SAN DIEGO – (March 23, 2012) – The La Jolla Institute for Allergy & Immunology recently welcomed three distinguished San Diego business executives as new members of its Board of Directors. The new trustees bring a wide variety of business, legal and life science experience and will further enhance the Board’s key role in guiding the Institute’s world-renowned scientific program. The La Jolla Institute is a world leader in research to prevent or cure diabetes, heart disease, cancer and other debilitating diseases based on harnessing the immense power of the immune system.
The three new members are: life science executives Gail Naughton, Ph.D., chairman & CEO of Histogen, Inc, a developer of regenerative medicine therapies; Charles Cashion, co-founder and chief financial officer of Conatus Pharmaceuticals Inc., which is working to develop new therapies for liver disease and cancer, and building industry executive David Perkins, president & CEO of Pacific Coast Steel, Inc.
“We are honored to attract these three high-caliber individuals to our Board, each of whom brings energy, insight and a track record of stellar accomplishment,” said Mitchell Kronenberg, Ph.D., La Jolla Institute president & chief scientific officer. “They are a perfect complement to our already existing Board of highly respected business and scientific leaders, who support and guide our efforts to find new treatments for some of the world’s most debilitating diseases.”
New Board member Cashion has held several senior level management positions in both private and public healthcare companies, including his current position as a senior executive at Conatus, a privately-held biotechnology company, with a portfolio including a phase 2 drug candidate for liver disease. Before co-founding Conatus in 2005, Cashion was executive vice president and CFO of Idun Pharmaceuticals, where he assisted in raising $93 million in new financing with venture capital investors. Idun’s assets included key intellectual property in apoptosis and an advanced internal program in liver disease and in cancer (with Abbott Labs). Idun was sold to Pfizer, Inc. in 2005 and repurchased by Conatus in 2010. Cashion also previously held senior executive positions at Quidel Corporation, a medical diagnostics company, and The Immune Response Corporation, a biopharmaceutical company focused on immune therapies for HIV and autoimmune diseases.
Cashion said he admires the Institute’s innovative science. “It excites me to be involved with organizations that are doing things out of the box,” he said, noting that he has always worked with scientific companies focused on novel approaches to fighting disease. “The Institute is quite impressive both in terms of its researchers and its leadership. Mitch Kronenberg (Institute president) has created an organization that is obviously world-class and I’m happy to support their efforts.”
Dr. Naughton is a respected scientist with extensive experience in the field of tissue engineering. She has been an executive in the life science industry for more than 20 years and also served as the Dean of the College of Business Administration at San Diego State University for nine years.
In the 1980s, she co-founded Advanced Tissue Sciences, Inc., a biotechnology company focused on the development of tissue-engineered products for wound care, aesthetic and reconstructive purposes. She served as the Company’s president for eight years Since June, 2007, she has been chairman & CEO of Histogen, Inc, a regenerative medicine company that uses a unique technology, developed by Dr. Naughton, to create therapeutic and biomedical applications in the areas of hair regrowth, skincare, oncology and wound care.
Dr. Naughton said her background in using the body’s own cells to create healing therapies is a perfect fit with the La Jolla Institute’s focus on marshalling the immune system to cure disease.
“As a regenerative medicine scientist, I have devoted my career to learning how to stimulate cells in the body to recreate new tissues and organs. It is a true privilege for me to become part of the La Jolla Institute, where a highly talented team is passionate about triggering the body’s own defenses to prevent and cure so many debilitating diseases.”
New Board member David Perkins heads Pacific Coast Steel, one of the largest and most successful reinforcing steel contractors in the United States. Established in 1992, the company has a more than 1000 employees in seven states. Prior to joining Pacific Coast, Perkins was managing partner and co-founder of San Diego-based law firm Perkins & Miltner, where he focused on civil, business and construction litigation.
Perkins said his interest in serving on the Institute’s Board reflects his desire to contribute to the community and a lifelong appreciation for science. With several doctors in the family and a physicist father, Perkins originally thought about becoming a physician, initially studying pre-med at UC Berkeley. “I eventually switched to law, but I’ve always stayed intrigued by medical science,” he said. “The advancements that the Institute is making on diabetes and other diseases can change people’s lives and is very exciting to be part of. I couldn’t think of a more important way to contribute to the community than to support the research activities of the La Jolla Institute.”
About La Jolla Institute
Founded in 1988, the La Jolla Institute for Allergy & Immunology is a biomedical research nonprofit focused on improving human health through increased understanding of the immune system. Its scientists carry out research seeking new knowledge leading to the prevention of disease through vaccines and the treatment and cure of infectious diseases, cancer, inflammatory and autoimmune diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis, type 1 (juvenile) diabetes, Crohn’s disease and asthma. La Jolla Institute’s research staff includes more than 200 Ph.D.s and M.D.s. To learn more about the Institute’s work, visit www.liai.org.