About Us

Laguna Pharmaceuticals is a biopharmaceutical company founded with the singular goal of improving the care of patients suffering from cardiovascular disease. Our lead clinical candidate, vanoxerine, is currently in late-stage human clinical trials for treatment of atrial fibrillation. If successful, it has potential to change the paradigm by providing a safe and effective pharmaceutical option to the current standard of care, direct current cardioversion. In clinical investigation to date, vanoxerine has shown to be well-tolerated and has demonstrated efficacy nearing the level of direct current cardioversion. The company is supported by leading venture investors BioMed Ventures, Frazier Healthcare, Santé Ventures and Versant Ventures to advance vanoxerine through further clinical investigation and commercialization preparation.


Management Team

Bob Baltera, Chief Executive Officer
Bob Baltera joined Laguna Pharmaceuticals in February 2015 as chief executive officer. He was previously chief executive officer of Amira Pharmaceuticals until its $475 million acquisition by Bristol-Myers Squibb in 2011. In this capacity, he was instrumental in focusing Amira's development efforts, strengthening its pipeline and forging key collaborations with partners such as GlaxoSmithKline. Previously, he held a number of senior management positions over 17 years at Amgen. He serves on the board of directors for several companies and the San Diego Venture Group and is a member of the board of trustees of the Keck Graduate Institute. He earned his master’s degree in business from the Anderson School at UCLA and a bachelor’s degree in microbiology and a master’s degree in genetics from The Pennsylvania State University.


Howard C. Dittrich, M.D. FACC, Chief Medical Officer
Howard Dittrich joined Laguna Pharmaceuticals as chief medical officer in 2011. A cardiologist with more than 20 years of experience in cardiac therapeutic research and clinical development, he previously served as chief medical officer of cardiovascular companies Sorbent Therapeutics, Sequel Pharmaceuticals, and NovaCardia. Prior to NovaCardia, he held executive positions at Molecular Biosystems and Alliance Pharmaceutical. In these positions he oversaw clinical development and regulatory affairs and was instrumental in gaining U.S. Food and Drug Administration approval of two cardiovascular imaging agents. In addition, Dr. Dittrich co-founded and serves as chairman of the board of directors of IOWA Approach Inc., a privately-held company developing atrial fibrillation ablation technology. Dr. Dittrich is an adjunct professor of medicine and chair of the board of directors of the François M. Abboud Cardiovascular Research Center at the University of Iowa Carver College of Medicine. He was previously a faculty member of the department of medicine and a clinical professor of medicine at the University of California, San Diego (UCSD). Dr. Dittrich holds a bachelor’s degree from the University of Iowa and a medical doctorate from the University of Iowa Carver College of Medicine. He completed his residency in internal medicine and clinical fellowship in cardiology at UCSD.


Brian K. Farmer, Chief Business Officer
Brian Farmer joined Laguna Pharmaceuticals in February 2015 as chief business officer. He has been a consultant and advisor to several biopharmaceutical and medical device companies. Previously he served as vice president of corporate development and operations at Sequel Pharmaceuticals, a company focused on the development of a treatment for arrhythmia. Prior to Sequel, he was responsible for corporate development at cardiovascular-focused NovaCardia through its acquisition by Merck in 2007. Before this, he was a global marketing associate at Eli Lilly on the Cialis product team with responsibility for product launch and new indications, and also worked in marketing and sales operations for Prudential HealthCare and in public health program management. He earned his master’s degree in business from the University of Texas and his bachelor’s degree from Trinity University.


Mark Mugerditchian, Vice President, Manufacturing
Mark Mugerditchian joined Laguna Pharmaceuticals in 2015 as vice president of manufacturing. Previously he served as vice president of production and CMC at NovaMedica, a pharmaceutical start-up in Moscow, Russia. Prior to NovaMedica, he was senior vice president of manufacturing and product development at Sequel Pharmaceuticals, a company focused on the development of a treatment for arrhythmia. Prior to Sequel, he was senior vice president of manufacturing and product development at cardiovascular-focused NovaCardia through its acquisition by Merck in 2007. Before this, he held several senior management positions at Dura Pharmaceuticals and Gensia. He holds a chemical engineering degree from the University of Illinois and a master’s degree in organizational leadership.


John Snyder, Director of Finance
John Snyder joined Laguna Pharmaceuticals as director of finance in 2015. He brings many years of diverse accounting and finance experience. For the past 13 years, he has been involved in the life science and technology sectors with positions at Cebix, Sequel Pharmaceuticals, NovaCardia, Cabrellis Pharmaceuticals and Archimedes Technology Group. He graduated cum laude from the University of Arizona with a bachelor’s degree in finance and is a member of the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants (AICPA) and the California Society of CPA’s (CalCPA).


