The Navigator Program

It is the vision of First Flight Venture Center, FFVC, to be an important catalyst in the success of our high-science, high-impact entrepreneurial companies. We do this through multiple programs that provide tailored resources, guidance, connections, and support required for their navigation of the global marketplace.

The Navigator Program at FFVC leverages the talent and experience of seasoned entrepreneurs and executive level individuals, our Navigators, to help FFVC resident companies build successful ventures by serving as trusted advisors. The Navigator’s participation is voluntary and based on their desire to give back to the entrepreneurial community.

A Navigator is paired with a senior executive from a company, allowing the company’s executive to gain from the Navigator’s knowledge and experience, and helping advance the company toward graduation from FFVC. Working with a Navigator is a fundamental element and benefit of the overall FFVC program.


Esther M. Alegria, Ph.D
Esther M. Alegria, Ph.DNavigator
Esther Alegria is senior executive biopharmaceutical advisor at Catalyst Excel & Advance (EA), lending her 28 years of experience with established and start-up pharmaceutical & biopharmaceutical companies in all areas from R&D through commercialization. Prior to becoming a senior executive advisor ,she was the senior vice president of global manufacturing at Biogen, where she was responsible for the company’s successful manufacturing operations in Denmark, Massachusetts, and North Carolina covering world-class biopharmaceutical large-scale drug substance manufacturing, medical devices assembly, finished goods, and small molecule manufacturing operations. Prior to her role as SVP, Esther was the vice president of manufacturing and general manager of Biogen Idec’s Research Triangle Park, North Carolina site, and subsequently led the start-up and licensure of a second large scale manufacturing facility in Hillerød, Denmark.

Esther was selected by Business NC Magazine in 2009 as Woman Extraordinaire of the Year for her influential leadership within her company and her impact on its economic success and forward-thinking strategies. Throughout her career, Esther has mentored others in their pursuit of education and further professional development..

Esther has served on the Advisory Board for North Carolina Biosciences, Global Manufacturing BioPhorum, Biotechnology Training and Education Center at NC State University, and the American Chamber of Commerce of Copenhagen-Denmark. In addition, she has served on the board of directors for non-profit organizations supporting multiple sclerosis research & patient support, and currently serves on the UAE-Union Atlantic Enterprises board of directors (for-profit) and Shepherd Care Medical Clinic (non-profit).

Esther holds a Ph.D. in chemistry from the University of Hawaii and an executive business management certification from Harvard Business School.

