Our Board Members

Mencia de Lemus Belmonte

Mencia de Lemus Belmonte


Mencía has 2 children with SMA Type 2. In September 2015, she was elected President of Fundación Atrofia Muscular Espinal (FundAME), which she represents on the SMA Europe Board. Her role within FundAME includes setting the strategy to reach the organisation’s goals and to take charge of relations with researchers, clinicians, Pharma and other organisations.

Nicole Gusset


Nicole Gusset’s first-born daughter Victoria was diagnosed with SMA Type II in 2011. As a result of this, in 2012, Nicole founded the patient organisation SMA Schweiz (www.sma-schweiz.ch) of which she is the president. Her main goals are twofold: to have well-informed patients with a strong common voice through providing up-to-date scientific achievements and to build a trustful relationship with regulators, payers, pharmaceutical companies, clinicians, scientists and patient groups to develop the best potential medicine for SMA patients by campaigning for their needs to different stakeholders.

Nicole earned her PhD in behavioural ecology in Berlin, Germany and the Serengeti, Tanzania. She then worked for several years at the Swiss Federal Veterinary Office as a scientific officer and deputy head of the unit dealing with bilateral agreements with the European Union. Currently, Nicole is employed at the University of Zurich as a scientific project manager.

Inge Schwersenz SMA Europe Treasurer

Inge Schwersenz


Inge Schwersenz has a son with Spinal Muscular Atrophy and wants to make sure that patients in clinical trials are not exposed to any harm and their confidential data are truly protected. On the other hand, she wants to make sure that there are no unreasonable delays in promising clinical trials and finally market authorisation (regulatory agencies, approval in the single countries and reimbursement from the health insurances).   Another motivation is to see standards of care applied in every country. Inge is a member of the RD Patient and Ethics Council (RD-PEC) and a member of the DITA Taskforce (Drug Information, Transparency and Access) at Eurordis.

SMA Europe Board

Christian Cottet

AFM, France

Christian Cottet is Chief Executive Officer of AFM. He is the father of a 25-year-old girl with SMA and has been involved in AFM activities for 22 years, first as a volunteer and now as CEO. In 1987 he launched the SMA patient group within AFM along with other parents, and he regularly participates in the GRAM, a French working group including patient representatives, scientists and physicians to accelerate translational research to find a cure for SMA. He represented AFM in the creation of SMA Europe. After 19 years as a volunteer in AFM he left his vice-presidential mandate to become CEO of AFM. Today he is involved in all AFM activities, not only for SMA but for all its neuromuscular and rare disease activities.

Marie-Christine Ouillade

Marie-Christine Ouillade

AFM, France

Marie-Christine is the mother of a girl affected by SMA. She is a member of AFM Board of Directors, AFM international committee and TREAT-NMD Project Ethics Council.

SMA Europe Board

Claudia Dumitru

Asociatia SMACare, Romania

I am the mother of a young girl diagnosed with Type II SMA. Because of the lack of information and awareness about SMA in Romania I decided to found the association that will bring some light in the life of SMA patients. Beside me are more parents who are willing to fight for our rights and bring hope in our country.

SMA Europe Board

Vitaliy Matyushenko

CSMA, Ukraine

Vitaliy grew up in the Ukraine and graduated in 1993 from Kharkiv National University after specializing in nuclear physics. He worked both in this area and as a forensic investigator until the birth of his daughter. At the age of one she was diagnosed with spinal muscular atrophy and as a result of this, in 2004, Vitaliy founded the Foundation “Children with SМА”. The work carried out by the foundation has contributed to the publications in the press and on TV (regional and national). The Foundation carries out international activities in the field of SMA and understands the need for research. Vitaliy’s own research has centered on the rare heredity illness (SMA) and a clinical practice of treatment. His clinical focus is children and he has managed to involve several large institutes in Ukraine to take part in this work.

Anna Witchen

DGM, Germany

SMA Europe Board

Luca Binetti

Famiglie SMA, Italy

Luca Binetti is an Advisor of Famiglie SMA and father of Aurora (SMA2) and Marco (SMA3). Luca, an entrepreneur in Marketing and Communications, lives in Milan, where he graduated in Engineering. He is also a representative on the board of  Foundation Serena Onlus (Clinical Centers N.e.m.o., a network of clinical center specialized in Neuromuscolar Diseases based in Milano Niguarda, Roma Gemelli, Messina and Arenzano Genova). Together with his wife Emanuela, he is engaged in the development of projects to help parents and children with SMA in Italy.

SMA Europe Board

Ásthildur Guðmundsdóttir

FSMA, Iceland

Ásthildur has SMA Type 3 and since April 2017 is the President of the Icelandic organisation FSMA.

Kacper Rucinski

Kacper Rucinski

Fundacja SMA, Poland

Kacper has a daughter affected by SMA. He is a founder and one of the directors of Poland-based Fundacja SMA in Poland as well as a managing member of L.E.A.D. Kingston, a community group that lobbies for provision of meaningful services to families affected by disability in the London borough of Kingston upon Thames. Kacper’s professional history includes evaluating prison healthcare systems in South Asia as well as setting up and managing a parallel system of primary and secondary healthcare for refugees in the South Caucasus on behalf of a UN agency. He also authored several articles on neuromuscular disorders on English Wikipedia to spread NMD awareness.

Sofie Stenshed

NSMA Sweden

Sofie is a mother of a girl with SMA type 2 born in 2012. Because of that, she got involved in the Swedish organisation NSMA , first as treasurer and later as chair. The main goal for NSMA is to increase knowledge about SMA in Sweden and to get the upcoming drugs for SMA reimbursed in Sweden. Sofie is working as a senior project manager at an international ERP company.

SMA Europe Board

Ellen Sterrenberg

Prinses Beatrix Spierfonds, The Netherlands

Ellen obtained her PhD in molecular biology from Leiden University in 2007 where she studied the application of microarray-based gene expression technology to neuromuscular disorders. Ellen has been working for the Prinses Beatrix Spierfonds for 8 years and is Head of policy and research. She is closely involved in the development of the Dutch SMA research agenda, together with patients and researchers.

Daniel Kostan


Daniel is a father of 3, his youngest Izabela Uyanga (born 2014) has SMA Type II. Before becoming a full time caregiver, Daniel worked in international business, mainly in the Chemistry field. Together with other parents, he co-founded Czech patient organisation SMÁci, z.s. and is engaged also in the name of patients in Slovakia (his homeland).

Olga Germanenko

SMA Family Foundation Russia

Olga has a daughter with SMA type 1, who was born in 2008. At that time, there was no information on prognosis and any attempts to find such information and support in Russia were unsuccessful. Olga thought that no one else should ever go through the pain, sufferance and insecurity of facing spinal muscular atrophy alone. She started by sharing her experience of dealing with SMA, first as a blogger, then a few years later, in 2014, she founded a non-profit organisation. Since 2014, she has been the President of SMA Family Foundation in Russia.

Marija Krstić

SMA Serbia

Marija Krstić is a mother of two children, her younger boy has SMA type 2. Because of that, she got involved in the SMA Serbia organisation in 2018, with the objective to help and improve the national organisation. She is a medical doctor, an ENT specialist, working on her PhD. With her medical knowledge she became a coordinator for medical issues and clinical trials within the national organisation. Her goal is to provide connections, support and collaboration with national and international institutions in order to give comprehensive support and networking with parents, families and health care providers to try to make therapies and trials accessible to all SMA patients. Her future efforts will be focused on European trends related to the development of new drugs for the treatment of SMA,  implementation of Standards of Care and sharing awareness of SMA in Serbia.

SMA Europe Board

Doug Henderson


Doug is the Managing Director of SMA UK, an established charity that supports and empowers anyone affected by SMA.

Denica Velkovska

Stop SMA

Denica Velkovska is a mother of two boys, the older with SMA type2 . She is a founder and an actual President of the association of persons with SMA in Macedonia  “STOP SMA”.  She acquired the advocacy experience in several other parent’s organizations, representing the group of patients with neuromuscular diseases.

Networking, share of knowledge, advocacy and parent’s support are in her focus.  Still, the most important is the adequate treatment of SMA patients in Macedonia, and contributing in European tendency on medicine development and best possible treatment’s coverage of SMA patients.

SMA Europe Board

Ria Broekgaarden

VSN, The Netherlands

Ria, amongst other things, coordinates diagnostical bound groups, is project leader for SMA, Pompe Disease and Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy. In addition, Ria is a founder, board member and adviser on the International Pompe Association, a former FSHD board member and a Founder of FSHD Europe. Previously, Ria was an ENMC board member and president.

Ria has been involved in the inception of TREAT-NMD and in the work packages of the EU project, as well as in the East Europe adoption project. Her project was, amongst others, directed to Bulgaria. She organised training sessions and conferences in Eastern Europe, all dedicated to neuromuscular diseases, in particular SMA and Duchenne.

She has experience in drug development from the first development to availabilty (Pompe). She went through all stages and had to deal with a lot of problems like supply issues, reimbursement issues, negative press, small or broad label, start stop criteria etc. At the moment she is involved in the second step of drug development, the so called second generation drugs. Ria has coordinated the process, the strategy and contacts needed from a patient organisation point of view, to get the drug to patients in the Netherlands.