Imara is a clinical-stage biopharmaceutical company dedicated to developing and commercializing novel therapeutics to treat patients suffering from rare inherited genetic disorders of hemoglobin, known as hemoglobinopathies. Our pipeline is built on the differentiated therapeutic potential of our initial product candidate, IMR-687, which is an oral, once-a-day, highly selective, potent small molecule inhibitor of PDE9 in development for sickle cell disease and beta-thalassemia. Sickle cell disease and beta-thalassemia have limited treatment options and are both characterized by severe symptoms and effects and reduced life expectancy.
Imara’s leadership team has extensive experience in the successful clinical development and commercialization of therapeutic products across a number of pharmaceutical and biotechnology companies.
Rahul D. Ballal, PhD
Chief Executive Officer
Dr. Ballal has more than 15 years of life sciences experience in business development, strategic partnerships, venture capital, and company financing. He joined Imara from Northern Biologics and Versant Ventures where he served as Chief Business Officer and an Entrepreneur-in-Residence, respectively. At Northern, he built a first-in-class immuno-oncology portfolio, led a broad strategic partnership with Celgene, and managed several key functional roles at the executive level. At Versant, he negotiated foundational assets for existing portfolio and new companies, sourced several new deals, and participated in investment team activities.
Previously, Dr. Ballal was Vice President, Business Development at Flexion Therapeutics, where he led several business development transactions, supported multiple functions during the initial public offering, and completed a key $175MM strategic partnership with Patheon UK, for dedicated commercial manufacturing. Prior to Flexion, he held business development and leadership positions at Novartis Venture Fund; Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard; and Redmind Inc. Dr. Ballal earned a B.S. in biology from Brown University, a M.S. in bioinformatics from Johns Hopkins University, and a Ph.D. in biochemistry from Georgetown University. He is also a Kauffman Fellow.
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Willem H. Scheele, MD
Chief Medical Officer
Dr. Scheele began his career 30 years ago in internal medicine at Spaarne Hospital in Haarlem, the Netherlands, affiliated with the Vrije Universiteit Medical School in Amsterdam, the Netherlands. Prior to joining Imara, he was Executive Director, Clinician Group Lead, Rare Diseases, for Pfizer leading the clinical development teams for the company’s rare disease portfolio, which included programs for Gaucher disease, a lysosomal storage disorder and transthyretin amyloid cardiomyopathy (ATTR-CM), a hereditary form of heart disease. At the company, Dr. Scheele led the Clinical Development and Operations team responsible for the successful submissions of New Drug Applications (NDAs) for tafamidis for the treatment of ATTR-CM.
Previously, Dr. Scheele was Senior Director, Global Innovative Pharma, Medicines Development for Pfizer responsible for clinical strategy through delivery and reporting for clinical studies in patients with Type 2 diabetes and chronic kidney disease. Earlier in his career, Dr. Scheele was Director, Women’s Health and Bone (Global Medicine Monitor) at Wyeth Research and Global Clinical Research Physician and Associate Clinical Research Physician at Eli Lilly and Company in Indianapolis and Nieuwegein, the Netherlands, respectively.
Dr. Scheele earned his M.D. at Vrije Universiteit Medical School and has been published in numerous peer-reviewed journals and abstracts and presented at various congresses. Currently, he serves as the Honorary Consul for the Kingdom of the Netherlands for New England in Boston. He also serves as mentor for both the Global Investor’s Forum (MERLN Institute, University of Maastricht, the Netherlands) evaluating start-up and scale-up biotech companies and is a mentor for the Boston Children’s Hospital Post-Doc Association.
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Michael P. Gray, MBA, MBA
Chief Financial and Chief Operating Officer
Mr. Gray brings nearly two decades of experience to Imara at both public and private biotechnology and large pharma companies, where he developed strong investment community relationships and an in-depth understanding of capital markets, with a background in business operations, strategic corporate finance, business development and investor relations. He most recently served as President, Chief Executive Officer and Chief Financial Officer at public, global biotechnology company, Arsanis, Inc., leading a strategic process that consummated with the closing in March 2019 of a merger between Arsanis and X4 Pharmaceuticals following a futility outcome of Arsanis’ lead clinical asset. Mr. Gray previously served as Arsanis’ Chief Operating and Chief Financial Officer from March 2016 until November 2018. In that capacity, he built the business and finance infrastructure of Arsanis’ U.S. global headquarters and successfully raised over $130 million, including completing two private financings and an initial public offering (IPO).