Bobby Bahram
Bobby BahramNavigator
Bobby has over 15 years of operational experience building companies. Mr. Bahram has held executive level positions with various technology based ventures ($80M in total venture capital and institutional financing). He was the founding CEO, and CFO & COO of a healthcare IT, software and services company (RadarFind – tracking of medical equipment and patients in hospitals) that was acquired by TeleTracking Technologies, an international provider of patient flow solutions for the hospital industry. He is an early stage investor; serves as a director on private and public companies; involved in spin-offs and mergers and acquisitions; and has expertise in growing companies in the software, hardware, and services environment. He holds a B.S. in electrical engineering and an MBA.
Elaine D. Bolle
Elaine D. BolleNavigator
Elaine D Bolle is an experienced investor, entrepreneur, senior executive and board director leading domestic and global organizations from start-ups to $750M+ enterprises.  She built and successfully exited several early stage venture backed companies including Achex, a payment processor, sold to First Data Corp. She currently serves as Director and past President of RTP Capital Associates, an angel investing network in the Triangle.  She serves on the Board of Directors for the Council for Entrepreneurial Development and is a member of the Executive Committee.  She also serves on the Board of Directors for Dress for Success Triangle NC, is an advisor to early stage companies and mentors a variety of companies under the CED VMS program, SOAR Triangle and the Citrix Accelerator.  As the former chair of the CEO Network for the Forum for Women Entrepreneurs and Executives (Watermark), she has extensive experience working with early stage entrepreneurs.  She has functional expertise in strategic marketing and brand management, business development and sales, e-commerce and internet applications, and fund-raising, mergers and acquisitions.  Her industry expertise includes financial services, consumer goods and services, multi-channel retail sales, and internet end user applications and e-commerce. Ms. Bolle was the Senior Vice President and General Manager for Western Union, a global payment provider, leading the consumer payments businesses worldwide.   She was a Vice President and Senior Director of Citicorp Global Payments and at Quaker Oats, she conceived, built and managed the new wholesome snack business “Quaker Chewy Granola Bars.  Ms. Bolle has an MBA and a BA from the University of Michigan.
Allison London Brown
Allison London BrownNavigator
London Brown has 20+ years of diverse medical device, consumer and pharmaceutical experience. She has launched 90+ products/services and served as an advisor to CEOs, corporate boards, NGO’s, non-profits and government organizations. Currently, she leads 2 medical device start-ups in Raleigh, NC – UVision, focused on a new hysteroscopy office-based system, and Aegis Women’s Health Technologies, focused on prevention of Urinary Tract Infection. She serves as a Senior Advisor/Board Member for several early and later stage start-ups in the RTP. Previously, she was Global Vice President of Marketing, Medical Education and Training for Bioventus, a global leader in Orthobiologics. She led her team to create a new Medical marketing platform, reaching ~8000 HCPs with company sponsored, personalized education and over 27MM touchpoints with published content. She has led product pipeline, strategy and fundraising initiatives for these organizations and continues to support other start-ups and faith-based organizations in Commercialization, Marketing & Communication planning. She was employed by Johnson & Johnson for 10 yrs. in R&D, strategic marketing and sales leadership roles within multiple divisions. She served as General Manager of the Maternal Fetal Care Division of GE Healthcare, VP of Corporate Strategy & Communications at Healthways, and Chief Operating/Commercial Officer of Stanley Healthcare Solutions, a healthcare technology company and division of Stanley/Black & Decker, facilitating and implementing a $274MM HC technology acquisition. Ms. Brown graduated from Auburn University in Textile Sciences, concentrating in Medical Textiles, and earned a Masters of Science Degree at North Carolina State University, in Polymer Chemistry, where she extensively researched the healing properties of Chitosan. In addition, Ms. London Brown earned an MBA from Temple University, Fox School of Business.
William Collins
William CollinsNavigator
William has over 25 years of experience in the pharmaceutical marketplace with experience including sales, marketing, business development, contract negotiation and raising capital from both Venture and Private Equity funds. He has raised over $400 million in equity and debt in his career. He was founder and CEO of two pharmaceutical companies. His last one, Covis sold the majority of its assets for over $1.2 billion in 2015. In prior experience he was hired to change the strategic direction of a company. This resulted in growing revenue from zero to >$15 million in 3 years with positive EBITDA. This included forming a strategic partnership with a major company within the industry which included a financial investment as well. William has analyzed numerous products, services and technologies within the healthcare marketplace and with executive teams developed and executed strategic plans to penetrate their respective marketplaces. He holds a degree in biochemistry.
Dr. Allen Dovigi
Dr. Allen Dovigi Navigator
Dr. Dovigi has over 34 years in the medical/dental field as a general practitioner, an Oral and Maxillofacial Pathologist and as an Associate Professor in academia. He has started and grown a number of successful dental and oral pathology laboratory businesses with expertise in direct to public and business to business marketing.
He has extensive experience in navigating the regulatory environment in the health care field including HIPPA, OSHA, CLIA, LFS at the state and federal level. Dr. Dovigi has expertise in organizing and running a business in the healthcare field that includes billing and coding for Medical Insurance and Medicare and handling HR for a large staff and designing and implementing systems for the day to day operations.
Dr. Dovigi’s experience in academia included serving on the IRB for human subjects research and heading the research department at his institution that collaborated with ASU’s biomedical engineering department. Dr. Dovigi served as a pathology consultant on a biomedical engineering start up which is now at the Phase II of SBIR Grant stage of development and will be starting clinical trials the end of 2018.
Dr. Dovigi currently serves as laboratory director in the state of California and serves as a consultant and advisor at a number of start-up incubators in the biotech industry.
Dean Gray
Dean GrayNavigator
Dean Gray is a global business executive with over 25 years of leadership in turning innovation into value in the life sciences. Mr. Gray has focused on the intersection of life science, medical technology and business in diverse settings ranging from start-ups to major medical device, pharmaceutical and biotech companies. He has served in key commercial and product development senior management roles with leading companies including Boston Scientific, Sanofi/Genzyme, Becton Dickinson, and Pfizer/Lederle. In addition, he has worked closely with venture capital start-ups and other emerging technology companies. In his current role as a principal at consultancy company Appareo LLC, Mr. Gray assists innovative life science companies in identifying and assessing new commercial opportunities, planning and executing rapid growth strategies, and designing and building high performing business enterprises.

