Dr. Wataru Akahata, Ph.D., Co-Founder, Chief Executive Officer and Chief Scientific Officer
Prior to founding VLP Therapeutics, Dr. Akahata was a senior researcher at the Vaccine Research Center, National Institutes of Health (NIH). While working at NIH, he gained over 10 years of experience in vaccine development
against emerging infectious disease such as HIV, influenza and alphaviruses. Most notably, Dr. Akahata invented the ckikungunya virus (CHIKV) virus like particle vaccine, which is now under the Phase I trial at NIH. Dr. Akahata was also engaged in the collaboration research with organizations such as the U.S. Army, WHO and other universities involved in the emerging infectious diseases. Dr. Akahata’s research efforts led to a number of patents and CRADA agreement with a major pharmaceutical company and he also received NIH Director’s Award for his work in the development of alphavirus vaccines.
After leaving NIH, Dr. Akahata founded VLP Therapeutics, LLC to focus on developing new generation of vaccines to treat the diseases that lack effective treatments. Dr. Akahata received Ph.D. in Human and Environmental Studies from Graduate School, Kyoto University.
Dr. Ryuji Ueno, M.D., Ph.D., Co-founder, Chair and Chief Medical Officer
Dr. Ueno is an internationally recognized researcher in pharmacology, physiology and the biochemistry of endogenic functional fatty acids and their related compounds. Trained and certified as a Medical Doctor at Keio University School of Medicine in Japan, Dr. Ueno
spent his academic career in the fields of pharmacology, physiology and biochemistry at Columbia University (USA), Kyoto University (Japan), Osaka University (Japan) and Stanford University (USA). As a leading expert in his field, Dr. Ueno has authored more than 100 articles in notable scientific journals.
In the 1980s, Dr. Ueno started pharmaceutical development based on his research with prostones, a class of functional fatty acids whose tremendous therapeutic potential Dr. Ueno first discovered. This class of lipids is the subject of over 900 patents and patent applications worldwide. After 10 years of biomedical research, Dr. Ueno, together with Dr. Sachiko Kuno, established R-Tech Ueno, Ltd., their first biopharmaceutical company, in Japan to engage in the research and development of new chemical substances discovered by him. Their first product, Rescula®‚ an anti-glaucoma treatment, was successfully commercialized in Japan in 1994. Since then, Rescula® Eye Drops have been sold in more than 45 countries and have treated more than 500,000 patients since its launch. R-Tech Ueno in 2008 completed its IPO and is today listed on JASDAQ (Code: 4573).
Leveraging the success in Japan, Dr. Ueno, together with Dr. Kuno, moved to the U.S. and established Sucampo Pharmaceuticals, Inc. in 1996 to bring his discoveries to the American markets. At Sucampo, Drs successfully developed and commercialized the second product , AMITIZA® (lubiprostone), for the treatment of chronic idiopathic constipation in adults, for the treatment of irritable bowel syndrome with constipation and for opioid-induced constipation in 2006, 2008 and 2013 respectively. Today, AMITIZA® (lubiprostone) is available on the market in Japan and Europe. In 2007, Sucampo filed for IPO and is today listed and traded on NASDAQ. Dr. Ueno served as Chair, Chief Executive Officer and Chief Medical Officer of Sucampo until he stepped down in spring 2014 to focus his effort on VLP Therapeutics.
Dr. Ueno has received numerous awards and recognitions over the years. These include: Nikkei BP Publications’ Japan Innovator of the Year Award (2006), the Ernst and Young Entrepreneur of the Year Award for the Greater Washington Area in the Life Sciences Category (2006), an honorary member of the American Gastroenterological Association (2008), and the Foundation Fighting Blindness Visionary Award (2014).
Dr. Sachiko Kuno, Ph.D., Co-Founder
Dr. Sachiko Kuno studied biochemistry and biochemical engineering as one of a few Japanese female scientists. She obtained her Ph.D. in biochemical engineering from Kyoto University, Japan and has conducted post-doctoral research at the Technical University of Munich, Germany.
In the mid-80s, Dr. Kuno joined her partner, Dr. Ryuji Ueno, and established R-Tech Ueno Ltd. in Japan to commercialize prostones, a class of functional fatty acids whose therapeutic potential was first identified by Dr. Ueno. Leading teams of talented scientists, Drs. Ueno and Kuno unlocked the therapeutic potential of prostones, and successfully developed and launched Rescula® eye drops, their first product in Japan.
Leveraging R-Tech’s success in Japan, Dr. Kuno and Dr. Ueno moved to Bethesda MD and established Sucampo Pharmaceuticals, Inc. Dr. Kuno served as a founding CEO of Sucampo. She was instrumental not only in the research and development of the second product AMITIZA® (lubiprostone), but also successfully raising capital to commercialize AMITIZA®, including IPO in 2007, and enter into strategic partnership with major pharmaceutical companies. Sucampo received marketing approval from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for AMITIZA® (lubiprostone) for the treatment of chronic idiopathic constipation in adults, irritable bowel syndrome with constipation and opioid-induced constipation in adults with chronic non-cancer pain in 2006, 2008 and 2013 respectively and subsequently received regulatory approval in Switzerland, United Kingdom and Japan.
Dr. Kuno has received a number of awards and recognitions over the years. These include the Ernst and Young Entrepreneur of the Year Award for the Greater Washington Area in the Life Sciences Category (2007), recognition as one of the 25 “Women Who Mean Business” by The Washington Business Journal (2009). She has also been named in the Forbes Magazine’s Top 50 America’s Richest Self Made Women (2015) and the World’s 100 Most Powerful Women by Forbes Japan (2015).
Ms. Kei Tolliver, Esq., Co-Founder and General Counsel
Ms. Tolliver joined Sucampo in May of 1998 as the first full-time employee of the company. She assisted Dr. Ueno and Dr. Kuno to launch the U.S. operations of the company. Since May 2002, Ms. Tolliver has worked as Associate Director of Business Development
and was mostly involved in the group’s global operations in Japan and Europe, including General Manager of Sucampo Pharma Europe to set up the Group’s European operations. Ms. Tolliver re-joined Sucampo Pharmaceuticals as Director of Business Development in October 2004. She was closely involved in the company’s major transactions, which include the Initial Public Offering and acquisition of the overseas affiliates in the U.K. and Japan. She became VP of Business Development before leaving Sucampo in 2008 to pursue her long-time goal of obtaining a law degree. She returned to Sucampo as a Board of Director in May 2013.
While working full-time, Ms. Tolliver studied law at Columbus School of Law at Catholic University in Washington D.C., and received her Juris Doctor degree with honors in May 2013. She was a member of the Catholic University Law Review. Mr. Tolliver has been a member of Maryland Bar since December 2013. In 2015, Ms. Tolliver launched her own law practice and is providing legal counsel to start-ups and entrepreneurs leveraging her business experience in working for and growing the start-ups.
Ms. Misako Nakata, Co-Founder, IP Counsel
Ms. Nakata has been in charge of intellectual property under the direction of Dr. Ueno and Dr. Kuno since early 1990. After their establishment of Sucampo, she contributed the strategic IP protection for Sucampo and played an important role in the global business expansion
before her resignation from Sucampo in October 2016. During the time, she appointed a board of Sucampo’s Japan entity in September 2003, and appointed a representative director of Sucampo’s Japan entity in July 2004, and she contributed the R&D, alliance and commercialization of AMITIZA ® (lubiprostone). Also she worked for 6 years as a General Marketing Supervisor of the first-class marketing authorization holder in Japan.
Now she is a board member of the related company as well as an independent consultant providing IP counsel with her wide experiences.