Prior to Arsanis, Mr. Gray spent over a decade at Curis, Inc., a publicly-traded oncology company, including 13 years as its Chief Financial Officer, while also holding dual roles as either Chief Operating Officer or Chief Business Officer during most of his tenure. At the company, he was responsible for financial strategy and business operations, business development, alliance management, corporate legal as well as all other administrative functions. Mr. Gray raised approximately $200 million in equity capital through a variety of transactions, including public offerings, at-the-market (ATM) offerings, registered direct offerings, PIPEs and other structures. He was the business development and finance lead for a potentially transformative collaboration agreement with Aurigene and led the 2012 in-licensing of a clinical-stage compound from Genentech and simultaneous $30 million structured debt transaction. Mr. Gray was also instrumental in Curis’ entry into and subsequent management of its collaboration with Genentech (Roche) that was focused on the Hedgehog signaling pathway, which resulted in a commercially approved drug for the treatment of advanced basal cell carcinoma. Previously, Mr. Gray was Controller and de Facto Chief Financial Officer at Reprogenesis, Inc., where he participated in various financings and managed all preclinical and clinical development financial activities. He began his career as an audit professional with Ernst & Young, LLP.
Mr. Gray earned his BS in business administration with an accounting concentration from Bryant College in Smithfield, Rhode Island, and his MBA, finance and entrepreneurial management concentration, from Babson College in Wellesley, Mass. He is a certified public accountant and a member of the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants (AICPA) and the Association of Biotech Financial Officers (ABFO).
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Kevin B. Johnson, PhD, MBA
Senior Vice President of Regulatory and Quality
Dr. Johnson has more than 20 years of experience in developing and implementing regulatory and product development strategies for a variety of drugs, biologics, combination products, and cell/gene therapies. He has led international project teams in early, mid and late-stage development programs across a variety of therapeutic areas, directed the preparation and maintenance of INDs, BLAs, NDAs, and MAAs, and led a variety of meetings and communications with regulatory authorities around the world.
Prior to joining Imara, Dr. Johnson held several positions of increasing responsibility for regulatory and product development activities. Most recently, he served as Vice President, Global Head of Regulatory and Quality at Sucampo Pharmaceutical and Vice President of Global Regulatory Affairs at Vtesse. In these roles, Dr. Johnson led global regulatory strategy and implementation for rare disease development programs targeting Niemann-Pick Type C disease (NPC). He also served as Director, Global Regulatory Affairs for Rare Diseases and Gene Therapies at GlaxoSmithKline working on the international team for the European approval of the gene therapy Strimvelis® for ADA-SCID.
Dr. Johnson earned a PhD in neurobiology from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and an MBA from the Kenan-Flagler School of Business, also at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. He completed a B.S. in chemistry from the University of South Florida.
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Joelle Lufkin, MPH
Senior Vice President of Development
Ms. Lufkin brings more than 20 years of global experience overseeing all phases of clinical trials and drug development across multiple therapeutic areas to Imara. She is an accomplished leader who has driven the advancement of programs from clinical proof of concept through regulatory approval.
Before joining Imara, Ms. Lufkin held multiple roles during more than seven years at Flexion Therapeutics, most recently as Vice President of Clinical Development overseeing clinical operations, data management, biostatistics and medical writing across the company’s pipeline programs. At Flexion, she led the clinical development program for Zilretta® from the product’s investigational new drug (IND) application through approval by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Previously, she served in clinical operations and clinical trials management roles of increasing responsibility at Synta Pharmaceuticals and Cubist Pharmaceuticals.
Ms. Lufkin earned her B.S. in biology from the University of Massachusetts Amherst and her M.P.H. from Boston University School of Public Health.
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Eleanor Lisbon, MD, MPH
Vice President of Clinical Development
Dr. Lisbon served as the Senior Medical Director within the Hematology and Oncology Division of the Data Sciences, Safety and Regulatory Team at IQVIA for four years. In that position, Dr. Lisbon served as a Global Medical Advisor on Phase 1-3 clinical trials, including pediatric, adolescent and adult patients in sickle cell anemia and other benign hematologic disorders. For eight years, she was a Principal Investigator in Phase 1 trials, and her area of expertise is high-risk biologics, dose escalation and first-in-human trials. Prior to IQVIA, Dr. Lisbon was on the faculty at the University of Kansas for 10 years. She has co-authored several publications in peer-reviewed journals, including in the New England Journal of Medicine in 2012. Dr. Lisbon earned her M.D. and B.S. in zoology from Howard University. She also completed her residency training and M.P.H. at the University of Kansas.
