Our Team

The Apjohn Group has combined, more than 250 years of experience in the pharmaceutical industry, covering all phases of the drug development process from discovery to commercialization. Further, we have extensive global networks of contacts and additional resources to enhance our capabilities. Our approach is to choose from this constellation of capabilities the most appropriate expertise for each project. We value highly the ability to work collaboratively, with each other and with innovators, to bring ideas from vision to reality.

Donald R. Parfet, Managing Director

Don received his BA degree in economics from the University of Arizona in 1975 and his M.B.A. degree in finance from the University of Michigan in 1977. Don is a retired executive from Pharmacia having worked for many years with two legacy companies: The Upjohn Company and Pharmacia & Upjohn. In addition to his duties with the Apjohn Group and Apjohn Ventures, Don serves as a Board Member of Kelly Services, Inc. (KELYA), Masco Corp. (MAS), Rockwell Automation (ROK) and until recently Sierra Oncology, Inc (SRRA). Don is a trustee and Chairman of the Board of the W. E. Upjohn Institute for Employment Research, trustee and past Chairman of the Board of Bronson Healthcare Group and trustee and past Board Chair of Kalamazoo College.

Eli L. Thomssen, Managing Director

Prior to co-founding the Apjohn Group, Eli spent most of his career at Pharmacia & Upjohn Animal Health where he held a variety of marketing and administrative positions including sales management, product management, productions planning, distribution, and customer services. His last position at Pharmacia & Upjohn Animal Health was Vice President, Business Development, and Strategic Planning. This position was responsible for all M&A and technology in-licensing activities. As an Apjohn Group partner, Eli has been involved in varying degrees with all the companies the Apjohn Group has started including ProNai (now Sierra Oncology), Afmedica, Axenic Dental and Armune BioScience. Eli was the founding CEO of Armune BioScience, and lead Armune through the development of a prostate cancer diagnostic assay. Eli has board experience having served on the boards of ProNai, Azenic, and Armune. Eli is currently the President & CEO of Adlore, and a member of the Esperovax Board. Adlore is developing a boot device to improve diabetic foot ulcer healing rates, and Esperovax has a proprietary method for bioengineering probiotic yeast to deliver biologicals orally.

Eli has a Bachelor of Science degree from the University of Nebraska and a MBA from Western Michigan University.

Phillip C. Carra, General Partner

Phil’s career spans more than 35 years in the pharmaceutical industry, primarily in the area of corporate affairs and public relations, including government relations, media relations, policy analysis, company communications and community relations programs on a global basis. Before joining the Apjohn Group in 2004 was as Vice President, Public Affairs and Kalamazoo Site Executive at Pfizer. During his career, Phil has held a number of board positions with industry and professional associations in Europe and the U.S., including the National Association of Manufacturers, the Public Affairs Council, the Michigan Economic Development Corporation’s Life Sciences Steering Committee and the Southwest Michigan Innovation Center.

Amy S. Courter, General Partner

In the first 30 years of her career, Courter served in executive and board roles in diverse industries and types of organizations: private, publicly-traded, and not-for-profit. She also served as Major General Courter, national commander and CEO of the U.S. Air Force Auxiliary, the Civil Air Patrol, leading over 60,000 members. Currently, she uses her passion for leadership, management, and accountability to strengthen other organizations by helping them shape a shared vision and garner increased discipline and accountability, while building a more cohesive team that delivers results.

Courter is a graduate of Kalamazoo College and earned her MBA from Western Governor’s University.

