Imagine is led by a seasoned management team with extensive management, drug development, cell therapy and diabetes experience. The team’s clinical experience is the cornerstone for the company’s focus on products that may dramatically improve patient experience and outcomes.
Dr. Thai is currently the Chief of Transplantation Surgery and Interim System Chair of the Department of Surgery at the Allegheny Health Network in Pittsburgh, PA. He is also a founder of Imagine Pharma, an innovative start-up utilizing regenerative medicine in the comprehensive treatment of diabetes and all of its complications.
After completing his fellowship, Dr. Thai assumed the Directorship of Pancreas Transplant at UPMC and built the program into one of the busiest and best in the world – establishing steroid-free immunosuppression in pancreas transplant and introducing novel induction therapy in transplants. He was the inaugural holder of the John Fung Chair for Transplant Surgery at UPMC. Observing the reversal of diabetic symptoms in brittle diabetic patients with functioning grafts, Dr. Thai came to understand that diabetes is not merely a disease of insulin but that there may other factors at play. He developed an enduring commitment to the treatment of diabetes at that time.
Dr. Thai later joined Allegheny General Hospital where he successfully started a liver transplant program, which has since grown in the last ten years. He was a critical clinical leader in the development of the Allegheny Health Network, a consortium of eight hospitals formed in the merger between Allegheny General Hospital (and others) with Highmark Health three years ago.
Dr. Thai is a graduate of Cornell University (AB Biology) and completed his MD/PhD at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine. His PhD was in Transplant Immunology in the lab of Thomas E. Starzl, MD, PhD, who was known as the Father of Transplantation and was his close mentor. After completing his residency at Strong Memorial Hospital at the University of Rochester under Seymour Schwartz MD, he returned to Pittsburgh to complete a Transplantation Surgery Fellowship at the Thomas E. Starzl Transplantation Institute.
Dr. Jonathan Pollett is the Chief Scientific Officer of Imagine Pharma, where he uses his knowledge of cell biology and tissue regeneration to help develop IMG-1, a novel biologic for the treatment of various cardiovascular and endothelial-based diseases.
In 2004, Dr. Pollett moved to Pittsburgh, where he dedicated the majority of his post-doctoral studies to understanding how cells differentiate and to improve tissue regeneration by combining a cell and molecular approach to tissue regeneration. In 2007, Dr. Pollett became an Assistant Professor in the Department of Orthopaedics at the University of Pittsburgh in association with the University of Pittsburgh Cancer Institute (UPCI), and the Director of the Stem Cell Ecology and Cancer Lab at the Stem Cell Research Center, Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh, where he furthered his studies in stem cells, differentation and tissue regeneration.
In 2011, Dr. Pollett moved to the Allegheny-Singer Research Institue (ASRI), and became an Associate Professor at the Allegheny Health Network (AHN), and the Gerald McGinnis Cardiovascular Institute Center for Research and Innovation. He later developed a novel method for obtaining, recovering, and culturing pulmonary arterial endothelial cells from an individual patient.This work was since patented and is currently being used for the diagnosis of Pulmonary Hypertension patients.
In 1995, Pollett completed his undergraduate degree in Biology from Queen’s University in Kingston, Ontario, Canada and his Master’s degree in Pathology from Queen’s under Dr. Chris Mueller. He then recieved his Ph.D. from the University of Toronto in 1998, under the guidance of Dr. Keith Stewart. where he focused on gene transfer and viral vectorology. He was instructed on adenovirus generation and design in Dr. Frank Graham’s lab at McMaster University (Hamilton, Ontario, Canada) and retroviral vectorology by Dr. Robert Hawley (now at George Washington University, Washington, DC). While at Dr. Stewart’s lab, he was instructed to generate a treatment for Multiple Myeloma (MM), an incurable B-cell neoplasia. Dr. Pollett generated both an anti-sense oligonucleotide/chemotherapy approach and a novel RU486-inducible retrovirus to overexpress caspase-3 for the treatment of this disease. He won a junior investigator award from Berlex Inc. and multiple graduate student scholarships for his work.
Dr. Rita Bottino leads Imagine Pharma’s Islet Programs. Under her leadership, Imagine Pharma has successfully developed AIPCs (Activated Islet Proliferating Cells), a novel cell population from isolated human islets that can generate both insulin and glucagon. In addition, Rita has developed an islet isolation and tissue processing practice that supplies some of the leading academic diabetes centers in the U.S., including Vanderbilt University, University of Florida, Columbia University, and the University of Pittsburgh.
