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Board of Directors

Jindrich Kopecek, Ph.D.


Dr. Kopecek is a world-renowned expert in polymeric biomaterials and drug delivery systems.

He came to the University of Utah in 1986 and is currently a Distinguished Professor of Pharmaceutics and Pharmaceutical Chemistry and of Bioengineering. He has served as Co-Director of the Center for Controlled Chemical Delivery and as an Adjunct Professor in the Department of Materials Science and Engineering at the University of Utah. From 1999-2004, he served as Chairman of the department. Prior to joining the University of Utah, he was Head of the Laboratory of Biodegradable Polymers in the Institute of Macromolecular Chemistry at the Czechoslovak Academy of Sciences in Czechoslovakia.

His research focuses on the design of new and effective macromolecular therapeutics for the treatment of cancer, particularly in combination chemotherapy, photodynamic therapy and the mechanism of action of macromolecular therapeutics. He also studies a new approach for the treatment of osteoporosis and other skeletal diseases.

He received his M.S. in Macromolecular Chemistry (1961) from the Institute of Chemical Technology, Czechoslovakia, his Ph.D. (1965) in Macromolecular Chemistry from the Institute of Macromolecular Chemistry, Czechoslovakia, and his D.Sc. in Chemistry (1990) from the Czechoslovak Academy of Sciences.

Hamid Ghandehari, Ph.D.ghandehari

Dr. Ghandehari is an expert in drug delivery innovation. He joined the University of Utah in November, 2007, as a USTAR faculty member of the Departments of Pharmaceutics and Pharmaceutical Chemistry and Bioengineering. He comes to Utah from the University of Maryland, Baltimore, where he was a professor of pharmaceutical sciences, founding director of the Center for Nanomedicine and Cellular Delivery, member of Greenebaum Cancer Center, and faculty in the Maryland Bioengineering Program.  Dr. Ghandehari is the founder and Co-Director of the Nano Institute of Utah and Director of the Utah Center for Nanomedicine.

His research, funded by the National Institutes of Health, National Science Foundation, and other agencies, focuses on the design of new polymers for gene therapy of head and neck cancer, targeted delivery of antiangiogenic inhibitors, oral delivery of chemotherapeutics by polymeric carriers, assessing the biocompatibility and cellular trafficking of organic and inorganic nanoconstructs, and design and development of stimuli-sensitive hybrid nanoparticles for controlled chemical delivery.

He received his BS in Pharmacy (1989) and Ph.D. in Pharmaceutics and Pharmaceutical Chemistry (1996) from the University of Utah.

Chang Ahn, Ph.D.ChangAhn

Dr. Ahn is an internationally recognized expert in drug development with over 20 years of experience in the fields of pharmacology and biotechnology.

Dr. Ahn held dual positions as both Expert Regulatory Officer and Laboratory Chief at the FDA’s Center for Drug Evaluation and Research. Before joining the FDA, Dr. Ahn conducted cancer research at the National Cancer Institute and Emory University’s School of Medicine. Dr. Ahn organized and chaired the U.S.-Korea Bio Business and Partnership Forum, of which Maryland State and Montgomery County are partners.

He founded Rexahn in 2001 and currently serves as the company’s Chairman and Chief Executive Officer. He has also served as president of the Society of Biomedical Research since 2000. He was named as “Maryland’s 25 CEOs You Need to Know” in 2006 by Gazette News, and Rexahn was honored “2006 Biotechnology Company of the Year” in 2007 by the Monte Jade Science and Technology Association.

He holds two B.S. degrees in pharmacy from Creighton University and Seoul National University, Seoul, Korea. Dr. Ahn earned his Ph.D. in pharmacology at Ohio State University in 1985.

Darwin Cheney, Ph.D.Darwin Cheney-3

Dr. Cheney has special expertise in research and development process optimization, performance management, and strategic and operational improvements. He joined Utah Science, Technology and Research (USTAR) initiative in April, 2008, as Director for the Utah Initiative for nanotechnology and applications. He previously served as President and CEO of the FIDIA Research Foundation and as professor of Pharmacology at Georgetown University in Washington, D.C. Prior to coming to Utah Dr. Cheney spent three years in Macclesfield, England as Chief Scientific Officer of Cyprotex Discovery.

Dr. Cheney has a broad background in pharmaceutical research and development, having served as Director of Neuroscience and Cardiovascular Discovery in the Research Department and later as Executive Director of Clinical Operations and Statistics in the Development Department of CIBA-GEIGY Pharmaceutical company (now Novartis). He has spent the past fifteen years in contract research working with small companies to achieve and expand profitability.