Robert DeWit, General Partner

Robert (Rob) DeWit obtained his undergraduate degree from Calvin College in Grand Rapids, MI and his PhD in Toxicology from the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor. Rob spent 25 years in global pharma serving as a scientist, manager and leader in a wide variety of domestic and global roles for Parke-Davis, Upjohn, and the subsequent organizations until leaving Pfizer. During his time in pharma, Rob regularly worked with the Animal Health and Manufacturing Quality Assurance divisions, in addition to participating on acquisition teams. Following his time at Pfizer, Rob was the President and CEO of the Southwest Michigan Innovation Center, a laboratory-based incubator for startup life science companies. In 2016, Rob joined MPI Research where he served as the President and CEO until April of 2018 when MPI was acquired by Charles River Laboratories. Rob serves on the board of Northern Biomedical Research, assists Avista Capital Partners with corporate reviews, and spent several years on the board of Kalamazoo Loaves and Fishes.

David Esposito, General Partner

David is a seasoned healthcare executive and combat veteran who has built and scaled multiple healthcare companies resulting in successful exits to strategic buyers. David is currently President and CEO of ONL Therapeutics, a company pioneering new approaches to preserving site and halting vision loss due to retinal disease. He previously served as CEO of Armune Biosciences, an early commercial stage cancer diagnostics company. After the successful introduction of the only cancer specific non-PSA blood test available in the world to assess the risk of prostate cancer, growing demand to over 15,000 tests, and making progress on a pipeline of products, Armune gained the interest of numerous strategic buyers and closed a deal with Exact Sciences in December of 2017 to acquire the core assets of the business.

Prior to leading Armune, David served as President of Phadia US Inc., a division of Phadia AB, a premier global specialty diagnostics company. He led several initiatives to accelerate growth which culminated in the sale to Thermo Fisher Scientific for $3.5 B in 2011. Before joining Phadia, David spent 16 years at Merck & Co, Inc., starting his career in sales and progressing through leadership roles in sales, Marketing and commercial strategy.

David has a B.S in Civil Engineering from the United States Military Academy at West Point and an MBA from Syracuse University.

M. Holly Folk, CPA, General Partner

Holly has 40 years of financial experience in the pharmaceutical industry, encompassing both large pharmaceutical and small biotech perspectives. Holly began her career in the public accounting sector with Peat, Marwick & Mitchell Certified Public Accountants. She spent 25 years in large pharma (Upjohn, Pharmacia, Pfizer), focusing on project valuation and business development, developing financial structures and negotiating financial terms of more than one hundred business development agreements. She provided financial oversight to the prioritization and integration of the Upjohn, Pharmacia, and Searle R&D development pipelines.

Since retiring from Pfizer, Holly has held several CFO positions and provided financial consulting on product in-licensing and out-licensing to numerous start-up pharmaceutical companies. She has held several board and officer positions in biotech and pharmaceutical services companies.

Robert Forgey, General Partner

Bob is a seasoned pharmaceutical development executive and entrepreneur who has founded therapeutics companies resulting in one case an IPO. Most recently, Bob is the President and CEO of Iaso Therapeutics. A vaccine research and development company based on a platform technology spun-out of Michigan State University. Immediately before Iaso, Bob was Vice President of Operations for ONL Therapeutics, a clinical-stage ocular neuroprotection company housed in Ann Arbor, Michigan. Previously, Bob was co-founder, President, and COO of ProNAi therapeutics an oncology therapeutics company, now traded as Sierra Oncology on the NASDAQ.

Before his work in start-ups, Bob spent 15-years in midsize and large pharmaceutical companies: Searle, Pharmacia, and Pfizer. Where he served in multiple scientific leadership and operational roles.

Bob has an M.S in Biology from the University of North Dakota and an MBA from Olin School of Business at Washington University in St. Louis.

Charles M. Hall, Ph.D., General Partner

Charles has more than 30 years of experience in all phases of drug discovery, development and registration at Pharmacia Corporation and its predecessor companies Pharmacia & Upjohn and The Upjohn Company. During his career at these companies, he held management positions of increasing responsibility in drug discovery and development. Most recently he served as Vice President, Product Development for CNS and Infectious Disease products with accountability for the worldwide development and registration of products in these therapeutic areas. He led the multidisciplinary team that was accountable for the successful worldwide registration of Zyvox (linezolid), the first truly novel antibiotic in over 30 years.

