Roles enhance scientific expertise, global reach, community engagement
Los Angeles, CA (January 8, 2024) – The Celiac Disease Foundation, a global leader in celiac disease patient advocacy, is expanding its operations with the appointment of three senior-level staff. These roles are aligned with the Foundation’s latest strategic plan and ongoing work to accelerate diagnosis, treatments, and a cure for celiac disease – one of the world’s most prevalent genetic autoimmune diseases.
Joining the Foundation are Robert Anderson, MB, ChB, PhD as Principal Science & Innovation Advisor, Brett Spitale as Chief of Staff, and Vanessa Weisbrod as Chief Education and Community Engagement Officer.
“This year will be one of tremendous growth for the Celiac Disease Foundation,” said Foundation CEO Marilyn G. Geller. “Welcoming these seasoned professionals to our team is just one of the many ways we will expand our capabilities in 2024 – and in the years ahead – to better serve and advocate for the global celiac disease community. Each of these individuals has demonstrated exceptional commitment to advocating for patients, and we are fortunate to have them join our team.”
In his new role, Dr. Anderson will draw on his extensive background to provide scientific expertise and guidance to the Foundation and its stakeholders. He will identify key research priorities and steward strong partnerships with researchers, clinicians, institutions, and industry leaders. The recipient of the 2023 Celiac Disease Foundation Prize for Excellence in Celiac Disease Research, Dr. Anderson is distinguished in the field and has helped to cement the role of gluten-reactive T cells as the fundamental drivers of celiac disease. His work was first to show that T cells specific for gluten circulate in celiac disease patients’ blood, confirming celiac disease is a systemic disease not limited to the gut. Dr. Anderson continues development of T cell diagnostics and novel therapies as co-founder and director of Novoviah Pharmaceuticals in Queensland, Australia, and serves as President of the International Society for the Study of Celiac Disease.
“The goal of my career spanning three continents in academic, commercial, and clinical roles has been to ensure medicines will be available to support people with celiac disease. I have been an admirer of the tremendous progress at the Foundation over recent years, and especially of their initiatives to advance high quality research applicable to patients’ needs now and in the future,” said Dr. Anderson. “I first spoke at a CDF meeting 15 years ago and have seen the rapid growth in the organization. CDF is a world leader in supporting research in celiac disease; I am excited to have the opportunity to join as Principal Science & Innovation Advisor.”
Spitale brings over 20 years of leadership experience in healthcare nonprofits, driving transformation and growth. As a parent of a child with celiac disease, he offers a unique perspective. In his role as Chief of Staff, Spitale will collaborate closely with the CEO to execute the Foundation’s strategic plan. His focus includes expanding the funding base, mobilizing resources for initiatives, delivering impactful programs, and enhancing organizational capacity. With a successful track record in fundraising and foundation development, Spitale has expertise in communications campaign conception and execution. Notably, he created a venture philanthropy program at the National Bleeding Disorders Foundation, addressing funding gaps and investing in transformative therapies for inheritable blood and bleeding disorders.
“I am truly humbled to be chosen for the role of Chief of Staff at the Celiac Disease Foundation,” said Spitale. “Joining an organization with such a strong, established reputation, leadership team, and track record of success is a career highlight. It’s through curiosity and looking at opportunities in new ways that we will continue to map our path ahead. I look forward to joining the community in my new role.”
Weisbrod will enhance the Foundation’s reach and impact by expanding upon innovative approaches to patient and family education, as well as continuing education programs for health providers. After being diagnosed with celiac disease 20 years ago and seeing firsthand the gap in knowledge and resources, Weisbrod dedicated her career to ensuring no other young person was left alone to manage celiac disease – including her son, who was diagnosed with celiac at age three. Weisbrod spent nearly 17 years working in pediatric hospitals—Boston Children’s Hospital and Children’s National Hospital—developing a deep understanding of the challenges faced by pediatric patients, their families, and the medical providers who care for them. She led the development of national guidelines to support children with celiac disease at school and research on gluten cross-contact in shared kitchens and classrooms. She is the author of four gluten-free cookbooks and hosts the Raising Celiac podcast.
“I am honored to join the Celiac Disease Foundation and look forward to championing a dual focus on health provider education and patient and family empowerment,” said Weisbrod. “Together, we will continue to forge connections, share knowledge, and foster an environment where both our medical professionals and our celiac disease patient community will thrive.”
About the Celiac Disease Foundation
The Celiac Disease Foundation, established in 1990, is a leading global patient advocacy organization committed to accelerating diagnosis, treatments, and a cure for celiac disease. Our mission is to improve the health and well-being of the millions of individuals around the world affected by this genetic autoimmune disease through our strategic investments in research, advocacy, and education. Our iCureCeliac® Patient Registry and extensive patient recruitment services at iRecruitCeliac.org enable us to identify qualified patient candidates and speed their enrollment to advance critical disease research. Our unparalleled advocacy program has led the way to secure federal recognition and first-ever research funding from agencies including the U.S. National Institutes of Health and the Department of Defense. We adhere to the highest scientific and ethical standards as we work each day to promote understanding of celiac disease, empower our patient and provider community, and collaborate with partners and stakeholders to carry our mission forward.