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Management Team

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James R. McNab Jr.
Chairman of the Board

Mr. McNab was appointed Chairman of the Board of Directors of FirstString Research in 2009. He is the former Chairman and a founder of Curis Inc (NASDAQ: CRIS), a drug discovery company focused on developmental biology and with ongoing collaborations with Johnson & Johnson, Genentech, Pfizer, and Procter & Gamble. Mr. McNab is also Chairman and founder of eNOS Pharmaceuticals, a development stage company working on treatments for cardiovascular and Alzheimer’s diseases. Previously, Mr. McNab founded two medical device companies, Sontra Medical based on technology licensed from MIT, and Parker Medical Associates which was later sold to Smith and Nephew. Mr. McNab was a Phi Beta Kappa Economics and History graduate of Davidson College and earned his MBA at the University of North Carolina. He served in the US Army as a Force Planning Analyst in the Office of the Chief of Staff for General William Westmoreland.


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Gautam Ghatnekar, PhD
President and CEO

Dr. Ghatnekar is President and CEO of FirstString Research, a clinical-stage biopharmaceutical company dedicated to delivering breakthrough solutions for inflammation and injury based medical conditions through a better understanding of the molecular and cellular contexts that define the underlying pathology. FirstString is focused on diseases associated with dysregulation of inflammatory processes and modulation of injury response, such as cutaneous radiation injury, radiation dermatitis, and wounds. FirstString’s technology is based on connexin-based peptides (α-Connexin Carboxyl-Terminal or aCT peptides) that exert profound healing effects on diseased and damaged tissue. Under Dr. Ghatnekar’s leadership, FirstString Research is advancing the clinical development of aCT1 peptide through a topical formulation called Granexin® gel. Granexin® has been tested in multiple successful clinical trials and is currently in late-stage trials for cutaneous radiation injury, diabetic foot ulcers, and venous leg ulcers.

Dr. Ghatnekar is well published and has multiple US and International patents to his name.  He serves on NIH study sections, and is PI or Co-PI on multiple NIH and DoD grants/contracts. Over the last ten plus years, Dr. Ghatnekar has raised significant funds for research and development via federal and state grant awards, individual investors, angel groups, collaborations, loans, and partnerships. These funds have allowed FirstString to successfully advance its lead compound – Granexin® gel, and build out its therapeutic pipeline in other indications such as ophthalmology, organ preservation and oncology.

Dr. Ghatnekar earned a Ph.D. in 2004 from North Carolina State University in Comparative Biomedical Science with an emphasis on cellular and developmental toxicology. Dr. Ghatnekar was also a post-doctoral fellow at the Medical University of South Carolina where he studied regenerative medicine and discovered the translational benefits of the aCT peptide, which led to the formation of FirstString Research. Prior to becoming President and CEO of FirstString, Dr. Ghatnekar served as the Company’s Chief Scientific Officer and is currently Executive Chairman of Regranion and on the board of directors of the South Carolina Student Loan Corporation and the Medical Technology Enterprise Consortium (MTEC).


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Christina Grek, PhD
Director of Translational Research

Dr. Grek is an experienced translational scientist with foundations in both industry and academia. After receiving her BScH at Queen’s University in Kingston, Ontario, Canada, Dr. Grek pursued a career in industry at the biotech startup KAIROS Scientific, where she aided in the development of a high-throughput technology, that enables solid phase enzyme screening of mutagenized bacterial libraries expressing enzymes that have undergone directed evolution.  She then worked as a cancer researcher in the drug discovery team at SUGEN, a pioneering drug discovery company focused on the development of small-molecule protein kinase inhibitors as cancer therapeutics. At SUGEN, Dr. Grek developed a keen understanding of the pipeline components involved in drug discovery protocols and the development of successful therapeutics.

Dr. Grek earned a PhD in Biomedical Sciences at the Medical University of South Carolina, Charleston, SC, where she studied the role of oxygen sensitive genes in the alveolar epithelium and successfully designed and developed a novel semi-permeable hollow fiber based membrane system that enables the culture and differentiation of alveolar epithelial cells. At MUSC, she continued her pursuit as a translational scientist through a series of preclinical and clinical studies focusing on the discovery and development of pharmacodynamic biomarkers for current and novel redox modulating chemotherapeutics. Dr. Grek was also instrumental in a drug discovery program involving the screening, development, and evaluation of small molecule inhibitors that target protein disulfide isomerase that may serve as the basis for future cancer therapeutic development.   She has extensive experience in the development of in vivo and in vitro model systems as well as experience in the development and implementation of preclinical and clinical studies.