Charles received his undergraduate degree in chemistry from The University of the South in Sewanee, TN and a Ph.D. in organic chemistry at the University of Minnesota. He was a Public Health Service Postdoctoral Fellow at the Institute für Organische Chemie in Munich, Germany.

Jack R. Luderer, M.D., Founding Partner

Dr. Luderer earned his M.D. from Northwestern University, where he also received his B.S./M.S. in Chemistry, and his Board Certified in Internal Medicine and Clinical Pharmacology. In 17 years at Upjohn/Pharmacia/Pfizer, he held several executive level positions including managing medical groups responsible for several IND and NDA filings, global clinical trials across multiple therapeutic areas and a 48-bed clinical research facility for first-in-man studies. He has extensive experience in both academic medicine, all phases of drug development (1-4), technology transfer, large-pharma and startups, early proof-of-concept, and high-level medical writing/strategy. This experience encompasses such things as Clinical Development Plans, selecting clinical targets, protocol design, early proof-of-concept, dose-response, correlating pharmacokinetics with response, novel methodologies, writing FDA Submissions, pre-IND meetings, IND and NDA submissions, clinical sections of Business Plans, rescuing failed projects, addressing clinical-holds, serious safety concerns, and representing clinical issues for companies seeking initial startup funding. His work in medical marketing included designing clinical studies to support medically justified off-label use. Dr. Luderer has less extensive, but some meaningful experiences with devices, combination products, and diagnostics.

Dr. Luderer has served as Interim Dean of the Western Michigan University of Medicine, Fellow at Northwestern Center for Medical Device Development, Assistant Professor at the Pennsylvania State University School of Medicine and Founder/Executive Director of Biosciences Research & Commercialization Center at Western Michigan University.

David Marra, General Partner

David is an independent life science consultant. He brings over 35 years of marketing and commercial experience in biopharmaceutical therapeutics and diagnostics across the human and animal health arenas. During his career with Upjohn, Pharmacia, GE Healthcare, Shionogi USA, Pfizer Animal Health and Radius Health, Inc., he has led numerous marketing, sales and commercial business.

Additionally, he has broad experience across therapeutic areas in critical care, asthma and inflammation, central nervous system disorders, cardiovascular disease, migraine, pediatrics and women’s health. Most recently he contributed to R&D efforts in the growth of a start-up Biotech Company as Program Lead and Director, Market Development for a phase II Women’s Health clinical program.

He is a graduate of Loyola Marymount University at Los Angeles, CA, with a B.Sc. degree in Biology and Pre-medicine.

Douglas R. Morton, Jr., Ph.D., General Partner

Doug has more than 40 years of experience in the pharmaceutical industry with particular emphasis on discovery and early development of pharmaceuticals. He joined the Upjohn Company as a research scientist in 1973, remaining through mergers with Pharmacia AB, Monsanto and Pfizer where he held multiple positions in management including the Pharmacia Corporation’s Group Vice President, Technology Acquisitions & Operations for Discovery Research. Doug has previously served on the boards and/or SABs of several companies, and he is currently a member of the Scientific Advisory Board of Cirius Therapeutics. Doug has also served as a member of the Scientific Advisory Board and Management Committee of the Southwest Michigan First Life Science Fund as well as chairman of the Scientific Advisory Board of Metabolic Solutions Development Company. He currently serves as chair of Hopen Life Science Venture’s Scientific and Medical Advisory Board and is also a member of the Fund’s Investment Committee.

Doug holds an A.B. degree from Kenyon College (Chemistry) and a Ph.D. degree in Organic Chemistry from Columbia University. He completed postdoctoral studies in organic synthesis at Stanford University.