Mr. Gray has assisted companies to plan and execute successful go-to-market strategies for a broad range of diagnostic and therapeutic products across numerous diseases states. His experience includes leading development and launch of novel technologies in diagnostic imaging, endoscopy, surgical instruments, stents and implantables, drug/device combinations, neurodiagnostics, biologics, and pharmaceuticals. Mr. Gray has run high-performing, customer-oriented businesses in range of disease areas and markets including neurology and neurodegenerative diseases, cardiovascular disease and stroke, ophthalmology, oncology, diabetes, gastroenterology, urology, sports medicine and orthopedics, and regenerative medicine. In his most recent assignment, Mr. Gray led commercialization efforts for novel noninvasive biomarkers targeting multiple sclerosis, Alzheimer’s disease and cognitive disorders, Parkinson’s disease and other movement disorders, stroke, and traumatic brain injury. His business activities span all of the major global healthcare markets and he brings insight into local market needs having lived overseas and utilizing his Japanese language skills. Mr. Gray received his B.A. from Earlham College and M.A. in International Business from Columbia University.

Dr. Tage Honoré
Dr. Tage HonoréNavigator
Dr. Tage Honoré is an experienced pharma and biotechnology executive, entrepreneur and pioneer with expert knowledge in the fields of Alzheimer’s disease, anxiety, cancer immunotherapy, chronic pain, depression, epilepsy, female hormone replacement therapy, learning disorders, osteoporosis, Parkinson’s disease, stroke and schizophrenia. His greatest scientific achievement was discovering and naming the AMPA subtype of Excitatory Amino Acid Receptors as well as the AMPA antagonists CNQX and NBQX, which have been key tools for mapping the excitatory pathways in the central nervous system.

Additionally, Dr. Honoré has published more than 100 scientific papers, is inventor on 23 patents and championed 40 drugs to progress from idea to clinical development including three products that entered the prescription drug market. He has held several positions, including: VP Drug Discovery at Novo Nordisk A/S; Senior Executive VP Nervous System Research, Novartis Pharma Inc; VP Discovery Research, Purdue Pharma LP and President and CEO, Aestus Therapeutics Inc.

Dr. Honoré’s successes are attributed to his ability to translate science to product opportunities and his understanding of the need to integrate research, clinic, market and financial stakeholders. The organizational models he developed to obtain record pipeline productivity in several companies are key to his business achievements.

Dr. Honoré has a master’s degree in pharmaceutical science and doctoral degrees in medicinal chemistry and neurobiology, in addition to business training from Harvard Business School and European Management Centre.

