Board of Directors

John McKearn - Chairman

John McKearn has three decades of drug development and investing experience in life sciences. He joined RiverVest in 2008 and focuses on early-stage biotechnology investments. Currently, John serves on the boards of Allakos, Inc. (IPO), OncoResponse, Inc., Good Therapeutics, Arch Oncology, Inc., and Adarza Biosystems, Inc. He previously served on the boards of Lumena Pharmaceuticals, Inc. (acquired by Shire Plc), Otonomy, Inc. (IPO) and ZS Pharma, Inc. (acquired by AstraZeneca Plc).

Prior to RiverVest, John was president and CEO and a director of Kalypsys, Inc. from 2003 to 2008, and an executive at Searle/Pharmacia (Pfizer, Inc.) from 1987 to 2003, where he held increasingly responsible positions, including the global head of Research. John helped establish the groundwork for studies that led to the commercialization of several major products, including DayPro®, Arthrotec®, and Celebrex®, one of the leading pharmaceuticals to treat arthritis. He also served on the boards of IDM Pharma, Inc. (acquired by Takeda America Holdings, Inc.), Epimmune, Inc., and Keel Pharmaceuticals, Inc. Prior to 1987, John was a senior scientist at E.I. DuPont de Nemours and Company, a member of the Basel Institute for Immunology in Basel, Switzerland, and a research associate in the Department of Microbiology and Immunology at Washington University in St. Louis.

John holds a Ph.D. in Immunology from the University of Chicago and a B.S. in Biology from Northern Illinois University. He has co-authored more than 70 published, peer-reviewed scientific papers, and holds more than 50 patents and numerous patent applications, primarily in the areas of cancer treatment and inflammatory disease.

Dan Kemp - Chief Executive Officer

Dr. Kemp has over two decades of pharma R&D experience at Novartis, Merck and most recently Takeda, leading multiple drug discovery programs and establishing a track record in business development comprising an array of buy- and sell-side transactions, including NewCo creations and M&A deals.

During his tenure at Takeda, Dr. Kemp was a formative member of the company’s oncology cell therapy leadership team where he transacted a series of cornerstone collaborations that established a pipeline of CAR-NK, CAR-T and ɣδT cell programs. Notably, Dan spearheaded the in-licensing of Takeda’s flagship allogeneic NK cell program from MD Anderson Cancer Center in late 2019, which consolidated the emergence of NK cell therapies as an important therapeutic platform in the immuno-oncology space. He served on the Boards of GammaDelta Therapeutics and Adaptate Biotherapeutics, both companies that he was instrumental in creating in 2017 and 2019, respectively.  Previously, Dr. Kemp was Senior Vice President at Beryllium (acquired by UCB) where he was responsible for directing drug discovery partnerships, and prior to that he directed drug discovery programs at Merck Research Labs ranging from target validation to clinical proof of concept.  At Novartis Institutes for BioMedical Research, he led an early discovery team in diabetes and metabolic diseases.

Dr. Kemp received his BSc and PhD in molecular pharmacology from the University of Kent at Canterbury, UK.  He was awarded an HHMI Fellowship at Harvard Medical School and carried out his postdoc research on pancreatic beta cell biology at Massachusetts General Hospital.

Jay Schmelter

Jay Schmelter co-founded RiverVest in 2000. He currently leads the daily operations of the firm, as well as its strategic and fundraising initiatives. Jay’s investment focus is the medical device sector. Drawing on his combination of operating, investment banking and venture capital experience, Jay works closely with entrepreneurs as a sounding board and mentor.

Jay Schmelter is a director of InterVene, Inc., Cardialen, Inc., and a board observer at Standard Bariatrics, Inc. He is a former director of Velocimed, LLC, which was acquired by St. Jude Medical, Inc., Lutonix, Inc., acquired by C.R. Bard, Inc., IDEV Technologies, Inc., acquired by Abbott Laboratories, Inc., and Accumetrics, Inc., acquired by Instrumentation Laboratory (a Werfen Company), and former chairman of Salient Surgical, Inc., which was acquired by Medtronic, Inc.

Previously, Jay was with Crescendo Ventures, where he led investments for the firm’s life science division. While at Crescendo, Jay founded Salient Surgical Technologies, Inc. Prior to his transition to venture capital, Jay Schmelter worked as a medical device research analyst at Piper Jaffray & Co., where he focused on cardiovascular-related medical device stocks. He was also a marketing executive for Medtronic, Inc., where he was responsible for two successful product launches and the marketing activities of two of Medtronic’s U.S. cardiac surgery-related businesses.

Jay Schmelter earned an M.B.A. from the University of Chicago Booth School of Business and a B.A. in Accounting from Michigan State University.

Drew Dennison

Drew Dennison is Managing Director at Lightchain Capital, LLC, the family office for Scottrade Founder and former Chief Executive Officer Rodger Riney. At Lightchain, Mr. Dennison is responsible for venture capital investments in the life science and technology sectors. He also assists the Riney Foundations with their philanthropic endeavors. Previously, Mr. Dennison served as the Chief Operating Officer and Chief Financial Officer at Scottrade Financial Services, Inc. He led the Company’s operations, technology, operations, finance, and strategic planning functions and worked at the Company for over a decade. Mr. Dennison led the sale of Scottrade to TD Ameritrade, then co-led the integration project, successfully combining the two companies. In addition, Mr. Dennison serves as Chairman of the Board of CareVet Holdings and as a Board Member of FinTech Studios.

Kevin Li

Kevin Li is a Managing Partner at LYZZ Capital, a healthcare-focused venture capital/PE fund investing globally in leading biotech and pharmaceutical companies. Kevin has been an active biotech investor in the US and China for more than 15 years. Prior to co-founding LYZZ, he was a partner at DT Capital and HBM BioMed China. Earlier in his career, Kevin was involved in the building and management of several successful biotech companies, including GenoSpectra, Fountain Medical Development, and Amazin Biotech. Dr. Li received his Ph.D. in Biology from Indiana University and was a postdoctoral fellow at Stanford University School of Medicine.

Dr. Li has been an investor and board member of a number of successful biomedical companies in China and the US, such as Nuokang Biopharma, Cathay Industrial Biotech, Xili Pharma, Wuhan Hiteck Biopharma, Chipscreen, Alpha Biopharma, Neurelis, Qpex, iGenomX, and Jumpcode, among others.

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