Wataru Akahata, Ph.D., Co-Founder, Chief Executive 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.
Jonathan F. Smith, Ph.D., Chief Scientific Officer
Dr. Smith joined the Company in 2019 and oversees science development at VLP Therapeutics. He has over thirty-five years of experience in basic virology, infectious disease research, and vaccine development, and over 100 publications, 35 issued patents, and additional pending patents in these fields. His collective experiences further include establishing research and development collaborations between industry, government, and academic laboratories.
Prior to his recent appointment as Chief Scientific Officer at VLP Therapeutics, he served as VP for Development Operations and Research at ClearPath Vaccines, a company funded by Astellas Pharma to develop a multivalent, bioconjugate vaccine for Klebsiella and Pseudomonas. Prior to ClearPath Vaccines, he served as the Executive Vice President and Chief Scientific Officer of PaxVax, Inc. from 2012 to 2019. In 2014, the company acquired Vivotif, a live typhoid vaccine currently licensed in over 29 countries, and in 2015, PaxVax completed phase 3 studies and submitted a BLA for a live cholera vaccine licensed from the University of Maryland. Subsequent to a preapproval inspection by the FDA of the PaxVax GMP manufacturing facilities (with no 483 findings), the FDA licensed the cholera vaccine (Vaxchora) in 2016 and also provided PaxVax with a Priority Review Voucher. PaxVax also had clinical stage vaccine programs for HIV, influenza, chikungunya, and anthrax, and preclinical programs for Zika virus. PaxVax was acquired by Emergent Biosolutions (EBSI) in 2018.
Before joining PaxVax, he was the Chief Scientific Officer of Liquidia Technologies, a clinical stage company in the Research Triangle Park in North Carolina that is commercializing a unique nanoparticle technology capable of generating monodisperse particles of predetermined size, shape, and composition. Here he was responsible for basic and applied research as well as development programs focused on new approaches to protein, polysaccharide, and RNA-vectored vaccines.