medical University of Vienna and Head of the Hematology and Hemostaseology Department at Vienna General Hospital (AKH Wien). During his training, he completed a three-year research stay with Prof. Stanley Korsmeyer at Washington University in St. Louis. His clinical and scientific focus is on lymphoproliferative diseases (leukemia and lymphoma). As a study director, he is responsible for the international NHL13 study of aggressive lymphoma and for acute lymphocytic leukemia of the adult age within the Study Group of Medical Tumor Therapy (AGMT). He is also lead investigator in several Austrian and international studies. His special focus is on translational research. Dr. Jäger was President of the European Hematology Association (EHA) from June 2011 to June 2013 and is currently a member of the European Biomed Alliance and the European Alliance for Personalized Medicine.

Markus Manz, MD

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Dr. Manz is Professor in Hematology at the University of Zurich. He is the Director of Hematology at the University Hospital of Zurich where he also serves as the Director of Center for Hemato-Oncology. In addition, he is the Head of the Leukemia, Lymphoma, and Myeloma Center at the Comprehensive Cancer Center Zurich (CCCZ).

Joshua Richter, MD

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Joshua Richter, MD, is Assistant Professor of Medicine in The Tisch Cancer Institute, Division of Hematology and Medical Oncology, Mount Sinai. Dr. Richter treats patients with plasma cell dyscrasias, including multiple myeloma and related diseases such as amyloidosis and Waldenstrom’s Macroglobulinemia. Dr. Richter has extensive experience with clinical trials focused on novel therapies, including antibody therapy and immunotherapy for a precision medicine approach. In addition, he has published in numerous reputable oncology journals including Blood, Journal of Clinical Oncology, and the British Journal of Haematology.

Pravin Dugel, MD

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Dr. Dugel is a world-renowned retinal specialist. In addition to RCA, he serves as a clinical professor at the University of Southern California Eye Institute, Keck School of Medicine. He is a founding member of Spectra Eye Institute, Sun City, and a Physician Executive Director at Banner Eye Institute, Banner University Medical Center, University of Arizona. Dr. Dugel has authored more than 200 papers and 35 book chapters. He serves on the editorial boards of several major medical journals, and has been a primary investigator in more than 100 multicenter clinical trials. Dr. Dugel is a recipient of the prestigious Senior Honor Award from the American Academy of Ophthalmology (AAO). He graduated Summa Cum Laude from Columbia University in New York and attended the UCLA School of Medicine.

Frank G. Holz, MD

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Dr. Holz is a leading researcher in age-related macular degeneration (AMD) and related imaging technologies. He has also been involved in several high profile clinical trials with innovative therapies for macular disease, and has contributed significant advances in the understanding of AMD phenotypes as well as macular telangiectasia, including characterizing the natural history in many patients and identifying early markers of the disease. For the last three decades, Dr. Holz has been at the forefront of clinical research using the most advanced retinal imaging modalities. He is one of the early adopters of confocal scanning laser ophthalmoscopy based fundus autofluorescence imaging as well as OCT-angiography. He founded the GRADE Reading Center Bonn to perform digital image analysis in multicentre clinical natural history and interventional trials. Dr. Holz serves as Editor-in-Chief of the journal of the German Ophthalmological Society (DOG), Der Ophthalmologe, is a past president of DOG, and Board member of Euretina. He has received numerous awards including the Pro Retina Macular Degeneration Research Award, the Leonhard-Klein Award for Ocular Surgery, the Alcon Research Institute (ARI) Award, the Senior Achievement Award of the AAO and the Jules Gonin Award. He published more than 400 articles in peer-reviewed journals and is editor of several books on retinal diseases.

Stephan Michels, MD

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Professor at the University of Zurich and Vice Chair at City Hospital Triemli, Zurich, Switzerland Dr. Michels currently serves as vice-chair and head of medical retina at the Department of Ophthalmology, City Hospital Triemli, as well as professor at the University of Zurich. He obtained his ophthalmology training at the University of Luebeck, Emory University in Atlanta, the Bascom Palmer Eye Institute in Miami and the Medical University of Vienna. Dr. Michels was the first to study the potential use of bevacizumab (Avastin®) and canakinumab (Ilaris®) in ophthalmology and is known for his work on therapeutic treatment strategies (PrONTO-Study). He has published more than 80 peer-reviewed articles and has acted as principal or co-investigator in more than 25 clinical trials. He is leading the largest single intravitreal injection center in Switzerland and one of the leading centers for clinical studies on macular diseases in Switzerland.

Manfred Zierhut, MD

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Dr. Zierhut holds degrees in chemistry and medicine from University of Tuebingen, and spent one year of his fellowship in ophthalmology at Harvard Medical School. He is an expert in clinical and experimental immunology, including uveitis and dry-eye syndromes. Dr. Zierhut has completed more than 3,000 surgical procedures, and has written 130 journal articles, 65 book chapters, and 290 posters and presentations at medical conferences. He has authored or edited 25 books, has given more than 850 lectures, and has been the chief organizer of 36 congresses, workshops, and meetings. Dr. Zierhut was president of the International Uveitis Study Group from 2009 until 2013, and currently serves as head of the German Uveitis Patient Interest Group as well as Editor-in-Chief of Ocular Immunology and Inflammation.


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