Meet the Team
The IGA Board (l.t.r.: Aimeé-Kate Bosch, Tanya Collin-Histed (CEO), Irena Žnidar, Vesna Aleksovska, Anne-Grethe Lauridsen, Biljana Jovanović, Paulina Peña Aragón, Kristiyan Dimitrov, Christine White
Vesna Aleksovska (Republic of North Macedonia)
Vesna founded the Association of citizens for rare diseases “Life With Challenges”– Bitola in 2009. She is a Gaucher patient and patient advocate for rare disease patients in the Republic of North Macedonia. She also co-founded the National Alliance for Rare Diseases of Macedonia in 2014. In 2013 she became a member of the DITA (Drug Information, Transparency and Access) Task Force EURORDIS and she is still a member and volunteer in this group. From 2019 she is also a member of the Rare 2030 Foresight in Rare Disease Policy panel of experts, made up of nearly 200 key opinion leaders in rare disease policy. She is a EUPATI fellow and trainer from the first cohort of patients in 2014.
Vesna works in the field of advocacy and lobbying for rights of the rare disease patients in the Republic of North Macedonia through cooperation and communication with organisations and institutions (government and non-government) on national and international level. She believes that through strengthening patients and raising public awareness about rare diseases the world can become a better place to live in for patients and families that face life filled with challenges.
She is also a freelance trainer and consultant in personal and professional development (motivation, communication, organisation, coordination, project cycle management, team building, public relations, etc.) and capacity building of organisations.
Paulina Peña Aragón (Mexico)
Paulina Peña Aragón was diagnosed with Gaucher disease when she was 4 years old but didn't start treatment until she was 11 and so she got some irreversible symptoms. Since she was a little girl she has shared her life testimony in different stages, and has been related with non-profit organisations since then. She studied psychology and specialised in positive psychology and health psychology. Her thesis work is an information, orientation and psychological support program for rare disease patients and their families called “AcceSalud”. She is the director of this program in FEMEXER (Mexican Federation of Rare Diseases) and the main psychologist for Proyecto Pide un Deseo México, the lysosomal storage disease organization in Mexico. She is also an improviser and a dog lover.
Aimeé-Kate Bosch (South Africa)
Aimee-Kate grew up in a small town in South Africa and was was diagnosed at the age of 5 with Gaucher disease. After completing her Matric, she went on to study Speech Therapy at the University of Stellenbosch and in 2017 she completed her Community Service as a Speech Therapist at Khayelitsha District hospital in Cape Town. Aimee-Kate runs her own Speech Therapy practice, servicing adult patients with acquired neurogenic communication disorders and also works part time for the Western Cape Cerebral Palsy association as a Speech Therapist at Red Cross War Memorial Children’s hospital.
During her student years, Aimee got to know Rare Diseases South Africa where she became a youth ambassador for Gaucher disease and has had the opportunity to participate in two Go with Gaucher meetings. Aimee then became the South African representative for the IGA. As a newly elected International Gaucher Alliance board member Aimee-Kate hopes to combine her passion for rare diseases and patient centred health care to make a positive contribution to the Gaucher and rare disease community.
Kristiyan Dimitrov (Bulgaria)
Kristiyan is a Type I Gaucher patient who was diagnosed at the age of 4. He was one of the first patients to be diagnosed with Gaucher disease in Bulgaria. When he came of age, he took his mother's position as a vice-chairperson for the Bulgarian Gaucher Association. He has since become an IGA representative and has attended various IGA, EWGGD and Go with Gaucher meetings.
Kristiyan is looking forward to contributing further to the Gaucher cause.
Biljana Jovanović (Serbia)
Director & Vice-Chair
Biljana is a Type I Gaucher patient, diagnosed in 2008. At the time, it was very difficult for her to accept the diagnosis and support of the Serbian association has meant a lot to her.
Since then, Biljana has been engaged in the organization and was elected as their president in 2014. Her main interests and activities in the association are to raise awareness through public campaigns and cooperation with stakeholders in order to improve position and lives of Gaucher patients.
Biljana joined the IGA board in 2016. As a board director she has been engaged in the International Gaucher Day project. Currently, she is working in the field of supporting member organisations to be more effective and sustainable. Working with the IGA team is a remarkable experience for her and she is very excited to be part of such a great team of people.
In her professional life, Biljana has been working as a social worker in Institution for children without parents for almost 20 years now. Since last year, she also works as a supervisor which is a new exciting challenge.