Julie Iwashita, Executive Director, Clinical Development
Julie Iwashita joined Laguna Pharmaceuticals in 2015 as executive director of clinical development. She brings more than 25 years of experience leading clinical development programs through successful submissions and marketing approvals. Previously, she served as executive director of clinical operations at Sorbent Therapeutics, focused on the development of a treatment for the symptoms of heart failure. Prior to Sorbent, Iwashita was senior director of clinical development and operations at MAP Pharmaceuticals and held positions at Proteolix, through its acquisition by OnyxPharmaceuticals, and at Affymax. She has also managed clinical programs at Genitope, Aviron (through acquisition by MedImmune), Amgen and Syntex in various therapeutic areas including renal, cardiovascular, and oncology. Julie holds a bachelor’s degree in human biology from Stanford University.


Board of Directors

Bob Baltera, Chief Executive Officer
Bob Baltera joined Laguna Pharmaceuticals in February 2015 as chief executive officer. Baltera was previously chief executive officer of Amira Pharmaceuticals until its $475 million acquisition by Bristol-Myers Squibb in 2011. In this capacity, he was instrumental in focusing Amira's development efforts, strengthening its pipeline and forging key collaborations with partners such as GlaxoSmithKline. Previously, Baltera held a number of senior management positions over 17 years at Amgen. Baltera serves on the board of directors for several companies and the San Diego Venture Group and is a member of the board of trustees of the Keck Graduate Institute. Baltera earned his master’s degree in business from the Anderson School at UCLA and a bachelor’s degree in microbiology and a master’s degree in genetics from The Pennsylvania State University.


Jerel Davis, Ph.D., Versant Ventures
Jerel Davis is a partner at Versant Ventures and joined Laguna Pharmaceuticals’ board of directors in February 2015. Jerel has played a key role in launching a number of Versant incubated portfolio companies and currently serves on the board of Blueline Bioscience, Northern Biologics, Inception Sciences, and Inception 1, 2, 3, and 4. Prior to joining Versant, Jerel was associate principal at McKinsey and Company where he advised healthcare corporations in pharmaceuticals, biotechnology, medical devices and molecular diagnostics. He has worked in a number of healthcare markets in North America, Europe, and Asia. Previously, Jerel completed a post-doctoral fellowship at Stanford University and was in research at Amgen. He received a doctorate in biological sciences from Stanford where he studied population genetics as an NSF Pre-doctoral Fellow.


Kevin M. Lalande, Santé Ventures
Kevin Lalande is a founder and managing director of Santé Ventures and joined Laguna Pharmaceuticals’ board of directors in November 2011. Prior to founding Santé Ventures in 2007, he spent seven years with Austin Ventures, a prominent venture firm with $3.9 billion under management. Before joining Austin Ventures, he was a management consultant with McKinsey & Company. Previously, he co-founded and sold three successful start-up companies: NetProfit, sold to a privately held advertising agency in 1996; Serus, sold to Netopia (Nasdaq: NTPA) in 1998; and TimeMarker, sold to PrimeHoldings (OTCBB: PRIM) in 2001. Kevin received his master’s degree in business with highest distinction from the Harvard Business School and holds a bachelor’s degree in electrical and computer engineering.


James Topper, M.D., Ph.D., Frazier Healthcare
James Topper, M.D., Ph.D., is a general partner at Frazier Healthcare and joined Laguna Pharmaceuticals’ board of directors in 2015. Dr. Topper has led multiple therapeutic venture investments at Frazier that have resulted in acquisitions totaling over $2.2 billion in aggregate value, and created over $2 billion in market value in the public markets. These companies include Rempex Pharmaceuticals, Incline Therapeutics, Calistoga Pharmaceuticals and Portola Pharmaceuticals. He currently serves on the boards of Amicus Therapeutics (Nasdaq FOLD), Atterocor, Semnur Pharmaceuticals, Anaptys Biosciences, Allena Pharmaceuticals, Alcresta, and ProNai Therapeutics. Prior to joining Frazier Healthcare, he served as head of the cardiovascular research and development franchise at Millennium Pharmaceuticals and ran Millennium San Francisco (formerly COR Therapeutics). Before this, he was vice president of Biology at COR and was responsible for managing all of its research activities. He served on the faculties of Stanford Medical School and Harvard Medical School, where he functioned as a clinician, instructor and basic investigator. Dr. Topper received his medical doctorate and doctorate in Biophysics from Stanford University School of Medicine in 1991 under the auspices of the Medical Scientist Training Program. He continues to hold an appointment as a Clinical Assistant Professor of Medicine at Stanford University and as a Cardiology Consultant to the Palo Alto Veterans Administration Hospital.