Nicholas Franano, M.D., is founder, President and Chief Executive Officer of Novita Therapeutics, LLC.
Before founding Novita, Dr. Franano was a founder of Proteon Therapeutics, Inc., where he served as CEO from 2001 until he recruited his successor in 2006. He then served as Chief Scientific Officer until 2009. Dr. Franano continues to serve as a member of the Proteon Board of Directors. Proteon’s lead drug candidate, the human protein PRT-201, is the first drug capable of permanent blood vessel dilation, acting as a “biological stent” for patients with chronic kidney disease and peripheral vascular disease. Dr. Franano invented Proteon’s core elastase vasodilation technology while serving on the faculty of Johns Hopkins Hospital. While at Proteon, he also developed new methods for manufacturing PRT-201 as well as novel catheters to deliver the drug. He holds U.S. and European patents for methods of treatment with elastases, and has multiple patents pending for related proteins, devices, systems and methods.
Dr. Franano led the development of Proteon’s business plan and formulated the initial pre-clinical and clinical development plans for PRT-201. He also built out the company’s R&D capability and manufacturing platform, managed the company’s internal research efforts and intellectual property portfolio, and helped recruit the company’s current management team. As CEO, he raised $22 million in angel and venture capital financing and later as Chief Scientific Officer helped raise an additional $62 million of financing commitments. He played a key role in negotiating an agreement granting Novartis AG the option to acquire Proteon for at least $550 million in upfront and milestone payments after completion of a Phase 2 clinical trial with PRT-201. Among the other achievements of Dr. Franano and Proteon, in 2009 the company was named a Fierce Biotech “Fierce 15” company and was selected as a “2010 Technology Pioneer” by the World Economic Forum.
Before founding Novita and Proteon Therapeutics, Dr. Franano worked as a private practice interventional radiologist. He is a graduate of the University of Kansas and received his Master’s degree in Biomedical Research and Doctor of Medicine from Washington University in St. Louis, Missouri. He completed a Residency in Diagnostic Radiology and a Fellowship in Interventional Radiology at Johns Hopkins Hospital and is a Diplomate of the American College of Radiology.
Dr. Franano has received numerous research awards, grants, and fellowships and has published abstracts and articles in several peer-reviewed journals. He currently serves as Chairman of the Biological Sciences Advisory Board at the University of Kansas and serves as a Program Mentor for the PIPELINE Entrepreneurial Immersion Program. In 2009, Dr. Franano was named an Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year for the Central Midwest.
William Whitaker, Esq. is founder, Vice President of Finance and General Counsel of Novita Therapeutics, LLC.
Before founding Novita, Mr. Whitaker was a co-founder of Proteon Therapeutics, Inc. where he served as Vice President and General Counsel from 2001 - 2009. While at Proteon, Mr. Whitaker applied a broad range of experience in the fields of law and business. He played an integral role in helping to raise $84 million in angel and venture capital financing commitments for Proteon and in negotiating an agreement granting Novartis AG the option to acquire Proteon for at least $550 million in upfront and milestone payments. In his leadership role at Proteon, Mr. Whitaker helped develop the company’s business plan and managed legal matters, including equity and debt offerings, research and lease agreements, and oversight of the company’s insurance portfolio. He also managed human resources and benefit programs for the company, and was the point of contact for investor relations. In addition, he was the company’s Corporate Secretary, maintaining the corporate minute book and other corporate records. During Mr. Whitaker’s tenure, Proteon Therapeutics was named a Fierce Biotech “Fierce 15” company in 2009 and also was selected as a “Technology Pioneer” by the World Economic Forum in 2010.
Before founding Novita and Proteon Therapeutics, Mr. Whitaker held partnerships in several law firms. As a lawyer, he worked in areas as diverse as corporate law and financing, estate planning, municipal bond financing, real estate development, litigation, and transportation. Mr. Whitaker is a member of the Missouri Bar Association, Kansas City Bar Association, and the Lawyers Association of Kansas City. He has served on the boards of directors for the Heart of America Mutual Fund and Milburn Country Club, where he was President. He also served for three years on the Public Policy and Education Committee of the Kansas Bioscience Organization.
Mr. Whitaker is a graduate of the Wharton School of Finance and Commerce at the University of Pennsylvania where he earned a BS in Economics. He earned his Juris Doctor from the University of Missouri, Kansas City. In 2009, Mr. Whitaker was named an Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year for the Central Midwest.