Prior to joining Imagine Pharma, Dr. Bottino led a team at the Allegheny Health Network that was one of the first to successfully process pancreatic islets for hospitals, including the Cleveland Clinic. That research was conducted in collaboration with Stanford University, Vanderbilt University, University of Massachusetts, Mount Sinai School of Medicine, New York, and the Network for Pancreatic Organ Donors with Diabetes.
Dr. Bottino has served as an associate professor in the Department of Pediatrics at the University of Pittsburgh, the Department of Biological Sciences at Carnegie Mellon University, and the department of Microbiology and Immunology at Drexel University College of Medicine. She received a diploma of science from the Scientific Lyceum in Genova, Italy, in 1984, and a doctorate in biological sciences from the University of Genova in 1990.
Dr. Bottino is extensively published in leading scientific journals and publications, and was recently recognized as one of the top 10 leading experts in Islet of Langerhans transplantation worldwide during the years 2012-2022.
Kristin brings nearly 30 years of experience in the pharmaceutical industry, from both a scientific and legal perspective, to her role as General Counsel. At Imagine Pharma, Kristin provides strategic legal advice to management, oversees the development of Imagine’s IP portfolio, and sets internal standards and compliance policies for the company.
Prior to joining Imagine, Kristin was a partner at Offit Kurman, a regional full-service law firm, where her practice encompassed all aspects of intellectual property law, commercial agreements and business transactions, with a primary focus on the life sciences, technology and renewable energy industries.
Kristin began her academic and scientific career at the University of Michigan and Parke-Davis (later acquired by Pfizer) in Ann Arbor, Michigan. During her many years as a research scientist, she focused on developing therapies for the treatment of atherosclerosis and was a member of a start-up biotech company focused on developing early-stage cancer detection and diagnostic tools.
Her scientific achievements include:
- Investigated the ability of liposomes to restore endothelial function and facilitate reverse cholesterol transport in an Apo E knock-out mouse model.
- Determined the metabolic effects of liposomes on hepatic enzymes and cholesterol homeostasis in both a rabbit and mouse model.
- Independently cloned the human enzyme chondroitin 6-sulfotransferase.
Kristin is active in her community, serving on the Boards of Brandon’s Voice and the Wayne Wildcats Football Association, as well as the PTO of her son’s school. She is an active member of Women in Bio, AIPLA and LES.
Kristin has undergraduate and graduate degrees in Biochemistry. She received her J.D. in 2004 and is currently admitted in Pennsylvania and the U.S. District Court for Eastern District of Pennsylvania. Kristin is also a Registered patent attorney.
Santiago has led Imagine Pharma since its inception in 2016, and brings over 30 years of entrepreneurial and executive management experience to the position. At Imagine Pharma, Santiago oversees the strategic direction of the firm, as well as the day-to-day operations.
As the co-chief executive officer at Zer0 to 5ive, a strategic marketing and communications firm, Santiago is responsible for the growth and strategic direction of the Company and its offices in New York, Philadelphia, and Pittsburgh, as well as providing strategic counsel to key clients.
At Zer0 to 5ive, Santiago has worked with notable industry leaders, including Apple, Pearson, OraSure Technologies, Omnyx/GE Healthcare, and Optimum Lightpath/Cablevision, as well as biopharmaceutical startups, including Stat3, Logical Therapeutics, Egalet, and Corridor, among others, to help define and implement their communications and go-to-market strategies.
Prior to Zer0 to 5ive, Santiago served as president of Wesdyne International, a wholly owned subsidiary of Westinghouse Electric Company and the largest worldwide robotics inspection company in the industry. At Wesdyne, he grew the business to over $100 million in revenue and established the company’s strategic direction, resulting in significant increases in both market share and profitability. Before Wesdyne, Santiago was President of CATCO, a software development joint venture between Westinghouse and Electricite de France, where under his leadership, the company attained over 90% market share in its segment.
Santiago is also active in the community, serving on the boards of Flite, Council on Relationships and the Suburban Seahawks Club. In 2011, along with his wife, The Devon Horse Show named him Volunteer of the Year. He also serves on the board of The National Museum of Bermuda and the Leadership Committee of the Institute for Student Achievement.
Santiago has a BS in Industrial Management and Mathematics from Carnegie Mellon University and an MS in Industrial Administration from CMU’s Tepper School of Business.
Mr. Robert Cawthorn has 50 years of experience in the management and board oversight of pharmaceutical and biotech companies. He was Chairman and CEO of Rhône Poulenc Rorer, now part of Sanofi, having previously been the first President of Biogen. He also held senior management positions in Pfizer International and was Managing Director of Global Health Care Partners, advisors to DLJ Merchant Banking’s buy out funds. Latterly he founded several start-ups and was on the board of several health care companies, including Chairman of Actelion. He is currently Chairman of Biodesix and of Heartland Water Technologies.
