IRSF Welcomes Three New Members to its Board of Directors

IRSF Welcomes Three New Members to its Board of Directors

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The International Rett Syndrome Foundation (IRSF), a mission-driven advocacy foundation focused on funding research and supporting families impacted by Rett syndrome, today announced the expansion of its Board of Directors. Mary Engel, Laura Stoppel, and Steve Wood have been appointed to the IRSF Board, effective July 1, 2023.

“We are delighted to welcome these new board members, who will guide our Foundation’s support of life-changing research, family empowerment, and efforts to raise awareness of Rett syndrome,” said Melissa Kennedy, Chief Executive Officer of IRSF. “Each of these individuals has incredible talent and shares a passion for our Rett syndrome community. Their input will be invaluable in our efforts to positively impact the lives of the families we serve. We are honored that they have chosen to join our Board of Directors.”

Mary Engel, pictured with her son, Henry, who passed away last year due to complications from Rett syndrome.

Mary Engel, wife to NBC’s Richard Engel, is mom to Henry and Theo. Henry was born with Rett syndrome, and very sadly passed away due to complications from Rett in August of 2022 at the age of six. Upon receiving Henry’s diagnosis, the Engels set out to raise awareness about Rett. They have shared their experience as parents of a child with disabilities and medical needs in an effort to connect with other families and accelerate research into transformative treatments.

Prior to becoming a full-time mom, Engel built an award-winning career in television production. She worked on series for NBC, PBS, CBS, The History Channel, Food Network, and HGTV, among others. She received three Emmy awards for her work on The Martha Stewart Show. Now she is dedicated to raising her son while championing the fight against Rett syndrome.

“For me, joining the IRSF Board of Directors is extremely personal and one of the many ways I will honor Henry’s memory. After losing him, I knew I was not going to walk away from this fight until we found a cure,” said Engel. “I am dedicated to fighting for every individual with Rett syndrome and every family that has suffered because of it. I look forward to using my personal experience to advance the mission of the Foundation and help provide access to robust education for people with complex needs.”

On July 11, 2023, Engel will participate in her first event as an IRSF Board member, joining a panel of Rett parents and experts for a congressional briefing on Rett syndrome. The briefing is sponsored by U.S. Reps. Brad Wenstrup (R-OH-2) and Abigail Spanberger (D-VA-7) and will help raise awareness of Rett syndrome and the need to advance research to develop treatments and a cure for the disease.

Laura Stoppel, PhD

Laura Stoppel is a Principal on the Investment Team at RA Capital Management, a Boston-based multi-stage investment manager dedicated to company formation and evidence-based investing in healthcare and life science companies. Stoppel manages both public and private investments in companies developing drugs, medical devices, diagnostics, and research tools. She brings a wealth of industry knowledge and expertise and will play a critical role in steering IRSF’s research investment strategy to fund game-changing discoveries, build a robust research pipeline, and break down barriers to clinical trials.

Stoppel currently serves on the boards of Artiva Biotherapeutics, Nimbus Therapeutics, Indapta Therapeutics, and Acumen Pharmaceuticals. She holds a BA in Biology and Psychology from Harvard University and a Ph.D. in Neuroscience from MIT. Her graduate research investigated synaptic translation in syndromic autism.

Steve Wood

Steve Wood is Executive Vice President of Johnson Supply, a leading distributor of HVAC products based out of Houston, Texas. Prior to working with Johnson Supply, Wood served in various senior leadership positions with Lennox International. He has more than 40 years of sales, marketing, and business leadership experience, guiding both publicly traded and privately held companies. His expertise will be vital in the strategic growth of IRSF.

Wood also shares a personal connection to Rett syndrome as the grandfather of twin girls with Rett syndrome, Kenzie and Kaylie. When the twins were diagnosed, he and his wife, Kay, relocated to be near the twins and provide assistance with caregiving. Wood is a long-time donor to IRSF, and, with his daughter, Kassie Morell, has served four years on the event committee for IRSF’s Raise a Glass for Rett Gala, even participating as the on-camera host in 2021.

For more information and a full list of IRSF’s Board of Directors, click here.