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William Watt, Ph.D, President

William (Bill) Watt joined AVM as President on June 1, 2022 with a career in academic science, business development, entrepreneurship and venture capital. After studying the Japanese and Korean languages in Tokyo and Seoul, he earned a PhD in Pharmacology from the University of Washington and completed 3 postdoctoral fellowships before moving into business development with innovative biotech companies. After working with the venture-backed companies iPierian and Kineta, he founded the clinical-stage cancer vaccine company EpiThany in 2013, which has advanced its assets via partnership into global Phase 2 clinical trials. In 2019, Bill helped establish the Japan-based venture capital firm Catalys Pacific as a Venture Partner based in Japan and then joined Astellas to help with business development in March of 2021, leading to his current role with AVM.


Hiromichi Kimura, Ph.D., Investment Director

Dr. Kimura has more than 20 years R&D experience. Dr Kimura serves multi-dimensional R&D activities, especially Oncology as a PhD Scientist and Investor, Board Director/Casma Therapeutics (Autophagy-based protein degradation), DEM Biopharma (Don’t Eat Me/Eat Me signals), NeoPhore (DNA Mismatch Repair), Stealth company (Spliceosome), Undisclosed company (Degrader platform), and Board Observer (7 companies, Carbon Bioscience, Catamaran Bio, Fukushima Sic, Mogrify, PhoreMost, Toregem Biopharma, Turn Biotechnologies), Investor advisory board member of many venture capital funds across US, EU/UK and Asia, Dr Kimura also has been appointed academic position in the top-tier graduate school program of the University of Tokyo since 2018.

Dr Kimura reviews, supervises and executes each equity investment to private company in life science BioVenture world and strategic LP investments in a corporate-wise with creative initiatives, resulting in highly competitive accomplishment last couple years. Before joining Astellas Venture Management in 2018, he served as Head of Alliance & Management Group in Drug discovery research at Astellas Pharma Inc. including Research leadership of post-merger integration of Biotech and Venture (Ganymed Pharmaceuticals, Ogeda, SA, Quethera, Ltd.). Dr Kimura co-founded Kyoto University-Astellas incubator research station in Kyoto University. Dr Kimura conducted drug discovery as Research Manager, Oncology research unit, Astellas Pharma Inc. and also led many global research collaborations with Crick institute and Beatson Institute, and MDACC etc. since he joined Astellas in 2014. Prior to Astellas, Dr Kimura served as Research head, Head of Pharmacology in Oncology Drug Discovery Unit, Takeda Pharmaceutical Company, and Drug Discovery department in Millennium: Takeda Oncology Company. In this capacity of an officer with high responsibility, Dr Kimura was responsible for drug discovery from early to late stage including innovative platform technologies at Japan facility as well as global drug discovery initiatives and generated first-in-class projects and programs. Dr Kimura also served the number of academic lectures with academic appointments. Prior to his tenure at Takeda, Dr Kimura was dedicated to conducting basic research and developing Drug Discovery and Translational Research as a Senior Postdoc Research leader in St Jude Children’s Research Hospital (led by Dr Tom Curran, FRS, currently Executive Director and Chief Scientific Officer of the Children’s Research Institute, Children’s Mercy Hospital), collaborated with Genentech (Dr Fred de Savage, Vice President) and Curis (Dr Lee Rubin, CSO, currently Professor at Harvard University). Achievements published are designated as the first invention of live animal pharmacokinetics/dynamics imaging system. The activity contributed the project to launching as Hedgehog antagonist, Vismodegib®. Dr Kimura is appointed a unique academic position in Japan top-tier graduate school program in the University of Tokyo since 2018. Dr Kimura received a Ph.D. with distinction in Epigenetics, Cellular Molecular Biology/Veterinary Medical Sciences from the University of Tokyo.


Tadayoshi Hirata, Senior Investment Manager

Mr. Hirata Joined AVM in April 2018. Prior to Joining AVM, he worked in Innovation Management at Astellas Pharma Inc. (Japan) since April 2016, in charge of business transaction for early stage partnering deals. From June 2009 to March 2016, he worked for Clinical Pharmacology Department at Astellas Pharma Inc. taking a lead in preparing early-stage clinical development plans utilizing translational science principles. He also led clinical study protocol preparation and data analysis, and coordinated and managed preparation of applications for Clinical Pharmacology components, including Briefing Documents, INDs and NDAs and represented as a Clinical Pharmacology representative to the relevant regulatory authorities. He started his job career as a research scientist at MSD (Former Banyu Pharmaceutical co., LTD. a subsidiary of Merck & Co., Inc.) in April 2005 with background on pharmacokinetics and molecular biology.


Satoshi Konagai, Senior Investment Manager

Mr. Konagai joined AVM in 2020. Before joining AVM, he worked at the Strategic department at Astellas Pharma Inc. based in Tokyo HQ since 2015. He has led various internal projects and evaluation of external later stage opportunities across multiple therapeutic areas and modalities including Oncology, Ophthalmology and regenerative medicine. In parallel, he served as a member who develops corporate global R&D strategy and business strategy for regenerative medicine using his scientific and business intelligence. From 2004 to 2015, he was engaged in Oncology research programs including kinase inhibitors, Immuno-Oncology and biologics from target discovery to clinical stage as a pharmacology research scientist in Drug Discovery Research Center at Astellas Pharma Inc. Mr. Konagai has received his Master of Life Science degree in the field of Integrated Life Science from Kyoto University.


Nagisa Sakurai, Ph.D., Senior Investment Manager

Dr. Sakurai joined AVM in 2022. Dr. Sakurai has experienced R&D in both academia and industry for more than 10 years. She joined Astellas Pharma Inc., Regenerative medicine laboratory in 2014 and led a cardiovascular program for two years. In 2016, Dr. Sakurai was transferred to Astellas Institute for Regenerative Medicine (AIRM) based in Westborough, MA to continue R&D and seek new opportunities for pluripotent stem cell therapy. After spending about 5 years in AIRM, she returned to Portfolio Strategy based in Tokyo HQs, and was in charge to support development of corporate strategy of regenerative medicine and ophthalmology as well as to evaluate both internal programs and external opportunities. Dr. Sakurai received her Ph.D. in molecular biology from Tottori University.


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