Board of Directors Board of Directors

Board of Directors

Yutaka Niihara, M.D., MPH - Chairman of the Board of Directors, Chief Executive Officer 

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 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 InternalMedicine/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 - Vice-Chairman, Chief Operating Officer

Mr. Lee has more than 25 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 has served with the company since 2009

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.


Ian Zwicker, Director, Chair of the Compensation, Nomination and Corporate Governance Committee

Mr. Zwicker is the founder of Zwicker Advisory Group and has been its Chief Executive Officer since 2014. Mr. Zwicker served as Managing Director and held a variety of management positions at the investment banking firms of SG Cowen and Hambrecht & Quist. He also served as Managing Director and head of worldwide technology investment banking for Donaldson, Lufkin & Jenrette Securities Corporation, and as the President of WR Hambrecht + Co (WRH). Mr. Zwicker was a Director of Stirling Energy Systems, a Partner at WRH, and was also Head of Capital Markets.


Jon Kuwahara, Director, Chair of Audit Committee

Mr. Kuwahara has served as Corporate Controller of Avanir Pharmaceuticals (“Avanir”), a biopharmaceutical company focused on acquiring, developing, and commercializing therapeutic products for the treatment of central nervous system disorders, since 2014. Mr. Kuwahara also briefly served as a consultant for Avanir and as Associate Director of Finance, as well as Assistant Corporate Controller of Questcor Pharmaceuticals, a specialty pharmaceutical company. Mr. Kuwahara provided consultant services for Resources Global Professionals, a global project-based professional services firm, and served as Solutions Consultant for Lawson Software, a provider of enterprise software solutions specializing in service industries. He also held positions as Controller, Director of Finance and Senior Accountant with companies in various industries around the U.S. Mr. Kuwahara holds a B.B.A. with emphasis in accounting from the University of Hawaii and is a certified public accountant in California and Hawaii. 


Dr. Masaharu Osato, Director

Dr. Osato has been practicing gastroenterology and internal medicine (“GI”) at his private practice, the Osato Medical Clinic, Inc. in Torrance, CA since 2001. He completed a GI Fellowship at the Harbor UCLA Medical Center and served as General Internist and Director of Health Screening Center at the Tokyo Adventist Hospital in Tokyo, Japan, as well as at the Kobe Adventist Hospital in Kobe, Japan. He attended the Loma Linda University School of Medicine in California and completed an internal medicine residency at the Kettering Memorial Medical Center in Dayton Ohio. Dr. Osato also completed one year of pediatric residency at the Loma Linda University Medical Center.