Board of Directors
Molly’s drive to start this foundation came directly from a lifetime of advocacy for her son Christopher. Now in his twenties, Chris Towe, has been plagued with an autoimmune disease of unknown origin, his entire life. Molly never gave up on her quest to get some answers to the cause of her son’s life threatening lung disease. Finally, Dr. Anthony Shum, MD, UCSF Assistance Professor of Medicine was treating a patient in his ER in California and realized his patient had distant relatives suffering from similar life threatening symptoms. He started to piece together the puzzle of a mysterious illness that not only plagued Molly’s son, but other families as well. This lead him to identify five other families who were also suffering from the same mysterious illness. It was through his diligence and push for genome sequencing of the members of those families that gave Molly the first breakthrough for her son in his lifetime. Dr. Shum discovered the disease was related to a mutation in the COPA protein gene and his findings were first published in April 2015 online edition of Nature Genetics. Molly finally had a name to put with her son’s disease, COPA SYNDROME, and now she has a starting place for research and a potential for the development of treatment for others suffering from COPA. Molly is very grateful to Dr. Shum, because without him Chris might have never discovered the origin of his Interstitial Lung Disease.
Molly brings her wealth of knowledge and experience to the foundation she has started. She will use that to reach out and assist families coping with a COPA Diagnosis, as well as a passion to move research forward to benefit her son, and others. Intensive research is needed and the Foundation will strive to fund this effort.
With a distinguished record in international companies, Renee Klimczak’s experience spans oil, gas, utilities and mining. She has led and grown global energy businesses for industry majors (ExxonMobil, BHP Billiton, BG Group and TXU).
Having a unique perspective to offer, Renee joined Galway Group as Managing Director where she focuses her advisory and investment practice on gas and LNG – shipping, marketing, projects and LNG as fuel.
Throughout her career, Renee served on numerous industry and inter-company boards. She currently sits on the Board of the COPA Syndrome Foundation, serves as Chair, Energy Practice for Regester Larkin and serves on the Advisory Council for the American Bureau of Shipping.
Renee mentors college students and young professionals through programs at Southern Methodist University and Women in Energy Network. She also provides support to other foundations such as Multiple Sclerosis and Cystic Fibrosis.
Renee holds a Bachelor’s of Science degree in Quantitative Business Analysis and a Master’s of Business Administration degree, both from Louisiana State University.
Leann Plagens is a graduate from Texas A&M University with a major in marine biology and a minor in chemistry. She has a 24 year career in the area of Environmental, Safety, and Health (ES&H), and is, currently, Vice President of the ES&H Regulatory Compliance Department for an independent global commodities merchant.
Leann is an active member of several other nonprofit organizations, such as the Daughters of the American Revolution and the Daughters of the Republic of Texas, where she is involved in functions that support veterans and preservation of historical documents.
Leann has a family member who has been diagnosed with COPA Syndrome. Although COPA Syndrome is a new discovery, her step nephew has interstitial lung disease (a result of this Syndrome) since childhood and as a young adult is currently on a waiting list for a double lung transplant.
Now that the Syndrome has been identified, Leann is committed to being a part of the COPA Syndrome Foundation’s mission to promote public education, awareness, and financial support for those affected by COPA Syndrome. A particular focus will be to determine how to support medical research for the advancement of successful treatments and an eventual cure of this genetic disorder.