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About Us

Leadership Banner


Ryo Kubota, MD, PhD, Founder and Chairman

"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

Brian O'Callaghan, MBA, Chief Executive Officer and President

"Keep your eyes on the stars and your feet on the ground."

Theodore Roosevelt


As Chief Executive Officer and President, Brian’s primary responsibilities include driving and overseeing all Acucela operations, devising the strategic direction of the Company, as well as developing Acucela’s executive leadership team.


  • Over 25 years of leadership experience in the biotechnology and pharmaceutical industries
  • Chairman and CEO, Sonrgy Inc.
  • President, Chief Executive Officer and Board of Directors, Sangart Inc.
  • Chief Commercial Officer, NPS Pharmaceuticals, Inc.
  • General Manager, Covance Inc.
  • General Manager, Novartis Pharmaceuticals Corporation
  • Co-founder, President and CEO, BioPartners in Switzerland
  • General Manager, Merck Biopharmaceuticals in Germany
  • Senior Manager, Pfizer UK
  • Senior Manager, Bayer in Ireland


  • As General Manager of two global divisions of Covance Inc., Brian successfully restructured and rebuilt two core business units
  • At Novartis Pharmaceuticals Corporation, Brian was instrumental in several successful product launches, in-licensing deals and growing two key business units
  • Led significant financings for development-stage biotechnology companies
  • Successfully led domestic, as well as international, business deals and commercialization strategies

Memberships and Boards

  • Board of Directors - BIOCOM
  • Board of Directors - Aquavit Biopharma
  • Board of Directors - San Diego Century Club


  • MBA, Henley College of Business Management in the UK
  • Marketing Diploma, the Cork Institute of Technology and the Marketing Institute of Ireland

On My Nightstand

Round Ireland with a Fridge, Tony Hawks

Dewey H. Blocker, Jr., MBA, Vice President Finance; Treasurer and Secretary

Mr. Blocker, 50, was appointed as our Vice President Finance, Treasurer and Secretary on March 24, 2015.  He has over 20 years of financial management experience.  He joined Acucela in 2008 as Director of Finance and in 2010 was promoted to our Senior Director of Finance.  Prior to joining Acucela, he was the Chief Financial Officer for Ivey Imaging, and before that spent five years as a Senior Financial Analyst with ICOS Corporation, a biopharmaceutical company.  He earned a B.A. from Washington State University and an M.B.A. from Seattle University.

Hien DeYoung, CHIC, SPHR, Vice President Human Resources

"Live out of your imagination, not your history."

Stephen Covey


As head of human resources, Hien focuses on Acucela’s culture, organizational capabilities, compensation and incentives, and strategic talent management.


  • Principal of DeYoung Consulting providing HR and management consulting to CEOs and founders of life science companies
  • Director of Human Resources for CEPTYR, Inc.
  • Held corporate administration positions in the software manufacturing, mining and legal industries
  • 20+ years experience working with and advising senior executives, founders and CEOs
  • 15+ years in human resource management


  • Think partner and advisor to CEOs
  • Insightful management and employee relations coach
  • Known for talent and ability to unravel difficult situations and make inroads towards satisfying resolutions
  • Adept at resolving complex strategic issues which hinder efficiency and creating functional alignment
  • A strategic builder and developer of organizational infrastructure and capabilities to advance corporate strategies
  • Facilitates cross-organization dialogue that strengthens internal integration
  • Culture evangelist


  • Built executive management teams in two life science companies
  • Built human resource function in two biotech companies
  • Championed and sponsored implementation of program management systems for two biotech companies
  • Built recruiting strategies and capabilities for acquisition of mission critical talent for three life science companies
  • Built business model aligned compensation structures and equity incentive plans for three life science companies
  • Management representative to board of directors for two biotech companies


  • Certified Hudson Institute Coach
  • Senior Professional In Human Resources (SPHR) 
  • Certified Predictive Index Assessment Analyst

Publications and Appearances

  • Contributed to the November/December 2011 issue of PharmaVoice on the subject of building a strong company culture
  • Frequent speaker on various human resources topics 

On My Nightstand

Learning in Relationship, Ron Short

Karin Ludwig, MD, Vice President Clinical Development

Dr. Ludwig brings to Acucela more than 20 years of experience in clinical development and medical affairs, with a focus on product development in ophthalmology (including retina, dry eye syndrome and glaucoma).  Dr. Ludwig’s expertise spans the continuum of drug development, from early clinical research through commercialization.  Further, she has held senior-level positions in small, emerging biotechnology companies, as well as in leading pharmaceutical companies, for both US and global regions.  Most notably, she led Clinical Research for Pharmacia’s glaucoma drug, Xalatan® (latanaprost ophthalmic solution) in Germany and played a leadership role within Pfizer’s US Medical Affairs group for Xalatan and the collaboration on Eyetech’s Macugen® (pegaptanib sodium), the first VEGF inhibitor approved by the FDA for the treatment of wet AMD.  Prior to Acucela, she served as Vice President, Scientific and Medical Affairs at Bausch & Lomb Surgical, where she led medically related strategies for the Company’s global business, including Phase 4 post-marketing studies and product safety reviews.  Earlier in her career, Dr. Ludwig held the position of Chief Medical Officer for Alacrity Biosciences, where she led development programs in glaucoma and dry eye syndrome.  Further, she has held leadership positions at Amicus Therapeutics as Senior Vice President of Clinical Research; US Medical Group Leader for Ophthalmology and Endocrinology at Pfizer; and various R&D positions of increasing responsibility at Pharmacia and Pharmacia & Upjohn.

Dr. Ludwig earned her MD from the University of Freiburg, Germany and her EUCOR/ECPM Certificate in Pharmaceutical Medicine from the Medical School Basel, Switzerland.

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.

Keiko Mitsunobu, Executive Director Alliance Management and Business Development

Ms. Mitsunobu has extensive and diverse experience in the pharmaceutical industry in the United States and Japan, primarily in business development and alliance management. Prior to joining Acucela, she was at Sofinnova Ventures where she was responsible for seeking, structuring and negotiating strategic alliances to form new business ventures.  Previously, she held key senior management roles at Anthera and Peninsula where she managed the Company’s licensing efforts and alliance collaborations with Shionogi, Takeda, Eli Lilly and others.  Prior to Peninsula, she spent five years in Japan at Eli Lilly and Daiichi (now Daiichi Sankyo).

She earned her BS in Pharmaceutical Sciences from Kobe Pharmaceutical University in Japan, and obtained her national pharmacist license in Japan.