Management Team

Yutaka Niihara, MD, MPHChief Executive Officer, Chairman of the Board

Dr. Niihara has been involved in patient care and research for sickle cell disease for most of his career, and is the principal inventor of the patented L-glutamine therapy for treatment of sickle cell disease. He is a cofounder of Emmaus, principal investigator for LABioMed at Harbor-UCLA Medical Center and Professor Emeritus of Medicine at the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA.

His experience includes serving as President, Chief Executive Officer and Medical Director of Hope International Hospice. A board-certified by the American Board of Internal Medicine and the American Board of Internal Medicine/Hematology, Dr. Niihara is licensed to practice medicine in both the U.S. and Japan. His honors include the Life Time Achievement Award, from the Sickle Cell Disease Foundation of California and the Abigail Kawananako Award. Dr. Niihara received his B.A. in Religion from Loma Linda University, obtained his M.D. degree from the Loma Linda University School of Medicine in 1986, and received his MPH from Harvard School of Public Health in 2006.

 

Willis C. Lee, MS Chief Operating Officer, Vice-Chairman of the Board

Mr. Lee has more than 30 years of management and consulting experience with influential companies in the semiconductor and healthcare industries. Prior to joining Emmaus, Mr. Lee led worldwide sales and business development of Yield Dynamics’ product group at MKS Instruments. He joined the Company in 2009 and has served as Chief Operating Officer since May 2011.

He has held various managerial and senior positions at companies including HPL, Syntricity and Reden & Anders, a subsidiary of United Healthcare that provides actuarial services including capitation and risk assessment analyses for healthcare insurance carriers. Mr. Lee received his B.S. and M.S. in Physics from University of Hawaii and University of South Carolina, respectively. He was a member of the American Physical Society, completed TQM/SPC programs, and has published papers in Nuclear Instruments and Methods.

 

Lan T. Tran, MPH - President, Chief Administrative Officer

Ms. Tran joined Emmaus in 2008 and serves as Co-President, Chief Administrative Officer and Corporate Secretary. Previously, Ms. Tran was with LABioMed, serving in a variety of roles including Grants and Contracts Officer, Director, Pre-Clinical/Clinical Trials Unit, and Assistant Vice President, Research Administration.

In her position as Director, Pre-Clinical/Clinical Trials Unit and Assistant Vice President, Research Administration, Ms. Tran was part of the executive management team of LABioMed and responsible for all administrative aspects of research in her assigned area. In 2008, Ms. Tran oversaw a research budget of $61,000,000. Ms. Tran holds a B.S. in Psychobiology and a Masters of Public Health from the University of California at Los Angeles.

 

Joseph (“Jay”) C. Sherwood III, MBA - Chief Financial Officer

Mr. Sherwood joined Emmaus in 2019 and has over 30 years of investment banking experience primarily representing middle-market companies in mergers and acquisitions, capital raising, and other financial advisory transactions, including fairness opinions and restructuring engagements. Jay has provided merger & acquisition services representing more than $2.5 billion in transaction value, has been responsible for raising more than $4.2 billion in debt and equity financing, and has developed expertise in several industry sectors including Healthcare and Life Sciences.

Prior to joining Emmaus, Mr. Sherwood was the Los Angeles Partner at G.C. Andersen Partners. Before G.C. Andersen, Jay was a Senior Managing Director at McGladrey Capital Markets. Prior to McGladrey, Jay was a Senior Managing Director at FTI Capital Advisors, a subsidiary of FTI Consulting, Inc. (FCN – NYSE) and was responsible for the firm's investment banking practice in the Western U.S. Before FTI, Jay was Managing Director, head of investment banking and merchant banking, and a member of the Board of The Seidler Companies Inc., a leading regional investment banking firm based in Los Angeles. Mr. Sherwood also held senior investment banking positions with Roth Capital Partners and Drexel Burnham Lambert. He received a BS in Finance (magna cum laude) and an MBA, both from the University of Southern California where he is a frequent guest lecturer in the Marshall Graduate School of Business. Mr. Sherwood holds FINRA Series 7, 24, 63 and 79 General Securities licenses.

 

Yasushi Nagasaki, CPA - Senior Vice President of Finance

Mr. Nagasaki joined Emmaus in 2011 and is the Senior Vice President, Finance of the company. Prior to joining Emmaus, Mr. Nagasaki was the Chief Financial Officer and served on the board of directors at Hexadyne Corporation, an aerospace and defense supplier. Previously, he was the Controller at Upsilon Intertech Corporation, an international distributor of defense and aerospace parts and subsystems.

Mr. Nagasaki is a Certified Public Accountant and received a B.A. in Commerce from Waseda University and an M.A. in International Policy Studies from the Monterey Institute of International Studies, a graduate school of Middlebury College. 

 

Charles W. Stark, Pharm.D. - Senior Vice President of Medical Affairs

Dr. Stark has served as Emmaus’ Senior Vice President of Research and Development since 2013, bringing more than 30 years of experience in medical affairs, research and academia. Previously, Dr. Stark was Director of Clinical Development at Bavarian Nordic, an immunotherapeutic company, and prior to that Associate Director of Medical Affairs for the Dendreon Corporation, an immunotherapeutic company. He has served as, Director, Medical Science Liaisons (cardiovascular, metabolic and oncology) at Pfizer, Inc., a pharmaceutical company.

Dr. Stark has served as the Director of Investigational Drug Services and Clinical Research at LABioMed at Harbor UCLA and at the Health Research Association at USC Medical Center. He has also served as a faculty member at the University of Southern California School of Pharmacy. Dr. Stark received his Pharm.D. from the University of Southern California and completed his residency at the Veteran’s Affairs Medical Center in West Los Angeles.

 

Dale E. Short, JD - General Counsel

Mr. Short joined Emmaus in September 2018 as the company’s first General Counsel.  Prior to joining Emmaus, he served for more than 20 years as Chairman of the Corporate Department TroyGould PC, Los Angeles, California. Mr.  Short has extensive expertise and experience in securities regulation, capital markets, mergers and acquisitions and corporate governance law matters. Much of this experience was with publicly held life science companies.  He was named “2014 Los Angeles Securities Lawyer of the Year” in The Best Lawyers in America, and has been recognized by his peers as among the Best Lawyers® in the country in Securities Regulation and Securities/Capital Markets Law since 2008 and among Southern California Super Lawyers since 2003. 

He has been a member of the Advisory Board of the Institute for Corporate Counsel, a joint venture of the University of Southern California’s Gould School of Law and the Business Section of the Los Angeles Bar Association since 1997, and has been active in the State Bar of California as a member of the Working Group of the Opinions Committee and the Partnerships and Limited Liability Companies Committee of the Business Law Section from 2013-2106 and of the Partnerships and Limited Liability Companies Committee from 2009-2012.  Mr. Short holds a J.D. degree from the University of Southern California Gould School of Law, where he was awarded The Order of the Coif and served on the University of Southern California Law Review, and a B.S. degree from Iowa State University, Ames, Iowa, where he was a member of the Phi Beta Kappa honors society.