Home > About us > Staff


Jon Spiers Colour

Jon Spiers Chief Executive

Jon joined Autistica in 2015, after several years as a consultant advising senior leaders in charities, pharmaceutical firms and biotech. He specialised in devising and delivering innovative policy, public affairs and media campaigns in areas including lung cancer, leukaemia, genomics, HIV, meningitis, infectious diseases and ADHD.

He worked for almost a decade at Cancer Research UK, the world’s largest independent cancer research funder, working his way up from a graduate trainee to Head of Public Affairs and Campaigning. Jon and his team recruited over 400,000 campaigners and successfully lobbied for policies including national cancer plans for the four UK nations, increased investment in cancer screening and putting tobacco out of sight in shops. His very first campaign was the introduction of smokefree legislation in England and Wales, a policy hailed as “the biggest step forward in public health for fifty years”.

He graduated in Linguistics from Cambridge University, followed by a year as RAG President, raising over £100,000 for a range of local and national charities.

Sarah Bissell

Sarah Bissell Director of Fundraising

Sarah has more than 16 years fundraising experience as a practitioner, manager and consultant at small and large charities. Most recently Sarah has worked as Partnerships Director globally for SeriousFun Children’s Network to manage fundraising at a regional and global level for our network in the US, Europe, Africa and Asia. Sarah was previously based in Asia working with agencies such as WWF where she worked with colleagues in Asia and Africa on institutional and foundation donors. She also consulted for the Red Cross, Greenpeace, WWF and other agencies on market entry studies, creating fundraising strategies and budgets and fundraising training. Sarah has managed big and small teams at large agencies such as the Red Cross, where she led a growth in corporate fundraising as head of the corporate fundraising team, as well as at smaller UK charities.

James Cusack

Dr James Cusack Director of Science

James Cusack joined Autistica in September 2015 from the University of Aberdeen where he gained broad experience working within the field of autism, holding specific expertise in autism research. He undertook a PhD at the University of Aberdeen where he studied how people with autism detect the actions of others. In his post-doctoral studies he led the development of an automated measure of facial imitation which is being used in the study of autism, mood disorders and schizophrenia.

James has sat on a number of advisory panels discussing the role of research in autism, and was vocal in the production of the report; A Future Made Together and the publication; Educational Provision and Outcomes for People on the Autism Spectrum. He was part of a core stakeholder group which successfully campaigned for Scotland’s first ever autism strategy. James has also been a member of Autistica’s own Science Review Panel since January 2014. From a young age James has also worked directly with families affected by autism, as well as having experience in clinical, educational and social care settings.

He was attracted to the position because of Autistica’s strong, community-driven research strategy and is pleased to be joining at such an exciting time for the charity and autism research in general.

Yasmine Davies

Yasmine Davies Senior Fundraising Manager

Yasmine’s career has always focused on the Charity Sector. Prior to Autistica she worked at the Woodland Trust, an Environmental Charity, where she took on a variety of different roles spanning Individual Donor Management and more widely, Corporate Partnerships where she covered both Account Management and Business Development roles.

Yasmine joined Autistica to use her skills with an organisation that focuses more on people. She brings to Autistica a great deal of experience in Relationship Management and Development and will use these skills to develop the Corporate Fundraising Strategy and manage Autistica’s events programme. Yasmine joined Autistica in January 2013.

Rebecca Sterry Autistica Communications Manager 2014

Rebecca Sterry Communications Manager

Rebecca completed a degree in English Language and Literature where she undertook units on media relations and the language of marketing. She went on to work for a direct marketing company before joining the charity sector at the National Migraine Centre where she worked for 4 years in various roles, later becoming their Communications and Operations Manager. She volunteers for a charity local to her – The Hackney Pirates, supporting young people with after-school literacy support.

Rebecca was keen to join Autistica with her interest and experience gained working for a small national health charity. Both of her parents work in special educational needs so she has grown up being very aware of the fascinating complexities of autism and the need for more research and awareness. She joined the team in their new role of Communications Manager in December 2014.

Giorgia Molinari

Giorgia Molinari Corporate Fundraising Manager

Giorgia began her UK career working in diplomacy for the Italian Embassy in London. After gaining significant experience in consular issues and event management she decided to transition into the charity sector where she further developed her relationship management and fundraising experience by working with small and medium sized charities and NGOs supporting various different causes, from national social issues such as homelessness and unemployment to environmental projects in developing countries. She joined Autistica in April 2016 from Cancer Research UK, where she was responsible for managing high value relationships and corporate partnerships within the City and Canary Wharf area.

Having recently become a mum herself, the life-long struggles that many children with autism and their families face because of a lack of research strongly resonates with Giorgia. Her ambition is to strengthen Autistica’s relationship with the commercial industry to help parents of children with autism find the answers they so desperately need.

Reene Pal

Reene Pal Major Donor Manager

Reene has a degree in English Literature and Portuguese, graduating from the University of Leeds. Her first job was in IT recruitment consultancy where she gained considerable experience in relationship building. Reene always had an interest in the charity sector and has volunteered for various arts and health charities over the years. In 2014 she left recruitment to work in the fundraising office of Westminster School and followed this with a major donor role at Asthma UK.

Reene joined Autistica in May 2016. She is keen to support the organisation as they grow and is looks forward to building relationships with existing supporters and sharing her passion for the cause with new potential donors.

Aimee Rebbeck Trust Fundraising Manager Autistica 2014

Aimee Rebbeck Fundraising Manager

After studying History at Cambridge University, Aimée returned home to Northern Ireland in 2010 where she worked for four years at a local children’s cancer charity. Starting off as a Fundraising Administration Assistant, Aimée soon began working with trusts and foundations to maximise income for the charity. She has been successful in securing funds for major capital appeals, as well as core costs.

Aimée moved to London in September 2014 and began working for Autistica as Trust Fundraising Manager. She is excited to be working for a medical research charity for the first time and is looking forward to developing her knowledge of the trusts and foundations sector in the UK and internationally.

Emma McGuigan

Emma McGuigan Fundraising Manager

Emma started her career teaching dance and drama to children and young people, particularly those with special educational needs. She has a personal interest in disability as her sister has a rare genetic disorder.

Emma joined the charity sector 10 years ago and has worked at both large national charities and small local charities mainly within the disability sector, securing funds from a variety of sources including, Trusts, Major Donors and Companies. She has been responsible for devising fundraising strategies to maximise income and to date has raised over £3m in funding for a wide range of projects. Emma has a Certificate in Fundraising Management from the Institute of Fundraising. Until recently she was a Trustee for a small bereavement charity in North East London. She joined Autistica in 2012 and is proud to be raising funds to find answers to help those affected by autism.

Autistica Staff Charlotte

Charlotte Bignell Senior Fundraising Officer

Charlotte studied for an undergraduate degree in History and Anthropology at the University of Birmingham. During this time, she volunteered with several charities, which included international NGO work and volunteering for the student listening service, Nightline. Since graduating from university, Charlotte’s career has been based in the Charity Sector. She completed placements with two different non-profit organisations, focusing on Trust and Foundations fundraising at the Refugee Council and Corporate, Community and Events fundraising at ICAN, a children’s communication charity. Prior to Autistica, Charlotte worked at the National Autistic Society in the Branches team and also as an Outreach Support Worker where her interest and knowledge of autism grew. Outside of work, she is a listening volunteer for the Samaritans. Charlotte joined Autistica in September 2014.