Anne-Grethe Lauridsen (Denmark)
Director & Treasurer
Anne-Grethe is a Type I Gaucher patient, born in 1958. She was diagnosed at the age of 15, by coincidence, whilst in hospital for another reason. In 1992 she started treatment as the second patient in Denmark. Anne-Grethe has two siblings and her sister also has Gaucher.
The idea of creating network between patients and families was the main reason for her to take the initiative to found The Gaucher Association Denmark in 2002 and she has been the chairman since the association was founded. Anne-Grethe has been involved in the work of the IGA since 2002 and became a director in 2008. In 2018 she also took on the role of Treasurer.
Anne-Grethe worked for almost 30 years as a bank clerk but is now retired due to health reasons. Family is very important to her.
The importance of creating networks and peer-support between patients and families across borders and information sharing are key areas to her.
Jeremy Manuel OBE (UK)
Jeremy Manuel co-founded the UK Gauchers Association in 1991, was its national chairman until 2012 and remains a board director. He was also a founding member of the International Gaucher Alliance and was elected its Chairman in 2008-2016. He is a Trustee of the Helen Manuel Foundation: a Charitable Trust established to support research into Gaucher disease.
Through his work with the Association and the IGA, Jeremy has represented the interests of Gaucher patients both in the UK and abroad to clinicians, scientists, and industry as well as the UK Government and Parliament, the European Parliament and European Commission and the European Medicines agency. Jeremy is a Board member of the European Working Group on Gaucher Disease (EWGGD) and is a Lay Representative to the Highly Specialised Technologies Evaluation Committee of the UK’s National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE).
Jeremy is a practising lawyer and an accredited commercial mediator. He was awarded the Freedom of the City of London in 1994 and an OBE in the Queens New Year Honours List 1999 for services to Gaucher disease and is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts.
Aviva Rosenberg (USA)
Aviva Rosenberg is a health care attorney based in Pennsylvania. She has practiced health law throughout the United States and taught as an adjunct professor at several universities. Aviva was diagnosed with Gaucher disease at age 27, following 20 years of symptoms with no answers. Her son, Eli, also has Type I Gaucher disease. Aviva's passion is educating about genetic diseases and screenings and talking about her personal journey with Gaucher disease, including the need to shorten patients’ diagnostic results. She lives with her husband and three fabulous boys in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania and is so excited to be part of the IGA.
Christine White (Canada)
Christine is the President and Executive director of the National Gaucher Foundation of Canada. Christine became involved with Gaucher disease when two of her children were diagnosed with Type I Gaucher disease. Christine was one of the founding members of the organization when it was created in 1991. Over the years Christine has served the foundation in various voluntary roles and has been working full-time for the foundation for the past 5 years. Christine is delighted and looking forward to serving the International Gaucher community via the IGA.
Irena Žnidar (Slovenia)
Irena co-founded the Slovenian Gaucher Association in 2003 and was elected its chairman in 2009. She holds a PhD in Biology and is employed by a pharmaceutical company.
Irena became an IGA director in 2009.
Tanya Collin-Histed, Sandra Zariņa, Jo McPherson
Tanya Collin-Histed (UK)
Chief Executive Officer (CEO)
Tanya's daughter Maddie was diagnosed with Type III Gaucher disease in 1996 at the age of 17 months. In 1997 Tanya joined the UK Gauchers Association to support families with children who have neuronopathic Gaucher disease. Tanya's main focus has been setting up conferences and educational booklets for the neurological families.
Tanya has been involved in the International Gaucher Alliance since 2005.
Jo McPherson (UK)
Jo joined the IGA in January 2012 and is based in the UK, supporting the work of the CEO and the Directors in achieving the IGA’s work programme goals on a day to day basis and is the first point of contact in the office for the IGA member associations. Jo has enjoyed building relationships within the Gaucher community by attending many meetings during her time with the IGA including board meetings, biennial meetings and Go With Gaucher. She was also involved in the early development of International Gaucher Day and continues to manage the annual awareness day.
Jo has four children and feels honoured to be part of the global Gaucher community.
Sandra Zariņa (Germany)
Sandra's son Gustavs was diagnosed with Type I Gaucher disease in 2007 at the age of 3 years and he started his treatment in 2008. In 2009, Sandra co-founded the Latvian Rare Disease Society ‘Caladrius’ to defend the rights and interests of patients with rare diseases.
Since 2009 Sandra became actively involved in the Gaucher community by representing Latvia in Nordic- Baltic Gaucher Association meetings and IGA biennial meetings. Sandra joined the IGA Board in 2012.