Sheri St. Clair, General Partner

Sheri’s responsibilities at the Apjohn Group include overseeing the evaluation and diligence processes associated with the review of early-stage life science opportunities. She has 30 years of multidisciplinary experience in the pharmaceutical industry, including the areas of quality assurance, pharmacovigilance, regulatory affairs and project management. Most recently, Sheri managed the worldwide development of new chemical entities and product line extensions, assuring that their successful development and registration aligned with corporate strategies and agreed timelines. She also led multiple-disciplinary teams that performed due diligence evaluations of in-licensing candidates.

Sheri holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Pharmacy from the University of Nebraska.

Peter R. Seaver, Founding Partner

Peter is a pharmaceutical industry consultant having spent his career in sales and marketing with The Upjohn Company. He finished his Upjohn career as Corporate Vice President of Worldwide Strategic Marketing. He has served on the boards of the National Pharmaceutical Council (including a year as its chair), University of Arizona Pharmacy School National Advisory Board, the National Association of Chain Drug Stores Advisory Board, the Board of Directors of Barr Laboratories, as well as the board of Nelson Information Systems, and the Annenberg Center for Health Sciences at Eisenhower. He was a member of the Board of Fellows for the Harvard School of Dental Medicine.

Peter is a graduate of Bowdoin College, Brunswick, Maine, with a BA degree in Biology.

Dean Shinabarger, Ph.D., General Partner

Dean Shinabarger received a B.S. in Biology from Emporia State University in 1982, and a Ph.D. in Microbiology from Louisiana State University in 1986. He was a postdoctoral fellow in the laboratory of Dr. Leo Parks at North Carolina State University from 1986-88, studying sterol synthesis in yeast. In addition, he completed a second fellowship from 1989-92 at the University of Illinois College of Medicine in Chicago under Dr. Chakrabarty, investigating the molecular biology and enzymology of Pseudomonas aeruginosa alginate synthesis as related to cystic fibrosis patient lung infections. Dr. Shinabarger began his industrial career at Proctor & Gamble Pharmaceuticals in 1992 in their anti-infective discovery program. He moved to Upjohn Pharmaceuticals in 1994 to join the discovery and development team working on the oxazolidinone class of antibacterial agents. Dr. Shinabarger continued with the program, contributing to the eventual approval of linezolid (Zyvox) in 2000 and then exited a few months after Pfizer acquired Pharmacia in 2003. In 2004, Dr. Shinabarger cofounded Micromyx, a microbiology services company that conducts preclinical R&D for biotech, Pharma, and animal health companies. He sold Micromyx to Microbiologics in 2019, and currently serves as a microbiology consultant.

Joseph T. Sobota, M.D., Founding Partner

For the past 21 years, Joe has been involved in entrepreneurial activities with startup companies as a founder, board member, executive and consultant. In that time period, Joe served as CEO of Rubicon Genomics, President & COO of Biopure and Executive VP and COO of Chugai-Upjohn. Coupled with his startup background is his 25-year career at the Upjohn Company, a large pharmaceutical corporation, where he had responsibilities in R & D and general management, covering all major aspects of the pharmaceutical business from compound discovery, clinical development to product launch. Presently, he accepts consultant assignments to biotech start ups in general management, regulatory strategy and clinical development. His passion is the identification and conversion of world-class innovations and discoveries to commercial reality.

Joe received an A. B. in chemistry from Drew University and an M.D. from Georgetown. Post M.D. residencies were served at Tulane and NIH. He is board certified in anatomic and clinical pathology and has held faculty appointments as Visiting Professor of Pathology at Dartmouth Medical School and Adjunct Professor of Medicine at Northwestern University School of Medicine. He now serves on the Affiliate Faculty of the University of South Carolina School of Medicine-Greenville.

Wendy Van Peenan, Controller

Wendy has served as the Controller of the Apjohn Group since its inception. She has more than 30 years of financial experience and has been involved in the accounting set-up for all the Apjohn Group portfolio companies.

Wendy is a graduate of Duke University with a BA degree in Economics. Wendy currently serves on the YWCA Kalamazoo Board of Directors; she is also on the Finance Committee of Aacorn.