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Farah Natoli, MS
Vice President of Program Management
Ms. Natoli brings to Imara more than 20 years of experience in drug development, with a focus on cross-functional program management. Previously, Ms. Natoli served as the Executive Director of Program and Alliance Leadership and the Humanitarian Aid Program at Bioverativ Inc., a multinational biotechnology company specializing in therapies for the treatment of hemophilia. Prior to that, she led strategic and operational teams as Director of Program Management at AMAG Pharmaceuticals, Inc. and as Associate Director of Program and Alliance Management at FORUM Pharmaceuticals and Shire plc. Ms. Natoli earned her M.S. in natural sciences from the State University of New York at Buffalo and bachelor’s degrees in biology-chemistry and medical technology from Elmira College.
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Vice President of Quality Assurance
Ms. Rau is an accomplished quality executive with 20 years of leadership experience guiding drug development from early-stage R&D through commercialization. Previously serving as Vice President of Global Quality at Sucampo Pharmaceuticals, Inc., Ms. Rau led the quality management system across the company’s domestic and international sites to support product development activities and commercial products. Prior to that, she held roles of increasing responsibility at Prometheus Laboratories, Inc., before moving on to develop and lead the execution of quality strategy at Auspex Pharmaceuticals, Inc. as Vice President of Quality and Quality Assurance. Ms. Rau earned her B.A. in biology from the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill and completed a regulatory affairs certification in medical devices and pharmaceuticals from the Regulatory Affairs Professional Society.
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Frank Waligora, MBA
Vice President of Technical Operations
Mr. Waligora comes to Imara from Curis, Inc., where he served as Vice President of Chemistry, Manufacturing and Controls (CMC) since 2015. In this role he led the development, manufacturing and distribution of several small molecule oncology products for the company’s clinical trials. In previous roles, Mr. Waligora held positions of increasing responsibility for chemical development and production of drug substances and drug products. He earned his M.B.A. from Northeastern University and his B.S. in chemistry from Rochester Institute of Technology.
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Board of Directors
David M. Mott, Chairman
General Partner, New Enterprise Associates
Dave Mott joined New Enterprise Associates in September 2008 as a General Partner primarily focused on biopharmaceutical investments. Dave leads NEA’s healthcare investing practice which typically comprises 30% to 40% of each fund, or roughly $750 million to $1 billion of healthcare venture investments every three to four years. The firm invests across all stages and geographies and is a leading investor across all healthcare sectors.
Prior to joining NEA, Dave was President and Chief Executive Officer of MedImmune, subsidiary of AstraZeneca Plc, and Executive Vice President of AstraZeneca. Dave joined MedImmune in 1992 and served in roles of increasing responsibility including Chief Operating Officer, Chief Financial Officer, President and from 2000 – 2008 Chief Executive Officer as the company grew from a venture-backed startup (founded in 1988) into one of the top five biotechnology companies in the world. Ultimately, he led the sale of MedImmune to AstraZeneca in June 2007 for $15.6 billion. In 2002, Dave founded MedImmune Ventures and chaired its investment committee through his departure from MedImmune. At the time of his departure in July 2008, MedImmune had annual revenues in excess of $1.5 billion, annual R&D in excess of $650 million and approximately 3,000 employees. Prior to joining MedImmune, Dave was a Vice President in Health Care Investment Banking at Smith Barney, Harris Upham & Co., Inc. where he focused on public and private equity and debt financings as well as mergers and acquisitions. He received a bachelor of arts degree in economics and government from Dartmouth College.
Dave is currently Chairman of 3-V Biosciences, Ardelyx, Cydan, Mersana, Prosensa, TESARO, and Zyngenia and is a director of Adaptimmune, Edimer Pharmaceuticals, and Epizyme. He has previously been a director of MedImmune, Shire Pharmaceuticals, Ambit Pharmaceuticals, Omthera Pharmaceuticals, Rib-X Pharmaceuticals and Conceptis.
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Mette Kirstine Agger, MBA
Managing Partner, Lundbeckfond Ventures
Mette Kirstine was previously co-founder and CEO of 7TM Pharma A/S and has a broad international experience within biotech/life science covering business development and licensing, management and financing. Prior to founding 7TM Pharma, Mette was part of the management team of NeuroSearch A/S responsible for business development and licensing. She started her career as Patent Agent and has over the years co-founded several biotech companies. Mette has been appointed to numerous board positions both in private and public companies. Mette Kirstine Agger graduated as Biologist from the University of Copenhagen and has an MBA.