In April 2018 Sandra resigned from the IGA Board to take on a new position working as a project manager for the IGA, focusing on a number of key EIA projects. At the same time, she remains involved in the activities of the IGA as a volunteer working in areas such as planning the biennial members meeting and implementing the IGA’s code of ethics.
Angel Jones (UK)
Angel has joined us in the UK office to support the Treasurer and Finance Committee. Angel works 3 days a week: Monday, Tuesday & Thursday from 10am to 2pm (UK time). Angel has recently completed her A-Level exams at a local Sixth Form college where she has been studying English, Psychology and Business Studies. She has a close relationship with a Gaucher patient family and is delighted to have “A job with meaning” (her words!) supporting the work of the IGA.
Suyog Sathe, Marketa Smockova, Shashank Tyagi
As part of the IGA’s transition to become a global organisation we have been exploring how best to increase our footprint across the globe. We have decided to pilot for 12 months three Regional Mangers posts: these posts will be the eyes and ears of the IGA and work with the IGA Board and Team to be proactive and interact with the key stakeholders in the Gaucher community; to explore and seek to identify persons to support new development opportunities and give a bi-monthly report to the IGA about planned activities, challenges and advancements for Gaucher patients in the region. The regional Managers role is a voluntary position and the first two regions will be the South Asia and Eastern Europe & the Balkans.
Shashank Tyagi (India)
Shashank is 28 years of age and is a young energetic man living with Type I Gaucher disease in India. He was diagnosed at the age of 14, and has not let anything prevent him from achieving his goals. In 2015 Shashank completed an MBA degree and now works in the field of real estate managing the family business.
Since 2012; Shashank has been undertaking voluntary work for the LSD Support Society – India and has undertaken projects such as the patient registry system, innovative funding and organising patient meetings throughout India. Shashank has participated in the Go with Gaucher programme and in 2017 attended to assist the organising team and present to the group. With his experience gained in the Gaucher community the transition to the role of regional manager was a natural progression.
Shashank says that “He feels honoured to be part of the IGA and is fully committed towards a better future for the Gaucher Community”
Shashank's area of responsibility include Bhutan, Pakistan,Nepal and Afghanistan.
Suyog Sathe (India)
Suyog lives in Mumbai, India. He was diagnosed with Gaucher disease at the age of 5 and became the first patient in India to receive ERT in 1999. In the following years, Suyog has been involved in the work of patient advocacy and Gaucher initiatives by sharing his inspiring story at various national and international conferences. Suyog is a member of the LSDSS India and has been associated with the IGA since 2012. With this experience gained in the Gaucher community his transition to the role of a regional manager for the IGA was a natural progression.
Suyog is pursuing a career in engineering and is passionate about travelling, photography and driving.
His area of responsibility include Sri Lanka, Maldives and Bangladesh.
Markéta Smočková (Czech Republic)
Markéta is a Type I Gaucher patient. She was diagnosed when she was 4 years old and at that time there was no treatment available in the Czech Republic. She started treatment in 1992 as the fourth patient in Czech Republic.
Markéta’s mother became a member of the Czech Gaucher association (META) and when Markéta grew up she started to work with the national association, later becoming the EGA representative and helping other patients. She has attended various national and international meetings and participated in the Go with Gaucher programme, attending for the third time in 2017 to make a presentation and to help plan the meeting. With her experience gained in the Gaucher Community the transition to the role of regional manager was a natural progression.
Markéta is a manager in a financial company.
Markéta's area of responsibility include Eastern Europe and the Balkans.
Patricia Lucki (Guatemala)
Patricia was born in Argentina and has lived in different countries, including Israel and El Salvador and currently lives in Guatemala. She was diagnosed with Gaucher Type I when she was 55 years old.
Patricia has a degree in Sciences of Information and an AM in Communications; she is PhD candidate in Sustainable Development and works as a consultant for public and private institutions. She also teaches at a local university.
Patricia's area of responsibility is Central America.
Adel Kaplan (Russia)
Adel was diagnosed with Type I Gaucher when she was 7 years old, after difficult examinations and misdiagnosis. At that time, a system of care for patients with orphan diseases had just appeared in Russia and the search for treatment began. During this time, Adel's mother met many other patients, and also found the patient organization and her work in the patient organization began. With the coming of adulthood, Adel took her mother's place in the organization which has in recent years achieved the inclusion of Gaucher disease in the federal program for the provision of treatment, conducted a large number of patient schools, forums, and congresses.
Adel graduated from University in 2018 and is working as a primary school teacher.
Adel's area of responsibility include Causcasus & Central Asia.