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SonALAsense Welcomes Dr. Ely Benaim as Chief Medical Officer and Executive Vice President of Development

Highly accomplished Pediatric Oncologist from St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital and CMO for Novocure Brings Great Promise for People with Challenging Conditions

Oakland, CA, May 9, 2023—SonALAsense, a pioneer in the development of non-invasive Sonodynamic Therapy (SDT) using SONALA-001 in combination with Insightec’s MR-guided focused ultrasound (MRgFUS), has appointed Ely Benaim, M.D., as Chief Medical Officer and Executive Vice President of Development. As a new member of the SonALAsense team, Dr. Benaim will play a crucial role in gaining FDA approval and commercializing SDT to treat aggressive brain tumors, such as diffuse intrinsic pontine glioma (DIPG) and recurrent glioblastoma multiforme (rGBM); both of which have ongoing trials.

“Dr. Benaim brings decades of clinical and industry experience and incredible insights to SonALAsense,” said Mark de Souza, PhD, Chief Executive Officer at SonALAsense. “With his extensive history in oncology practice, bench research, drug and device development, and biopharmaceutical management, he will help us advance sonodynamic therapy through clinical trials and ultimately regulatory approval.”

Dr. Benaim began his career as a pediatric oncologist at St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital. Later, he moved into drug development, taking high-profile positions at Amgen, Sangamo BioSciences, Millennium Pharmaceuticals, Rexahn Pharmaceuticals and others. Prior to joining SonALAsense, he was Chief Medical Officer for Novocure, where he managed several pivotal clinical trials.

“I’ve always been attracted to challenging conditions, such as orphan diseases, and driven to accelerate approvals because there were no therapies,” said Dr. Benaim. “When people say something cannot be done, that’s when I really start getting interested. Both DIPG and glioblastoma are incredibly challenging conditions, and I wanted to be part of the solution.”

SonALAsense’s SDT uses SONALA-001, a proprietary formulation of aminolevulinic acid (ALA), to disrupt heme metabolism in tumor cells, increasing production of protoporphyrin, a heme precursor. From there, energy from focused ultrasound excites protoporphyrin molecules, which produce reactive oxygen species that destroy cancer cells. Recently, Dr. Hasan Syed at Children’s National Hospital published a peer-reviewed paper on the first DIPG patient treated with SONALA-001 in the Journal of Neuro-Oncology; a major milestone for this deadly and understudied childhood disease.

“There’s early evidence of activity in patients,” said Dr. Benaim. “We need to get more patients into clinical trials, gather more data and move as quickly, and as safely, as possible through the regulatory process.”

At SonALAsense, Benaim will work to accelerate this process to get SDT rapidly to patients. He will lead clinical operations, data management, and safety, and play a major role in regulatory filings. He will also be an ambassador for the company, sharing information about this novel therapy with the oncology community.

“We are pleased and honored to have Dr. Benaim join our team,” said company founder and Chief Scientific Officer, Stuart Marcus, M.D., Ph.D. “He will give us tremendous energy as we advance sonodynamic therapy through clinical trials.”

About SonALAsense

SonALAsense is a clinical-stage company, developing sonodynamic therapy (SDT) as a first-in-class, noninvasive drug-device combination to treat recurrent glioblastoma, diffuse intrinsic pontine glioma, and other life-threatening cancers. SDT uses SONALA-001 (a drug) in combination with MR-guided focused ultrasound (a device) to selectively target and kill tumor cells. Follow SonALAsense on Twitter and LinkedIn and visit our website at

May 9, 2023 at 12:00:00 PM


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