Robert F. Williamson – CEO
Robert F. Williamson, III is the CEO of PharmAkea. He has been involved in starting and assisting public and private companies through his consultancy, LaSalle Venture Advisers. He was recently acting CEO of BrainCells Inc. and Executive Chairman of privately held Strategic Enzyme Applications, Inc. (SEA). Previously, he was on the board of Pharmasset, Inc. (NASDAQ: VRUS) which was bought by Gilead (NASDAQ:GILD) for $11B and was on the board of Progen Pharmaceuticals (NASDAQ: PGLA) after he sold CellGate to Progen. He was also Chief Executive Officer of Arriva Pharmaceuticals, President and Chief Operating Officer of Eos Biotechnology - which he sold to Protein Design Labs (NASDAQ: PDLI), and Chief Operating Officer of Pangea / DoubleTwist, Inc. - which was acquired in part by Merck (NYSE: MRK) and Hitachi (NYSE: HIT). Before managing life sciences companies, Mr. Williamson was a partner with The Boston Consulting Group, Inc., and his clients included top pharmaceutical, medical device and health care companies with additional clients in high technology and energy. Mr. Williamson started his career as a research assistant for the Federal Reserve Board of Governors in Washington, D.C. He received a B.A. in Economics from Pomona College and an M.B.A. from Stanford Graduate School of Business.
Kevin Holme, Ph.D. – COO & Founder
Dr. Kevin Holme is the Chief Operational Officer and co-founder of PharmAkea LLC in San Diego. Dr. Holme has a strong interdisciplinary scientific background and over 20 years of experience in the pharmaceutical industry. From 2008 to 2012, Dr. Holme served as Executive Director of Development at Amira Pharmaceuticals, where he was responsible for CMC, Nonclinical and Clinical planning across multiple projects, and was project leader for a DP2 antagonist project. During his tenure, 5 compounds were profiled as safety candidates and 3 compounds advanced from discovery through successful Phase 1 clinical studies.
Prior to Amira, Dr. Holme spent 5 years with SGX Pharmaceuticals (2003-2008) where he was responsible for Preclinical and Pharmaceutical Sciences, was project leader for an oncology collaboration with Novartis, and was closely involved in the strategic evolution of the drug discovery and development capabilities of SGX through Project Management responsibilities. Prior to SGX, Dr. Holme served as Senior Director in Project Management for Trega Biosciences/LION Bioscience (1998-2003), where he was responsible for leading internal GPCR drug discovery projects including an MC-4 collaboration with Novartis and a program developing predictive ADME tools in collaboration with a consortium of large Pharma partners. Between 1992-1997, Dr. Holme held various chemistry-related positions with Glycomed Inc. (acquired by Ligand Pharmaceuticals in 1995), including Senior Director of Chemical Operations. Dr. Holme received a B.Sc. (Honors) in Chemistry from Carleton University, Ottawa, Canada, and a Ph.D. (Honors) in Chemistry from the University of British Columbia, Vancouver, Canada. He completed postdoctoral studies in Chemistry at McGill University in Montreal, Canada.
Gretchen Bain, Ph.D. – Consultant
Dr. Gretchen Bain has 16 years of experience in the biotechnology/pharmaceutical industry, including four years at Merck Research Labs, where she worked on small molecule inhibitors of gamma secretase, histone deacetylases and kinases for the treatment of central nervous system diseases. She joined Amira Pharmaceuticals in 2005 as one of the founding scientists and head of the in vitro pharmacology group, where she directed and executed preclinical research that enabled five IND filings in three different programs (FLAP, DP2 and LPA1) over a period of six years. In addition, Dr. Bain was instrumental in establishing pharmacodynamics assays that were successfully used in Phase I clinical studies to demonstrate target engagement and guide dose selection. BMS acquired Amira in 2011 for the anti-fibrosis clinical assets, and after the acquisition of Amira, as an employee of Bristol Myers Squibb, she directed and contributed to molecular and cellular research aimed at investigating the anti-fibrotic mechanism of LPA1 antagonists. These studies have been instrumental in guiding the biomarker strategy for a Phase II clinical study in IPF patients. Dr. Bain received her B.A. in Biology from Pomona College, Claremont, CA and her Ph.D. in Biology from The University of California, San Diego.