Mette is a board member of Cydan Development, Psioxus, scPharmaceuticals, Thesan Pharmaceuticals, Veloxis and Vtesse.
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Rahul D. Ballal, PhD
Chief Executive Officer
Dr. Ballal is CEO of Imara and has more than 15 years of life sciences experience in business development, strategic partnerships, venture capital, and company financing. He joined from Northern Biologics and Versant Ventures where he was Chief Business Officer and an Entrepreneur-in-Residence, respectively. At Northern, he built a first-in-class immuno-oncology portfolio, led a broad strategic partnership with Celgene, and managed several key functional roles at the executive level. At Versant, he negotiated foundational assets for existing portfolio and new companies, sourced several new deals, and participated in investment team activities. Previously, Dr. Ballal was Vice President, Business Development at Flexion Therapeutics, where he led several business development transactions, supported multiple functions during the initial public offering, and completed a key $175MM strategic partnership with Patheon UK, for dedicated commercial manufacturing. Prior to Flexion, he held business development and leadership positions at Novartis Venture Fund; Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard; and Redmind Inc. Dr. Ballal earned a Bachelor’s degree in Biology from Brown University, a Master’s degree in Bioinformatics from Johns Hopkins University and a Ph.D. in Biochemistry from Georgetown University. He is also a Kauffman Fellow.
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David Bonita, MD
Partner at Orbimed Advisors
Dr. David Bonita has more than 15 years of investment and financial experience with private equity and investment banking companies. He is currently a private equity partner at OrbiMed. Prior to OrbiMed, Dr. Bonita worked as a corporate finance analyst in the healthcare investment banking groups of Morgan Stanley and UBS. He has published scientific articles in peer-reviewed journals based on signal transduction research performed at the Harvard Medical School. Dr. Bonita received his bachelor of arts degree magna cum laude in biological sciences from Harvard University and his joint medical doctorate/master of business administration from Columbia University where he was elected to the Alpha Omega Alpha Medical Honor Society and Beta Gamma Sigma Business Honor Society.
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Mark Chin, MS, MBA
Investment Director at Arix Bioscience
Mark Chin, investment manager at Arix Bioscience, currently sits on the board of Iterum Therapeutics, Harpoon Therapeutics and OptiKira. He was previously a principal at Longitude Capital, where he focused on investments in both private and public biotechnology and medical technology companies. Prior to Longitude, Chin was a consultant at the Boston Consulting Group, where he was responsible for strategy and corporate development projects for pharmaceutical and biotechnology companies. Before BCG, he worked in corporate development at Gilead Sciences and market planning at Genentech. Chin has an MBA from The Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania, an MS in Biotechnology from the University of Pennsylvania, and a BS in Management Science from the University of California at San Diego.
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Barbara J. Dalton, PhD
Vice President of Venture Capital, Pfizer Venture Investments
Barbara Dalton joined Pfizer in 2007 to manage the Pfizer Ventures Investments team within Worldwide Business Development. She is responsible for growing their corporate venture activities, managing the corporation's private equity portfolio, advising on structured equity transactions and driving novel transactions to achieve corporate objectives. Dr. Dalton has more than 20 years of corporate venture capital experience in the pharmaceutical industry supporting and managing teams involved in indirect and direct health care investments in more than 40 funds and over 100 companies in the U.S. and Europe. She has had direct investing responsibility for biotechnology therapeutic and platform companies, as well as some healthcare IT and service businesses. She is currently on the board of Cydan, Vtesse, Ixchelsis, The Accelerator Crop, Petra and Lodo and supports several other PVI portfolio companies as a board observer. Dr. Dalton began her pharmaceutical career as a research scientist in immunology at SmithKline and French Laboratories and joined their venture capital group, SR One, Limited in the early 1990's. She was also a founding member and General Partner with EuclidSR Partners, a private venture capital firm, where SmithKline (now GSK) was a leading limited partner.
Dr. Dalton has also been supportive of the many regional and national organizations encouraging innovative startups in health care. She chaired the Philadelphia regional venture investors association, (fka the MAC Alliance), and has been a member of the National Venture Capital Association Board. She also supported the venture philanthropy efforts of the Institute for the Study of Ageing as a Board member. Currently she is the chair of the advisory board for the health care sector of the New York City Investment Fund and an advisor to the Dean of the Eberly College of Science, at Penn State where she received her undergraduate degree. She received a PhD in microbiology and immunology from The Medical College of Pennsylvania (now the Drexel University College of Medical School).