Rob holds a BA degree in Agriculture from Cambridge University and lives in Bermuda and France.
Philip J. Larsen is the Chief Scientific Officer at Grünenthal GmbH. Previously, he served for six years as Sanofi’s Global Head of Diabetes Research and the Chief Scientific Officer for the German Hub. Philip is an MD PhD from the University of Copenhagen. In addition, Philip holds a Doctor of Medicine degree from the University of Copenhagen. After four years of medical practice (internal medicine, neurology) he went from academic medicine to life sciences industry. Philip has 20 years of pharmaceutical and biotechnology industry experience primarily gained in the field of diabetes and obesity. After few years of work at NovoNordisk and Zealand Pharma, Philip co-founded the Danish biotechnology company Rheoscience in 2001 also concentrating on obesity and diabetes. In 2008, Philip took up a position as chief scientific officer for diabetes research at Eli Lilly. In this role, he continued and expanded his involvement in diabetes discovery projects.
Philip has served in his current role at Grünenthal since July 2018, where he is directing the R&D organization. At Sanofi, Philip was accountable for Sanofi’s discovery and early clinical strategy for diabetes (type 1 as well type 2) and related metabolic disorders (obesity, diabetes complications – predominantly macrovascular, NASH, and nephropathy).
Piotr Witkowski, MD, PhD is a transplant surgeon and Professor of Surgery at the Transplant Institute at University of Chicago He has served as a director of Pancreatic Islet and Pancreas Transplantation Program at the same institution. He is a national and international leader in the field of islet transplantation. He has been a primary investigator and co-investigator of several clinical trials involving pancreatic islet all and auto-transplantation. He has participated in the Collaborative Islet Transplantation Registry funded by the NIH and member of the International Pancreas and Islet Transplantation Association. He has been also led efforts to update the regulations related to cadaveric islet transplantation organizing the Islets for US Collaborative. He also served on Pancreas and Islet UNOS Committee updating policies related to pancreas and islet transplantation.
He also serves as a Director of the American Society of Transplant Surgeon Abdominal Transplant Fellowship Program.
John Paul Midolo has nearly 15 years of experience in healthcare, research and development, and administering complex national programs. He is currently the Managing Partner and Founder of Midolo Consulting, LLC, a consulting firm focused on providing an array of services, including scientific and clinical advisement, internal and external due diligence, regulatory review and strategy development, program development, and implementation strategies.
Before venturing into the world of consulting, John devoted nearly a decade to public service within the Department of Veterans Affairs [VA]. He held pivotal roles, making substantial contributions to various aspects of the organization.
From 2015 to 2018, John served as the Administrative Officer for Research at the Ralph H. Johnson VA Medical Center in Charleston, South Carolina, John provided leadership and strategic vision for the research enterprise. He played an instrumental role in recruiting renowned researchers and expanding the research funding to over $28M in FY2017. He served as an advisor to hospital management and was actively involved in VA's Field Research Advisory Committee and Executive Leadership Committee for Research.
From 2011 to 2015, John managed multiple national programs in Washington D.C. for the VA’s Office of Research and Development [ORD]. As the program coordinator and portfolio manager for the Quality Enhancement Research Initiative (QUERI), John oversaw the management of the Rapid Response Proposal portfolio, ensuring fiscal stewardship, and coordinating the Partnered Research Initiative for QUERI. His work significantly contributed to the enhancement of implementation science and productivity in collaboration with various VA Program Office partners. He was then appointed as the Scientific Merit Review Program Manager for the Health Services Research and Development [HSR&D] program. He was responsible for reviewing all program activities as well as providing crucial scientific and technical consultation to field investigators, Center Directors, and inter-agency partners. In FY2014, the budget for this program was $90M.
John earned his Bachelor of Science in Biology from the University of Miami in Coral Gables, Florida, and a Master of Public Health in Behavioral Science and Community Health from the University of Florida in Gainesville, Florida.
Prof. Jason K. Kim, Ph.D. is a leading expert in diabetes research and mouse metabolism, and he is the Program Director of National Mouse Metabolic Phenotyping Center at UMass, which is funded by the National Institutes of Health (www.mmpc.org). His research program has investigated more than 400 transgenic mouse models of human diseases and has collaborated with numerous academic researchers and pharmaceutical industries worldwide in a joint effort to understand the etiology of diabetes and its complications, and to identify potential therapeutic targets. Dr. Kim’s research has advanced our understanding of important biological events and continues to contribute toward finding a cure for diabetes.