Vanessa Jacoby, CPA – Vice President, Finance
Ms. Jacoby has over 18 years of finance and accounting experience. Prior to joining PharmAkea, Ms. Jacoby worked with numerous biotechnology and life science organizations performing various activities, including SEC reporting and Sarbanes-Oxley implementation and compliance. From 2008 to 2012, Ms. Jacoby served as the Director of Accounting and Controller of BrainCells, Inc. From 2006 to 2008, she served as a Senior Finance Manager of Artes Medical, Inc., a publicly traded medical device company. From 2000 to 2006, she served in various positions, including Revenue Manager of Diversa Corporation (now Verenium Corporation), a publicly traded biotechnology Company and as Performance Analyst for Nicholas Applegate Capital Management, an institutional investment company. Ms. Jacoby began her career as an auditor for Ernst & Young where she served both public and private companies. Ms. Jacoby holds a bachelors degree in Business Administration from Fundação Armando Alvares Penteado in Sao Paulo, Brazil (1998) and a MBA from National University, CA (2003). She is a Certified Public Accountant with the State of California.
Christopher D. King, Ph.D. – Executive Director of Drug Metabolism
Dr. Christopher King has 15 years of pharmaceutical and medical device industry experience including 8 years at Merck & Co and Johnson & Johnson PRD, where he worked in basic research, with several drugs advancing to FIH trials. At Amira Pharmaceuticals, he worked closely with research and clinical development contributing to five IND candidates from FLAP, DP2, LPA1 receptor antagonist programs. Dr. King was a co-founder and President of Ra Medical Systems, a medical device for the treatment of psoriasis, vitiligo, and other dermatological diseases. In addition to over 30 scientific manuscripts, Dr. King has experience in sales and marketing, project management, and business development. Dr. King received his B.Sc. from Beloit College, Beloit, Wisconsin, his Ph.D. in Drug Metabolism and Toxicology from Iowa Carver School of Medicine, Iowa City, Iowa, and his MBA from California State University, San Marcos.
Dave Lonergan, PhD – Senior Director of Medicinal Chemistry
Dr. Lonergan has managed chemistry sourcing at eMolecules, the largest supplier of chemical compounds in the US, since 2010. He was instrumental in establishing procedures to manage costs and efficiencies for several big pharma companies for their chemistry CRO operations in China, India and eastern Europe. Prior to eMolecules, Dr. Lonergan managed out-sourced drug discovery for Research Corporation Technologies. From 2001-2007, Dr. Lonergan served various roles at Nanosyn, a drug discovery CRO, including Director of Chemistry and Site Head of Nanosyn San Diego. Dr. Lonergan’s professional career began at Tranzyme in 1998 where he was a group leader in combinatorial chemistry and was involved in the development of TZP-102, an orally‑administered ghrelin agonist in Phase 2b development for diabetic gastroparesis. He is an inventor on over 20 patents and applications.
Deidre MacKenna, Ph.D. – Executive Director of Biology
Dr. MacKenna has over 18 years of drug discovery experience in biotechnology companies in the San Diego area. Immediately prior to joining PharmAkea in 2015, she was Sr. Director of Drug Discovery at Regulus Therapeutics, a company focused on microRNA based therapeutics. Her team of in vivo and in vitro pharmacologists delivered three clinical candidates in varying therapeutic areas from Alport syndrome and Fibrosis in CKD (anti-miR-21/RG-012) to NASH/Type 2 Diabetes (anti-miR-103-107/RG125) to hepatitis C (anti-miR-122/RG-101). Prior to Regulus, Dr. MacKenna worked at Metabasis Therapeutics and worked on multiple targets in metabolic and liver diseases including AMPK, thyroid hormone receptor and liver-directed anti-proliferative prodrugs. Deidre started her industrial career at Tanabe Research Laboratories, a wholly-owned subsidiary of Tanabe-Seiyaku (now Mitsubishi Tanabe), the oldest pharmaceutical company in Japan. She led two different projects against two different leukocyte integrins for inflammatory diseases such as inflammatory bowel disease, asthma, and multiple sclerosis. Dr. MacKenna received her BS and PhD in Bioengineering from the University of California, San Diego and did her post-doctoral training at the Burnham Institute (now Sanford Burnham Prebys Medical Discovery Institute) under the direction of Dr. Erkki Ruoslahti.
Martin W. Rowbottom, PhD – Senior Director of Medicinal Chemistry
Dr. Martin Rowbottom has over 14 years of experience in the biotechnology and pharmaceutical industry. Before joining PharmAkea, he was Group Leader of Medicinal Chemistry at Ambit Biosciences, developing kinase inhibitors for the treatment of cancer and autoimmune diseases. In particular, he played a leading role in the discovery of CEP-32496, a BRAF inhibitor currently in clinical trials. Prior to Ambit, Dr. Rowbottom was a Principal Scientist at Neurocrine Biosciences, where he was a key member of the Medicinal Chemistry team that discovered Elagolix, a GnRH-receptor antagonist currently in Phase III trials. Dr. Rowbottom is co-author/ inventor on over 45 scientific articles and patents and he obtained his B.Sc. in chemistry (University of Liverpool) and Ph.D. in synthetic organic chemistry (University of Bristol).