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Carl Goldfischer, MD
Managing Director, Bay City Capital
Carl Goldfischer, MD, is a Managing Director of Bay City Capital, and has been with the firm since 2000. He has invested across all subsectors within the life sciences industry and his expertise spans both private and public markets. In addition, he brings deep operational experience in finance, clinical trial development, and clinical medicine.
During his career, Dr. Goldfischer has lead and served on the board of directors of innumerable public and private companies including: Epizyme, MAP Pharmaceuticals, Oculex, Cymabay, Cydan and Pharmakea. Most recently his was the founder and is Executive Chairman of Bridge Medicines, a novel partnership between Bay City Capital, Memorial Sloan Kettering, Rockefeller University, Weill Cornell Medicine and Takeda Pharmaceutical Company. This novel partnership aims to take programs from the universities laboratories, seamlessly through human proof of concept.
Prior to joining Bay City Capital, Dr. Goldfischer was Chief Financial Officer of publicly traded biotech company ImClone Systems where he oversaw financial operations and strategic planning. Previously, he was a Health Care Research Analyst with the Reliance Insurance Company and was a Director of Research at D. Blech & Co. He began his career as a radiation oncologist at Montefiore Hospital, part of the Albert Einstein College of Medicine. Dr. Goldfischer received an MD with honors in Scientific Research from Albert Einstein College of Medicine and a BA from Sarah Lawrence College.
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James McArthur, PhD
Founder of Imara and President, R&D of Cydan II, Inc.
Dr. James McArthur brings 25 years experience in drug development. He is a founder of 4 companies, has 25 publications in leading journals and over 15 patents in rare diseases, gene therapy, oncology and immunology.
James is a founder, a member of the Board of Directors and was CEO of Imara, the second spinout of Cydan, developing IMR-687 for the treatment or rare hemoglobinopathies. He was also a founder of Cydan’s spinout developing therapies for Niemann Pick type C, Vtesse, which was acquired by Sucampo, and serves as a member of the Board of Directors of Nightstar Therapeutics, a public company focused on developing gene therapies for rare retinal diseases. He also serves as a member of the Board of Directors and Scientific Advisory Board of the Friedreich’s Ataxia Research Alliance (FARA) a leading patient advocacy group (www.curefa.com).
Before co-founding Imara in 2016, Vtesse in 2015 and Cydan in 2013, James was an entrepreneur-in-residence at HealthCare Ventures. There he helped create and then served as Chief Scientific Officer of Synovex Co., where he invented and led the development of SDP051 a treatment for rheumatoid arthritis. Synovex, renamed Adheron, was acquired by Roche and SDP051 is in a Phase 2c study in treatment refractory RA patients.
Previously, he was vice president of preclinical development for Phylogix Inc, a stem cell biology company, and acting head of research and Principal Scientist at Cell Genesys Inc, a leader in gene therapy. He also was a Senior Scientist at Somatix Therapy, which was acquired by Cell Genesys.
He obtained a PhD in biochemistry and oncology at McGill University of Montreal, and was a post doctoral fellow studying Immunology at Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Cambridge and the University of California at Berkeley.
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Sara Nayeem, MD
Partner, New Enterprise Associates
Sara joined NEA's healthcare team in 2009 and focuses on investments in biopharmaceutical companies. She serves on the boards of Mersana, Cydan, Vtesse and Therachon, and as a board observer for Loxo Oncology (LOXO), Ziarco, Clementia, Millendo, and NightstaRx. She previously served as a board observer for Tesaro (TSRO), Epizyme (EPZM), Omthera (acquired by AstraZeneca), and Zyngenia. She has also been involved in NEA’s investments in Prosensa (acquired by BioMarin), 3-V Biosciences, Edimer, XTuit, and Proteostasis.
Prior to joining NEA, Sara was an Associate with Merrill Lynch’s Global Healthcare Group, where she advised biotechnology, pharmaceutical and medical device companies on numerous mergers, acquisitions and financing transactions. Previously, she worked as an Investment Banking Analyst at Morgan Stanley. She has conducted basic science research in mammalian cardiac development and clinical research in age-related macular degeneration.
Sara concurrently earned her MD (cum laude) and MBA from Yale University, where she was a Yale MBA Scholar. She received her AB (magna cum laude) in Biology from Harvard University.
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John Cassidy, PhD, Board Observer
Investment Associate at Arix Bioscience
Matt Hammond, PhD, Board Observer
Principal at RA Capital
Joel S. Marcus, PhD, Board Observer
Chairman, Chief Executive Officer & Founder, Alexandria Real Estate Equities, Inc.