Ramsey Kilani, M.D.
Ramsey Kilani, M.D. Navigator
A physician by training, Ramsey brings broad professional experience in clinical and business arenas within the healthcare and technology sectors. He has served as a Founder, Executive, or Board Member in multiple companies ranging from startups and early stage companies to larger, more established entities. In these roles, he has handled responsibilities ranging from general business and operational strategy and management, to more focused medical affairs duties involving clinical education and research trial design and management. His experience as an entrepreneur and founder of multiple startups has provided him with insights into both the scientific and business challenges facing young companies.
Ramsey is also the Founder and Managing Partner of the Gliavent Group, a consulting company with a wide variety of clients in the healthcare and technology sectors, including Diagnostics, Pharmaceutical, Medical Device, Clinical Care Delivery Models, IT, Materials Science, and Financial Services companies. He also serves as a Senior Advisor at Global Security and Innovative Strategies, a Washington D.C-based consulting and government relations firm.
Dr. Kilani holds diplomas from the University of Arizona, Northwestern University, and Duke University. He also served as a faculty member in Neuroradiology at Duke University, where he also completed his residency and fellowship training. In his time in academia, he authored numerous manuscripts in the medical literature on such topics as the utilization of diagnostics and spinal interventional procedures. He has also published in the fields of translational neuroscience, pharmacology, and gene therapy; and serves as a reviewer for multiple journals, including Medical Care, a leading health policy journal. He is also a member of numerous professional organizations and societies, and serves on advisory committees within the American College of Radiology, and the American Board of Radiology.
Thomas Laundon
Thomas LaundonNavigator
Tom Laundon is an, experienced executive with demonstrated accomplishments in capital allocation, finance, accounting, financial reporting, legal, operations, marketing and business development in small to medium enterprises. He has particular expertise in technology-oriented organizations that are privately owned and/or financed through institutional venture capital. Most recently, Mr. Laundon served as interim CFO for Innocrin Therapeutics in its successful spinout from Viamet, Inc. He also served as CFO for G1 Therapeutics and as COO for ArtusLabs, Inc. (acquired by Perkin-Elmer, PKI), PhaseBio Pharmaceuticals and Synthematix (acquired by Symmx, SMMX). Mr. Laundon was the first Vice President for Economic Development at the North Carolina Biotechnology Center. Mr. Laundon has served on the Executive Committee and Board of NC BIO and on the Board of Directors of IssueTrak as well as the Council for Entrepreneurial Development. He is a member of the National Association of Corporate Directors (NACD). Mr. Laundon graduated with a B.S. in Industrial Engineering from NC State University and an MBA from Harvard Business School.
Charlie Lineberry
Charlie LineberryNavigator
Charlie has over 40 years of professional experience in biomedical research, including 30+ years in the pharmaceutical and biotechnology industries. He currently provides consulting services on drug development with a focus on clinical and regulatory strategies. Charlie is also a member of the Board of Directors of T3D Therapeutics, a clinical stage drug development company engaged in the development of a new orally administered treatment for Alzheimer’s disease. Previously, he was Co-founder and CEO of Lineberry Research Associates (LRA), a privately held CRO and strategic consulting firm that provided drug development services to pharmaceutical and biotech companies both in the US and globally. The company’s client roster included large and medium sized multinational pharma companies as well as a broad mix of small pharma and biotech companies, many of which were start-up ventures. LRA received numerous awards in the business and scientific community for its sustained growth and success over more than a decade. Additionally, the company was highly regarded for its emphasis on corporate culture and community service. Prior to founding LRA, Charlie was Senior Director, Clinical Neurosciences at Burroughs Wellcome Co. (now GlaxoSmithKline), where he was responsible for clinical development programs in psychiatry, neurology and anesthesiology and supervised the successful submission of 18 INDs and 7 approved NDAs. Charlie has a Ph.D. in physiological psychology, NIH post-doctoral training in neurobiology, and has held teaching and research positions in the medical schools at the University of Florida, the University of Pittsburgh, and the University of North Carolina.