Dr. Kim has conducted research for more than 25 years, specifically focussing on obesity, insulin resistance, and type 2 diabetes. To date, he has contributed 148 peer-reviewed publications to the field, mostly in high-impact journals such as Science, Nature, and Cell. Over the past decade, he has largely explored the molecular link between inflammation and insulin resistance as well as cytokine regulation of glucose metabolism using sophisticated in vivo experiments and molecular approaches.
Dr. Kim is currently a Professor of Molecular Medicine and Professor of Medicine in the Division of Endocrinology, Metabolism, and Diabetes at the University of Massachusetts Medical School. Also, Dr. Kim is an Adjunct Professor at Seoul National University in South Korea and on the Advisory Board for the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, University of Hawaii, and Hong Kong University. He received his Bachelors of Science in Biology from the University of California Irvine and his Ph.D. in Physiology and Biophysics from the University of Southern California School of Medicine.
Dr. Thai, M.D., Ph.D., has been the Chief Medical Officer at REMD Biotherapeutics since June 2016. Prior to REMD, he held leadership roles at different companies including, Atara, Arresto, Anza Biotherapeutics, and Gilead Sciences, where he led the development of protein therapeutics in metabolism, oncology, infectious diseases, and fibrotic diseases. He began his industry career at Amgen where he worked in early clinical development and metabolic disorder and initiated the first in human study of REMD-477.
Zung is Board Certified in Internal Medicine. He earned an A.B. from Cornell University and his M.D. and Ph.D. in pharmacology from the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine. He was a fellow and clinical instructor in the Department of Clinical Pharmacology at the University of California, San Francisco. Zung was a post-doctoral fellow at the University of California, Berkeley and Carnegie Mellon University.
Michael Hufford, PhD is a Co-Founder and the Chief Executive Officer of LyGenesis. An entrepreneur and drug developer, he has over 20 years of experience in the development and FDA regulatory approval of small molecules (Cypress Bioscience), biologics (Amylin Pharmaceuticals), as well as drug delivery technologies (e-Nicotine Technology). He has designed and executed clinical trials and drug development programs across a wide variety of therapeutic areas, from orphan metabolic diseases to psychiatric and oncology indications. His experience in- and out-licensing preclinical and clinical stage assets, executing corporate partnering deals, and in investor relations has helped him to raise public, private, and angel-back financing for his companies. His philanthropic work includes co-founding and serving as the CEO of Harm Reduction Therapeutics, Inc., a nonprofit pharmaceutical company developing low-cost over-the-counter intranasal naloxone in the US to help prevent opioid overdose deaths.
Dr. Hufford earned his undergraduate degree with distinction from Purdue University, and his master’s and doctoral degrees in Clinical Psychology from the University of Pittsburgh before completing a Research and Clinical Fellowship in the Department of Psychiatry at Harvard Medical School. He is an award-winning lecturer, and the author of more than 100 scientific publications, presentations, and OpEds, with multiple issued and pending patents.
Mr Pujadas advises a number of leading financial, insurance, healthcare and technology companies in strategy, finance, risk management and technology. He has also worked closely with many technology startups, as an advisor and a partner, focusing on various aspects of financial services and health care. He currently advises companies in professional services marketplaces, artificial intelligence, fin-tech, payments, health-tech, and virtual reality.
Mr. Pujadas is a retired member of the board of directors of Wells Fargo & Company and Wells Fargo Bank, N.A. He is an advisor to Blumberg Capital an early stage VC firm specializing in technology across sectors and a member of the board of directors of DAI Inc., a global consulting firm focused on donor funded clients. He is an advisor to CLX Health and SiRIUSIQ both focused on serving the healthcare technology market.
Mr. Pujadas is a retired principal of PriceWaterhouseCoopers, LLP where he served as the Vice Chairman of PwC International and Chief Executive of Global Advisory Services, the global consulting, strategy, forensic, and M&A businesses of PwC. Prior to that he was Chief Risk Officer of Santander Investment, the international division of Banco Santander. Mr. Pujadas serves on the Board of Advisors of The School of Social Policy and Practice of the University of Pennsylvania. He is a graduate of the Jerome Fisher Program in Management and Technology of the University of Pennsylvania, where he earned a Bachelor of Science in Economics (Finance) from the Wharton School and a Bachelor of Applied Science (Computer Science) from the School of Engineering and Applied Science. He serves on the Advisory Council of IESE in Barcelona.