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Board of Directors

Tony Bartsh
Chairman of the Board

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.


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).


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.


Ghatnekar

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).


David J. Leffell, MD

David J. Leffell, MD, a physician, researcher and writer is the David Paige Smith Professor of Dermatology and Surgery and chief of dermatologic surgery and cutaneous oncology at the Yale School of Medicine. For 15 years he was chief executive officer of the Yale Medical Group, one of the country’s largest academic medical group practices, providing specialty care in more than 120 medical areas. For almost a decade Dr. Leffell was also deputy dean for clinical affairs at Yale University School of Medicine responsible for relations with Yale New Haven Hospital, strategic development and clinical trials oversight.

Dr. Leffell serves as chair of the Advisory Board of Tullis Heath Investors where he is also a venture partner. Previously he was an advisory partner at MalinPLC. Dr. Leffell consults with a wide range of consumer and skin focused companies including Merck and Unilever, as well as early stage biotechnology and pharmaceutical companies. He serves on the advisory boards of Dermasensor, First String and on the board of Validus Pharmaceuticals.

Dr. Leffell’s clinical focus is the diagnosis, treatment, and prevention of melanoma and nonmelanoma skin cancer and new diagnostic and therapeutic technologies in skin health.

He holds a patent for a laser device to measure skin aging and shares a patent for the discovery of the skin cancer gene, PTCH. He also invented a novel surgical therapy for treating vitiligo, a depigmenting condition of the skin.

Dr. Leffell is the author or co-author of more than 160 papers, several. He was an editor of the world’s leading textbook of dermatology, Fitzpatrick’s Dermatology in General Medicine (including Russian and Spanish editions) and author of Manual of Skin Surgery (English and Chinese editions). Dr. Leffell wrote a consumer oriented book, Total Skin: The Definitive Guide to Whole Skin Care for Life, published by Hyperion. It is considered the go-to reference for information about skin health. Dr. Leffell has held editorial positions with many peer-reviewed journals and is also the author of a contribution called “Longevity Strategies” which appears in The Enlightened Bracketologist: The Final Four of Everything, published in 2006.

Dr. Leffell, born and raised in Montreal received his BS, cum laude from Yale College. He graduated with MD, CM from McGill University Faculty of Medicine in Montreal. Board certified in medicine and dermatology, he completed residencies at Cornell Cooperating Hospitals (Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center and North Shore Hospital) and Yale-New Haven Hospital. At Yale, he also completed a post-doctoral fellowship as a National Institutes of Health research fellow. Following his residencies, he completed a clinical fellowship in advanced dermatologic surgery at the University of Michigan before returning to Yale in 1988 to found a new program in skin cancer and melanoma. The program, which combines patient-centered clinical care with teaching and research, has trained over 140 residents and 24 fellows in advanced dermatologic surgery and skin oncology.

Dr. Leffell lives in New Haven and Norfolk, CT. He has served as president of Artspace in New Haven and Connecticut Public Television. He has been a trustee of the Hopkins School, New Haven since 2011.


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.


James R. McNab, Jr.

Mr. McNab 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.


Tina Nova, PhD

Dr. Nova has extensive experience growing dynamic commercial organizations in new markets within the molecular diagnostics field. She currently serves as president and chief executive officer of Decipher Biosciences, Inc., a diagnostics company focused on urologic cancers, since August 2018, and previously was president and chief executive officer of Molecular Stethoscope, Inc., and served as senior vice president and general manager of Illumina’s oncology business unit. Dr. Nova was a co-founder of Genoptix, a medical laboratory diagnostics company, and served as its president and chief executive officer from 2000 to 2014. Genoptix was acquired by Novartis AG in 2011. Dr. Nova was co-founder of Nanogen, a provider of molecular diagnostic tests, and served as its chief operating officer and president from 1994 to 2000. She previously served as chief operating officer of Selective Genetics, a biotechnology company, and held various positions with Ligand Pharmaceuticals and Hybritech. Dr. Nova serves as the chair of the board of directors for Arena Pharmaceuticals and as a member of the board of directors of Veracyte, a diagnostics company. Dr. Nova received a bachelor’s degree in biological sciences from the University of California, Irvine, and a doctorate in biochemistry from the University of California, Riverside.