Preston Linn
Preston LinnNavigator
Mr. Linn is an individual who specializes in alliance creation. His years of professional experience include R&D of novel technologies and Business Development. Linn began his career as a research Chemist. He has worked at RTI International, Union Carbide Ag Products and Becton Dickinson Technologies (BD). While at BD, he helped develop the real-time, isothermal, homogeneous molecular diagnostics assay that was commercialized as BD ProbeTec-ET, a $130 MM/yr platform for sexually transmitted diseases. Linn also managed the BD Incubator from 1999 to 2007 where he worked with over 15 start-up life science companies that have gone on to create over 500 technology jobs and together represent a market capitalization in excess of $1B. Linn is currently Chief Alliance Officer at NIRvana Sciences, Inc and was the VP of Alliances for Advanced Animal Diagnostics, an emerging animal health diagnostics company.
Mary Musacchia
Mary MusacchiaNavigator
Mary’s 30 plus years of executive level experience providing business and strategic advice to senior management is now directed toward emerging growth companies providing business development and strategic advice focused on negotiation strategies, business operations and transactional processes, positioning relationships with strategic partners and board development. Mary’s career includes Sr. V.P. for International Business Development, Affiliated Computer Systems, 17 years with SAS Institute where she was Counsel to the CEO, Director of Global Government Affairs and General Counsel, and Senior Counsel at General Telephone. Mary serves as Chair of the Board, First Flight Venture Center, Inc. Past board positions include: Whamtech, Inc., a small technology company specializing in real-time virtual data integration; Center for Board Evaluations, Inc. an early stage company providing board evaluations; Chair, Council for Entrepreneurial Development (CED); Leadership Triangle; William R. Kenan, Jr. Institute for Engineering, Technology & Science; North Carolina Conference on Women; Information Technology Association of America Software Division; North Carolina Technology Association; and North Carolina Genomics and Bioinformatics Consortium. Mary is a member of the National Association of Corporate Directors and of Women Corporate Directors. In 2013 Mary was recognized by the NC Women’s Forum for her years of service on public boards and commissions and is the recipient of the 2001 Triangle Business Journal Women in Business Award. She received her J.D. from St. Louis University.
Dr. Jorge Phillips
Dr. Jorge Phillips Navigator
Dr. Phillips is a seasoned entrepreneur, business executive and management consultant with extensive experience developing new technologies and successfully building up technology startup companies both in the US and in South America. His current interests are in the application of AI, machine and deep learning, algorithm design and blockchain technologies to the development of innovative products with substantial value. He has had leading roles in several startups in RTP. As a COO he was instrumental in managing the operation and growth of a technology startup in RTP leading to a Triangle Fast 50 award. From a corporate perspective, he is currently a Board of Directors member of a medium sized credit union in NC, has been a member of the Board of Directors of several small to medium size corporations in the US and abroad, an executive suite advisor to very large multinational companies and as of late a member of the innovation board of a very large multinational financial institution. He has substantial experience in the financial, health, industrial, logistics, telecom and government verticals. A patented inventor in the US, Japan and Europe with a keen interest in research and education, he has been an AI and computer science researcher at the Stanford AI Lab and at MIT’s CSAIL (then Laboratory of Computer Science), has lectured and taught computer science and AI at several universities in North and South America, and chaired a leading computer science department in Colombia. Dr. Phillips holds a B.Sc. degree from MIT in computer science, two M.Sc. degrees from Stanford University in computer systems and in artificial intelligence, and a Ph.D. from Stanford University in artificial intelligence.
Damon Race
Damon RaceNavigator
Damon has more than 20 years of commercial life science and private investment experience. He has participated in five startups from early inception to exit. His commercial experience includes pharmaceuticals, biotechnology, healthcare analytics and medical devices, across a wide range of therapeutic categories. Damon has many years of experience working with early stage entrepreneurs. His expertise includes fund raising, executive management, sales, business development and strategic planning.

