Board of Directors

Elliot Favus, M.D.

Dr. Favus has been working as a healthcare equity research analyst on Wall Street since 2006, at Lazard Capital Markets and Och-Ziff Capital Management Group. Prior to working on Wall Street, Dr. Favus was an Instructor in Medicine at Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York. He attended the University of Michigan (B.A.), The University of Chicago Pritzker School of Medicine (M.D.), and the NYU-Bellevue Hospital Internal Medicine Residency Program. He became board-certified in Internal Medicine in 2004. In addition to being board-certified in Internal Medicine, Dr. Favus has 10 years of basic science laboratory experience, working on human genetics projects at Harvard Medical School, The University of Chicago, and the University of Pittsburgh.


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).

Grant Carwile

Mr. Carwile serves as Managing Director for SL Capital Strategies. He has been active in lending, financial advisory, investment banking and capital markets for 31 years, including nearly 20 years at RBC Capital Markets, where he served as Managing Director.  During his banking and financial advisory career, Mr. Carwile has provided a variety of financial services including capital formation, capital markets advisory, securities issuance, asset and company valuation, merger and acquisition advisory, asset sale advisory, lending platform design and development, strategic planning, and management consulting.

Mr. Carwile has been a frequent speaker at finance industry associations, and he has written articles for national and international finance publications.  He is a graduate (BSBA) with high honors of the University of Arkansas and holds a Juris Doctor degree with high honors from the University of Arkansas at Little Rock, where he served as Editor-in-Chief of the UALR Law Journal.

Mr. Carwile currently serves or has served on the following boards of directors in recent years: FirstString Research (2007 – present); South Carolina Student Loan Corporation (Finance Company, 2014 – 2017); Palmetto Investment Holdings Incorporated (Holding Company, 2015 – 2017); Roper Saint Francis Foundation (Regional Hospital System, 2002 – 2014).

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.

Neal McConnell

Neal McConnell is a Partner at Sophos Capital Management where he primarily invests in publicly traded equities.  Prior to joining Sophos, Mr. McConnell was a Portfolio Manager at Balyasny Asset Management from 2012 to 2014.   From 2002 to 2012, he was a Partner and Senior Analyst at Walker Smith Capital LP and  Perennial Advisors LLC.  Mr. McConnell earned his B.B.A. in Finance from Southern Methodist University in 1997.

Steven Speer

Stephen W. Speer is a resident of Mount Pleasant, SC and is an original investor and board member in FirstString Research since its early days.  His professional background is primarily as a geologist in the oil and gas industry, running several private partnerships in the search and development of domestic oil and gas since graduating from New Mexico State University (BS Geology) and the University of Texas (MA Geological Sciences) in the early 1980s.  Since moving to SC in 2003, he has additionally formed and invested in LLC’s which operate in the food/beverage/hospitality industry and has also invested in multiple other local/regional startup ventures in the biotech and other technology sectors through participation in the Charleston Angel Partners group, where he has served as an Executive Administrator.

Tony Bartsh

Tony Bartsh is a portfolio manager and partner at Park West Asset Management, a $2.2 billion hedge fund based in the San Francisco Bay Area. Prior to Park West, Tony was an investment analyst at Emrose Capital and Crosslink Capital. He graduated from the University of Notre Dame in 2001 with a B.B.A. in Finance and Accounting.