Dr. Cheney obtained his BS in Zoology and his MS in Physiology at Brigham Young University. He received his Ph.D. in Pharmacology from Stanford University

David Nowotnik, Ph.D.Nowotnik2

David is a pharmaceutical executive with a solid record of accomplishments in the discovery and development of new technologies and products. Provides oversight and motivation to innovative multi-disciplinary R&D organizations. Senior management roles are taken in the development of five approved products (Ceretec, Dopascan, Gliadel, OraDisc A, MuGard). Extensive Regulatory experience in both pharmaceuticals and devices, leading company teams for in-person meetings with the FDA. A key player in out-licensing discussions, acquisition due diligence and in fund-raising activities. Manages large intellectual property portfolios. Provides strategic and innovative input to achieve positive results. Strong technical expertise in all aspects of pharmaceutical development.

Dr. Nowotnik obtained his BS in Chemistry from The University of Salford, and received his Ph.D. in Chemistry from the University of London.

C. Matthew Peterson, M.D.Dr. Peterson

Matthew Peterson, M.D., is a Reproductive Endocrinologist in the University of Utah Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology. Dr. Peterson received his undergraduate degree, magna cum laude from Brigham Young University in 1977 and his M.D. from the University of Utah in 1981. His residency training in obstetrics and gynecology was accomplished at Maricopa Medical Center in Phoenix, Arizona. He stayed on as a faculty member for two years and then completed a fellowship in reproductive endocrinology and infertility at the University of Miami in Florida. He joined the University of Utah in 1989 and serves as the John A. Dixon Presidential Professor and Chair of the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology.

For over 20 years, Dr. Peterson has collaborated with researchers in the Department of Pharmaceutics and Pharmaceutical Chemistry in the development of novel drug delivery systems for the treatment of ovarian cancer. These activities are designed to improve the specificity of treatment and reduce nonspecific toxicity in order to increase response and survival in women facing this cancer. His expertise in these activities involves the design and testing of appropriate ovarian cancer models.

Clinically, Dr. Peterson has an active clinical practice in reproductive endocrinology and accepts new patients. He is the co-editor of Reproductive Endocrinology and Infertility: Integrating Modern Clinical and Laboratory Practice. As Practice Director of the in vitro fertilization program at the Utah Center for Reproductive Medicine, he is proud of the excellent patient satisfaction and success rates that significantly exceed national statistics.


Ron Heffernan

Ron has over 20 years of hands-on experience in executive leadership, sales, operations, strategy, finance, and marketing for both start-ups and established companies. Prior to founding LDD Partners, Ron served as CEO of multiple technology and web development companies, most notably Lead Dog Design, an award-winning full-service web development provider that served numerous Fortune 500 clients, including McGraw Hill, The Bank of New York and Morgan Stanley Dean Witter. Under his leadership Lead Dog Design experienced 100% growth every year for three straight years, earning Ron prestigious recognition as one of Ernst & Young’s top entrepreneurs. After Lead Dog Design was acquired by Iconixx Corporation, one of the top ten largest new media development firms, Ron served as Iconixx Vice President of the Northeast Region before spearheading the reacquisition of Lead Dog Digital and serving as its President/CEO and, ultimately, its Chairman. Lead Dog Digital was eventually acquired by Bridgeline Software [NASDAQ: BLIN]. He is also Co-Founder of Church & State and an investment banker with Brill Securities, and has assisted numerous companies in raising capital.

Ron received his BA in Economics from the State University of New York at Albany and completed various Executive Education classes through The Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania. He holds Series 62, Series 63 and Series 79 licenses.


Former Board Member:

Sunil Sharma, M.D.

Sunil Sharma, MD, is senior director of clinical research, a director of the Center for Investigational Therapeutics, and an investigator at Huntsman Cancer Institute (HCI). Sharma is also a professor in the School of Medicine at the University of Utah and member of the Colon Cancer Program and the Imaging, Diagnostics, and Therapeutics Program at HCI. He holds a Jon and Karen Huntsman Presidential Professorship in Cancer Research.

Sharma is an expert in the development and testing of new cancer therapies. At HCI, he is working to increase the portfolio of high-quality clinical trials, including phase I trials. He is also establishing a translational oncology lab to support related studies. In addition, his clinical interests are focused on treatment of patients with gastrointestinal cancers (colon, pancreatic, esophageal, rectal, liver), mesothelioma, and rare tumors (carcinoid, neuroendocrine tumors, and carcinomas of unknown primarys).

Before joining HCI, Sharma built a phase I clinical trials program at the Nevada Cancer Institute where he oversaw more than 25 clinical trials. He led a global oncology drug development program at the drug manufacturing company Novartis. He also worked as a physician in the Division of Gastrointestinal Oncology at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center, New York City. He earned a medical degree at the University of Delhi, New Delhi, India.