In 2015, Damon formed Kaliber Investments and is an owner in the fund. Kaliber Investments is a healthcare investment fund for accredited investors, with an emphasis on small to mid-cap pharmaceutical and biotechnology companies. Damon graduated from George Mason University in 1996 with a Bachelor of Science in biology and began his career in pharmaceuticals. Damon holds an MBA from Duke University’s Fuqua School of Business, the Certified Licensing Professional designation from the Licensing Executive Society and the FINRA Series 65. Damon serves on the board of directors of The Green Chair Project and is a member of the Advisory Board of both Trill Financial and Epicypher.

Keith Ritter
Keith RitterNavigator
Keith Ritter has nearly 40 years of business experience.  He leads his own consulting firm – Keith Ritter Media LLC – and is also a partner in Start Mesh, a global mid-stage accelerator.  Keith has held senior management positions at ABC, CBS, and the National Hockey League, where he lead NHL Interactive Cyber Enterprises, the league’s digital arm.  Since leaving the NHL, he has consulted with start-ups as well as with major public companies.  Keith is a frequent speaker to university management programs on traditional and digital media, sports marketing, and start-ups.  He is a graduate of Connecticut College in New London, CT and a member of Phi Beta Kappa.
Steve Warwick
Steve WarwickNavigator
Mr. Warwick has held executive management positions in six high technology startup companies, most recently as founder and CEO of, a startup company developing tools to aid in implementation of the Affordable Care Act. Previously, he founded NanoForge, a startup company in Nanotechnology. In addition, he has over 20 years of marketing and R&D management experience in senior positions at Agilent and Harris Corp, and has helped to raise over $300 million in equity financing. Of the six startups, one had an IPO valued at over $1Bil, another was sold for over $180Mil. He has a diverse background in a wide range of advanced technologies and emerging markets including low latency high speed trading networks, wireless sensors, nanotechnology, biosensors, medical diagnostics systems, advanced materials, and the design of RF network equipment and services. He has extensive experience in managing complex mixed-technology product strategy and developments with both domestic and international compliance requirements, manufacturing partners, and customers. Typical market sizes have been $500Mil to $2Bil. Mr. Warwick has an MBA with honors from Duke University, with a specialist certificate in Health Sector Management, an MSEE degree from California Institute of Technology (CalTech) and a BSEE degree from University of California, Berkeley.
Jim White
Jim WhiteNavigator
Jim White has 24 years of technology market development experience with Alcatel-Lucent and Nortel Technology. White launched over ten significant products with development budgets exceeding $650M. He led business development and sales activities that exceeded $3Bn to Telcos and Enterprises and launched Alcatel-Lucent’s Connected Hospital program and the CPE program at Nortel. As a founding board member of the UPMC’s Center for Connected Medicine, he oversaw a $50M Joint Development Fund (Alcatel-Lucent & UPMC) and launched two healthcare ventures. Currently, he is a partner/founder of Harbor Pilots, a consulting company assisting with growth of new healthcare and technology companies through better alignment with investors’ goals. Harbor Pilots recently facilitated the spinout of FlexLife Health, Inc, a Cleveland Clinic company, to LifeWatch, AG. (SIX Swiss Exchange: LIFE). A graduate of Loyola University of Chicago, White was commissioned as an Officer in the US Army, received a graduate certificate in Systems Management from the University of Southern California and received an MBA from the University of Chicago (Booth).
Mark Zorko
Mark ZorkoNavigator
Mark Zorko is an international public company CFO and CIO for manufacturing, energy, health care and high-tech firms. His background includes over 20 years of Board-level experience. He chairs Nom/Gov, previously chaired Audit and Strategic Advisory and is on the Audit and Comp Committees of MFRI, Inc. (NASDAQ: MFRI), which was a $230-million firm prior to restructuring. He was recently appointed to the Board and chair of the Audit Committee for Westell Technologies, Inc. (NASDAQ: WSTL). He has also been the interim CEO of Well Services Ltd., a $30 million business in the services industry.
His most recent CFO experience was with two publicly traded companies in the medical device and energy industries. His management experience includes finance and IT leadership, strategic planning, debt/equity raising and deep M&A expertise. He has deep international experience which started with an expatriate position with Honeywell in Europe.
Mark is on the Board of Military Outreach USA and serves on the Audit Committee for Opportunity International. He was previously on the Board of St. