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About Us

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Ryo Kubota, MD, PhD, Chairman, President and Chief Executive Officer

"Logic will get you from A to B. Imagination will take you everywhere."

Albert Einstein


Scientific Research and Ophthalmology

  • Performed over 1,000 ocular surgeries to treat cataract, retinal detachment, diabetic retinopathy glaucoma, strabismus, and other conditions
  • Discovered a glaucoma gene, myocilin, earning Dr. Kubota the Suda Award
  • Established Acucela; research helped advance the theory that toxic by-products of the visual cycle could be a causative factor in AMD

Finance and Business

  • Raised over $40M in venture capital rounds A, B and C
  • Negotiated and signed a co-development and co-commercialization partnership for the lead visual cycle modulation program with Otsuka Pharmaceutical
  • Negotiated second and third partnerships for dry eye syndrome and glaucoma
  • Built a positive cash flow organization (to date), growing from 0 – 80 people over 10-year period (as of 2012)


  • 2000, JSPS Postdoctoral Fellowships for Research Abroad, Japan Society for the Promotion of Science, Keio University
  • 1993-1995, JSPS Research fellowships for young scientists, Japan Society for the Promotion of Science, Keio University

Academic and Industry Awards

  • Recipient  Suda Award for Glaucoma Research, Japan Glaucoma Association, Keio University – 1997

    Dr. Kubota spent his early career performing ocular research at Keio University, which is the oldest private university in Japan for elites, where he earned his MD and PhD. In the course of his work there, he discovered a glaucoma gene, myocilin, a discovery that earned him the Suda Award for his contribution to the field of neurodegenerative retinal disease.

  • Recipient – Sanshikai Award, Keio University School of Medicine, Keio University  1998

    Dr. Kubota received this prestigious award from the Keio University for the discovery of a myocilin gene.

  • Named  Seattle Business magazine, Top 25 Innovators & Entrepreneurs, Washington State 2009

    Dr. Kubota was elected as one of the Magazine’s 2009 Top 25 Innovators & Entrepreneurs in Washington State.

  • Finalist  R&D Magazine’s Scientist of the Year Award – 2009

    This award honors an individual who has made a significant contribution to scientific research.

  • Honoree  Executive of the Year, 7th Annual International Business AwardsSM – 2010

    Dr. Kubota was recognized as a Stevie Distinguished Honoree in Executive of the Year in North America in The 2010 International Business Awards. The International Business Awards are the only global, all-encompassing business awards program honoring great performances in business.

  • Nominated  Emerging Pharmaceutical Industry Leaders, 2010, Pharmaceutical Executive magazine

    Dr. Kubota was nominated as one of the Emerging Pharmaceutical Industry Leaders for 2010 by Pharmaceutical Executive magazine. The Emerging Leaders program recognizes professional accomplishments among the next generation of executives. Candidates for this award are age 45 or younger and display a track record of leadership in managing projects, operations, or people in private sector companies with a mission to develop and deliver medicines to patients.

  • Named – Nikkei Business 100 – 2011

    Dr. Kubota was selected as one of the Nikkei Business 100,  Nikkei Business Magazine’s inaugural list of the most influential people in Japan.  The article profiles a total of 100 governors, CEOs, scientists, researchers, athletes and others key to Japan’s future, as identified by the Nikkei Business editorial board.

  • Named  PharmaVOICE 100, a listing of the 100 Most Inspiring People in the Life Sciences Industry – 2011

    Now in its seventh year of publication, the PharmaVOICE 100 is an annual list of individuals recognized for their positive contributions to the life sciences industry. The 2011 PharmaVOICE 100 honorees were selected from among thousands of nominees, and were profiled in the publication's special July/August 2011 issue.

  • Finalist – Seattle Business Magazine, Leaders in Health Care, Outstanding Achievement and Innovation in Biopharmaceuticals category - 2011

    Seattle Business’ third annual Leaders in Health Care awards are designed to recognize the best of our multifaceted health care industry, from forward-thinking health care executives, devoted practitioners and brilliant researchers to determined community advocates, company wellness programs that work and, in the case of our Lifetime Achievement Award, individuals who have dedicated their entire lives to make others’ better.

  • Finalist  Ernst & Young Entrepreneur Of The Year® Award, Pacific Northwest – 2010 and 2011

    The awards program recognizes entrepreneurs who demonstrate extraordinary success in the areas of innovation, financial performance and personal commitment to their businesses and communities.  In 2010, Dr. Kubota was selected as a finalist from nearly 65 nominations by a panel of independent judges.  He was named a regional semi-finalist for 2011.

  • Named  Emerging Leader  Japan, a US/Japan Innovation Award by Japan Society of Northern California and Stanford University’s US-Asia Technology Management Center – 2012

    The Salesforce.com Emerging Leader Awards go to young, dynamically growing, entrepreneurial companies built around an innovation that is already demonstrating impressive success and that has the potential to become a true world changer.

  • Named – Finalist, Entrepreneur Magazine Entrepreneur of 2012

    The Entrepreneur of 2012 award is to an individual and his/her company who exemplify the passion, drive and determination that fuel the entrepreneurial community.

Memberships and Boards

  • American Academy of Ophthalmology
  • The Association for Research in Vision and Ophthalmology
  • The Japanese Ophthalmological Society
  • Board - Japan-America Society of the State of Washington
  • Keio Medical Society
  • The American Chamber of Commerce in Japan
  • The America-Japan Society, Inc.
  • Advisory board - G1 Venture
  • Board of Directors - National Bureau of Asian Research
  • Visiting Professor - School of Medicine, Keio University
  • Foresight Advisory Group Member, Department of Pharmacology, Case Western Reserve University


  • Earned medical degree (MD), Keio University
  • Obtained Board Certification in Ophthalmology from the Japanese Ophthalmological Society
  • Earned PhD, Molecular Biology, Keio University
  • Harvard Business School Executive Education Leadership and Strategy in Pharmaceuticals and Biotech 2009

Publications, Patents and Appearances

  • Profiled in a number of science and business, including Nikkei 100 and The Wall Street Journal, Japan publications
  • Profiled in the May 2012 issue of AERA Magazine, a leading national publication in Japan
  • Frequent speaker in the United States and Japan on business, innovation and science
  • Holder of a number of patents and author of many peer-reviewed papers

On My Nightstand

Drive, Daniel H. Pink

Ted Danse, MBA, Chief Business Officer

Mr. Ted Danse joined Acucela in May 2015. Prior to that he served as President of Replenish, Inc., the developer of a novel MicroPump for retinal drug delivery, for which he was brought in to lead a restructuring, recapitalization and technology transfer to the company’s global partner. From 2005 to 2014, Ted served as President and CEO of Neurotech Pharmaceuticals, Inc. In 2006 he transitioned Neurotech from a Paris to a Delaware-based corporate domicile, and restructured and recapitalized the company. Subsequently he was instrumental in the development of two transformational products that address neovascular age-related macular degeneration and glaucoma. Ted’s development and commercial experience spans over 30 years in ophthalmology. Previously he was President and CEO of ISTA Pharmaceuticals Inc. and was responsible for taking the Company public (NASDAQ) in 2000. Ted also held various senior positions at Allergan where he was responsible for establishing a high-growth, profitable business operation in Japan, China and the rest of Asia, including the consummation of several successful corporate acquisitions. His early career was spent in business development roles at Coopervision, Bausch & Lomb and Schering-Plough. Ted holds an MBA in International Management from Thunderbird School of Global Management in Glendale, AZ.

John Gebhart, MBA, Chief Financial Officer; Treasurer and Secretary

Mr. John Gebhart joined Acucela in May 2015.  Prior to that, from 2012 to 2015, he was Chief Financial Officer for Qliance Medical Management Inc., a leader in direct primary care services, where he led the company’s financial and operations functions during a period of significant growth. From 2004 through 2012 he operated an independent consultancy providing project management and interim executive services to a variety of health services and technology companies including Remote Medical International, Ventripoint, PhysioSonics, Carena, Clarity Health, Nexcura, and DS-IQ.  Mr. Gebhart has worked in emerging health and technology companies for more than 30 years in the roles of CFO, COO, and CEO.  He began his career as a CPA with Ernst & Young and received his MBA from Pepperdine University in Malibu, CA.

Roger Girard, Chief Strategy Officer

Mr. Girard brings over 40 years of business management experience to the Company, having built successful companies in multiple industries. In 2011, Mr. Girard co-founded Xecutive Advisory Partners LLC, a venture capital firm specializing in investments in university research-based startups where he is currently a board member. Mr. Girard in recent years has been involved in the founding and operation of several other companies, including instaCOVER Inc. in 2012, a cloud-based software platform in the capital equipment industry where he is currently a board member; Equipment Protection Association Inc. in 2013, a holding company for the insurance platform in the capital equipment industry where Mr. Girard serves as Chief Executive Officer; CareCap LLC in 2013, a company providing cloud-based merchant processing and payment management systems for doctor-financed care facilities where he serves as Chief Financial Officer; and Neuro-ID Inc. in 2015, a company that provides a scalable platform for the detection of suspicious behavior indicative of fraud and other online threats where Mr. Girard serves as a board member.

Steve Tarr, PhD, Chief Operating Officer

Dr. Steve Tarr joined Acucela in May 2015. He has extensive experience providing senior executive leadership to a wide range of industries including global telecommunications, health care and education and ranging from Fortune 500 corporations to startups.  Mr. Tarr has deep expertise in scaling a growing business as well as in revitalizing large companies and is a member of the National Association of Corporate Directors.  He most recently served as Executive Vice President and Chief Information Officer at Emeritus Senior Living, where he directed industry-leading technology initiatives. Prior to Emeritus, he worked directly with Chief Executive Officers to define innovative technology-based and customer-focused business strategies. He led transformation initiatives at a number of health care organizations including Santa Clara Valley Health System, Scottsdale Lincoln Health Network, and University of Washington Medicine. Dr. Tarr holds a Ph.D. in Systems Science from Portland State University, focused on the systems dynamics of integrating new technology into an organization, an M.S. in Computer Science from Washington State University and a B.S. in General Biology from Washington State University.

George Lasezkay, PharmD, JD, Executive Vice President, General Counsel

Dr. Lasezkay joined Acucela in August 2015 after serving 12 years as president of HorizonPharma Group, a consultancy practice that advises life sciences companies on corporate strategy, strategic partnerships and business development. He has served on the boards of a number of U.S. and European biotechnology and pharmaceutical companies, both public and private, including several focused on ophthalmic diseases. Dr. Lasezkay had a 13-year career at Allergan, the global pharmaceutical and medical aesthetics company. He spent his first seven years in the legal department, last serving as Allergan’s Assistant General Counsel. Dr. Lasezkay subsequently served for six years as the head of Allergan’s Corporate Development group and a member of the Allergan Executive Management team. During his time at Allergan, Dr. Lasezkay participated in and supervised the negotiation of more than 60 acquisitions, alliances and other collaborations, including an instrumental role in structuring the Allergan Ligand Retinoid Therapeutics joint venture that won the Recombinant Capital Breakthrough Biotechnology Alliance award in 1997. Dr. Lasezkay earned B.S. Pharmacy and Doctor of Pharmacy degrees from the State University of New York at Buffalo and his law degree from the University of Southern California. He also earned a certificate in alternative dispute resolution from the Straus Institute for Dispute Resolution of the Pepperdine University School of Law.

Lukas Scheibler, PhD, Executive Vice President of Translational Medicine

Dr. Lukas Scheibler joined Acucela in August 2015 after a 13-year career in research and development, business development and clinical trial management at Novartis. Dr. Scheibler had worked since 2008 at Alcon, a division of Novartis. He most recently was a Vice President in charge of Alcon’s Ideation and Technology Evaluation Center, the company’s center of excellence in charge of identifying novel technologies that address unmet needs in ophthalmology. Before that, he served as Alcon’s Vice President and Global Head of Clinical Trial Management. Dr. Scheibler started work at Novartis headquarters in Switzerland in 2002 as Manager of Global Drug Regulatory Affairs. While he served as VP and Global Head of R&D Alliances at Alcon from 2008 to 2011, the company made several major acquisitions and deals, including the purchase of LenSx Lasers for up to US $744 million, ESBATech for up to US $589 million and a Research Agreement with AstraZeneca for exclusive access to the company’s ophthalmology compound library. Dr. Scheibler received a Master’s degree in chemistry from University of Basel, Switzerland; a Ph.D. in chemistry from University of Lausanne, Switzerland; and his Postdoctoral Training from Harvard Medical School.

Hans-Peter Pfleger, PhD, Vice President Commercial Operations and Strategic Marketing

Dr. Pfleger has over 30 years of professional experience in ophthalmology, especially in global strategic marketing and other sales and marketing functions. A former Allergan executive, Dr. Pfleger was responsible for global marketing and market research. In that role he was closely involved in establishing Allergan’s ophthalmic strategy, worked with R&D on the ophthalmic pipeline to ensure that all products met market and customer needs, and led the global launches of a variety of products, including Alphagan® and Lumigan® to treat patients suffering from glaucoma, Restasis® to increase tear production in patients with dry eye disease, several artificial tears products, Ozurdex® and others.

Dr. Pfleger holds both his PhD and Diploma (Master’s degree) in Chemistry from the University of Karlsruhe, Germany.