Executive Management

Robert S. Ward, Ph.D. (h) | President & Chief Executive Officer

Bob Ward, a chemical engineer and well-known expert in biomedical polymer science, is President and CEO of ExThera Medical and Chairman of Emergence Venture Partners LLC. Prior to joining ExThera, Ward was President and CEO of DSM Biomedical in Berkeley, California, a biomaterials and medical device company he founded in 1989, as The Polymer Technology Group (PTG). In 2010, Ward completed the sale of PTG to Royal DSM with a 132X return on investment. Previously, Ward was Director of Research at Avco Medical Products and later spent a decade at Thoratec as President of the Biomaterials Division. Ward has numerous technical publications and patents and has received multiple awards and recognitions such as:

  • 2018 – elected member of the National Academy of Engineering

  • 2012 – awarded an honorary Ph.D. from the University of Massachusetts

  • 2006 – received the Excellence in Surface Science award from The Surfaces in Biomaterials Foundation

  • 2004 – named one of Medical Device & Diagnostic Industry’s 100 Most Notable People in the Medical Device Industry

  • 2003 – awarded the Technology Innovation and Development Award from the Society for Biomaterials

Ward studied engineering management and polymer science at Northeastern University and received a bachelor’s degree in chemical engineering from the University of Massachusetts, Lowell.

George G. Pitarra, Jr. | Executive Vice President & Chief Financial Officer

George Pitarra is Executive Vice President and Chief Financial Officer (CFO) of ExThera Medical. Prior to joining ExThera, Mr. Pitarra was CFO of The Polymer Technology Group, Chief Executive Officer of Humanetics Innovation Solutions, Inc., a market leader in automotive safety, and Chief Executive Officer of Triflo Medical, Inc., a prosthetic, replacement heart valve start-up company. Earlier in his career,he worked for Baxter International as a scientist in protein chemistry, with a concentration in protein affinity chromatography. Mr. Pitarra entered the business world with tenures in corporate finance positions at Beckman Coulter, Max Factor & Co., and Coopers & Lybrand.

Mr. Pitarra received bachelor’s and master’s degrees in life science engineering from Tufts University, and an MBA in finance and marketing from the University of Southern California.


Kathleen A. White | Vice President & Chief Operating Officer

Kathleen White joined ExThera Medical in January 2011 as Vice President and Chief Operating Officer, with more than 30 years of experience in a variety of positions including operations, manufacturing, research, development, quality and regulatory approval for the medical device industry. Prior to ExThera, Ms. White was Vice President of Operations for DSM Biomedical, a biomaterials and medical device company she co-founded in 1989 (formerly The Polymer Technology Group). In addition, Ms. White has held positions at Avco Medical Products and Thoratec and has been the principal investigator on two SBIR contracts awarded by the NIH. She has authored or co-authored over two dozen articles and abstracts, two book chapters and holds three patents in the field of biomaterials. Ms. White serves on the Advisory Board for the Biomedical Engineering program and is on the Board of Trustees for Western New England University.

Ms. White received a bachelor’s degree in biomedical engineering from Western New England University.

Keith McCrea, Ph.D. | Vice President of Research & Development, & Chief Science Officer

Dr. Keith McCrea is Chief Science Officer and Vice President of Research and Development of ExThera Medical. He began his career at The Polymer Technology Group, where he built a state-of-the-art surface analysis laboratory focusing on a custom-built advanced laser technique that has aided in the identification and development of new intellectual property at the company. Dr. McCrea also led R&D projects to develop new materials for several different medical applications.

Dr. McCrea received his doctorate in physical chemistry, with an emphasis on surface modification and characterization from University of California, Berkeley. Dr. McCrea also serves on the scientific advisory board of NESAC/BIO, an NIH-sponsored program at the University of Washington with a mission to develop new techniques to solve biomedical related problems associated with surfaces and interfaces.


Carla Kikken-Jussen | Managing Director, ExThera Medical Europe B.V.

With over thirty years ofEU medical device experience, Carla Kikken-Jussen oversees ExThera Medical’s European endeavors. Prior to joining the organization, Ms. Kikken-Jussen was the founder, President and CEO of Meditech Strategic Consultants where she was involved in various multi-center studies throughout Europe on relevant Ethics Committee submissions and Competent Authorities Notifications. Her background also includes extensive knowledge of EU Clinical Trials, EU Regulatory Submissions and CE Mark where she has conducted presentations on these topics at conferences across Europe and in the United States.

  • 2013 – awarded The Next Women 100 Award, as one of the 100 Most Influential Business Women in the Netherlands

  • 2010 – awarded The Federation Businesswomen Award 2010, as the best international, Female entrepreneur of 2010

Ms. Kikken-Jussen has her Bachelors Degree, Law University of Maastricht, Utrecht.

Scientific Advisory Board Members

Lakhmir S. Chawla, M.D.

Prior to joining the board, Dr. Chawla was a professor of medicine at the George Washington University Medical Center in Washington, D.C. where he directed research efforts for the Division of Critical Care Medicine. He previously headed the Division of Intensive Care Medicine at the Washington DC Veterans Affairs Medical Center, and currently serves as a clinical professor of medicine at the University of California, San Diego Medical Center. With a focus on critical care and nephrology, Dr. Chawla has led and supported several grants and research projects centered on acute kidney injury, renal disease, extracorporeal therapies, shock, and sepsis.

  • 2013 – Alpha Omega Alpha, George Washington University

Dr. Chawla received a bachelor’s degree from Boston University, and a medical degree from The University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey.

Herwig Gerlach, M.D., MBA, MSc, MAE

Professor Gerlach brings expertise in anesthesiology and critical care medicine as a board-certified physician and professor. A widely published researcher, he has investigated issues pertaining to intensive care, critical care and emergency medicine, post-operative care, and the treatment of sepsis, which are highly relevant to ExThera’s mission of developing new therapies for the treatment of bloodstream infections. In addition to his several roles throughout Germany, Prof. Dr. Gerlach also previously served as a research fellow at Columbia University in New York. He previously served as president of the German Sepsis Society and is now vice president.

  • 1999 – Received the Annual Scientific Award, 19thInternational Symposium of Intensive Care and Emergency Medicine

  • 1997 – Awarded a teaching certificate for Educational Presentations, European Respiratory Society

  • 1993 – Received the Pulmedica Award, German Society for Research in Respiratory and Lung Diseases

Prof. Dr. Gerlach received a medical degree from Justus Liebig University, Giessen and a master of business administration degree in hospital management from Hochschule Neubrandenburg. He also received a master of science degree in clinical research and translational medicine from the University of Leipzig and a master of arts in education degree in applied ethics from The University of Münster.

Stuart L. Goldstein, M.D.

Dr. Goldstein contributes expertise in nephrology and brings to the board a unique perspective from his background in pediatric care. In addition to his current role at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center, he holds a faculty position as a professor of pediatrics for the University of Cincinnati School of Medicine. Dr. Goldstein has also led and contributed research support for several research investigations focused on device therapies, including those with emphasis on renal failure and end-stage renal disease, for various institutions.

  • 2018 – Received the Team Research Award for Learning Networks, Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center

  • 2017 – Elected Fellow of the American Society of Nephrology

  • 2016 – Awarded the Presidential Citation, Society for Critical Care Medicine

Dr. Goldstein received a bachelor’s degree from Pitzer College and a medical degree from Columbia University.