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 over 25 years of finance and operations experience, primarily within the pharmaceutical industry. Mr. Kuwahara serves as Senior Vice President of Finance & Administration for Novus Therapeutics, a pharmaceutical company focusing on the acquisition, development, and commercialization of ear, nose, and throat products.  Prior to joining Novus Therapeutics, Mr. Kuwahara served as Vice President of Finance at Espero Pharmaceuticals, a private pharmaceutical company focused on the development and commercialization of cardiovascular products. Prior to Espero, Mr. Kuwahara served in multiple roles, most recently as Corporate Controller at Avanir Pharmaceuticals, a public pharmaceutical company focused on the development and commercialization of central nervous system products (acquired by Otsuka Pharmaceuticals). Prior to Avanir, Mr. Kuwahara served as Assistant Corporate Controller at Questcor Pharmaceuticals, a public specialty pharmaceutical company (acquired by Mallinckrodt Pharmaceuticals).  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.


Mr. Wei Peu (Derek) Zen, Director

Mr. Zen is Vice Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of Wai Kee Holdings Limited., a Hong Kong-based construction and infrastructure company whose shares are listed on the Main Board of the Hong Kong Stock Exchange Limited. He is also the Chairman of Build King Holdings Limited and Co-Chairman of Road King Infrastructure Limited, both of which are subsidiaries of Wai Kee Holdings Limited. Mr. Zen has over 30 years of experience in civil engineering, and is responsible for the overall management of the Wai Kee Holdings Limited group of companies and oversees the operations of the group’s construction, quarry and concrete divisions. Mr. Zen holds a B.Sc. degree in Engineering from The University of Hong Kong and a M.B.A. degree from The Chinese University of Hong Kong and is a member of both the Institution of Civil Engineers and fellow member of the Hong Kong Institution of Engineers and the Institute of Quarrying, UK respectively. He is a past Honorary Treasurer of Hong Kong Construction Association and a member of HKTDC Infrastructure Development Advisory Committee. He is also the President of Hong Kong Contract Bridge Association