The RCRF Team


Mark J Laabs

Mark Laabs, Founder and Chairman
Mark Laabs is an ocular melanoma survivor. Inspired by the work that his good friend, Josh Sommer, had done to improve the lives of patients suffering from a bone cancer called chordoma, Mark founded RCRF to try to bring innovations from the very best rare cancer foundations to all rare cancers. Aside from his work on RCRF, Mark has extensive executive leadership experience in global renewable energy project development and solar product distribution. As COO of Climate Bridge, Mark was responsible for the development, financing and execution of over 3GW of renewable energy projects in the developing world.

Benjamin Abram

Benjamin Abram, Founding Director and Treasurer
Ben Abram has been a part of RCRF since long before its founding and previously served as a Founding Director of the Chordoma Foundation. Ben is also the founder of Wylan Capital, which develops energy efficiency projects in the U.S. Ben is a Kauffman Fellow in Class XIV, a former Trustee of Duke University, and a sitting Director of the Sall Family Foundation and of FACE AIDS. He has a BSE in Environmental Engineering and Public Policy Studies from Duke University.

Jyri Engestrom

Jyri Engestrom, Director
Mr. Jyri Engestrom is a Finnish entrepreneur, and his daughter is an epithelioid sarcoma survivor. Born in Helsinki, Finland, he graduated with a Master’s degree in Social Science from the University of Helsinki in 2002 and pursued PhD studies in the UK. He is best known as the cofounder and Chairman of Jaiku, which was bought by Google in 2007. He left Google to found, a mobile local recommendations business, which he sold to Groupon in 2012. He holds patents in remote content delivery, content prioritization, and RF tag reading capabilities in mobile devices. A sociologist by training, he is noted for coining the term ‘social object’ to refer to photos, links, and other shareable Web content.


David Sandak, Program Director
David is the Program Director for the Rare Cancer Research Foundation and is responsible for helping drive the strategic vision of and identify research collaborations. David is also the Vice President of Research at Accelerate Brain Cancer Cure, a venture philanthropy, which funds translational medical research at leading academic centers and emerging biotech companies. He is responsible for identifying promising academic research initiatives and developing a path to clinical validation, often in partnership with leading biotech companies and venture capital funds. He is a member of the Board of Directors for the Chordoma Foundation. David graduated from Colby College and lives in Boston.

Barbara Van Hare

Barbara Van Hare, Director of Foundation Partnerships
Barbara joins RCRF after a 30-year sales, marketing, and product development career with Hallmark. Her organizational and interpersonal skills, honed by years of working with both small, independent entities as well as world-renowned corporate enterprises, contribute to her ability to multitask and adjust to rapidly changing priorities. Barbara’s ability to work across corporate silos led to her selection to sit on several high-profile task forces. Her focus on client needs and partnerships contributes a unique perspective to the RCRF team. Barbara graduated from Northwestern University with a Bachelor’s degree in Psychology.

Jason Mitchell

Jason Mitchell, Director of Technology
Jason has been devising technology solutions for 15 years for major Fortune 500 companies including MGM Resorts, Georgia Pacific, Home Depot as well as several startups including  Prior to working with RCRF, he was a co-founder and CTO at

Brian McSteen

Brian McSteen, Program Manager
Brian McSteen has a background in clinical trials program management, previously working with the U.S. Military to coordinate projects for large Southeast Asian and Pan-African cohort studies.  Brian graduated from Duke with a degree in Chemistry.

Adam Back

Adam Back, Software Engineer
Adam is a fullstack JavaScript engineer with experience building rich, interactive web and mobile applications. He enjoys being part of RCRF’s agile team and contributes to many technological aspects of the organization, with a focus on Adam spent his undergraduate time mascotting at the University of Arizona and attended Hack Reactor for JavaScript engineering.

Tyler Willis

Tyler Willis, Marketing and Growth
Tyler Willis is an entrepreneur and investor. He specializes in helping early-stage technology companies scale to world-class businesses. Willis is the co-founder of Connective, an early-stage startup. He also co-founded and serves on the Board of Directors for two non-profits Nomadic Mentors (supporting international entrepreneurship) and Stop100. Previously, Willis served as the Chief Marketing Officer of Hired. Prior to Hired, he was the VP of Business and Corporate Development at Unified, the Director of Marketing at Involver and a growth advisor to BranchOut.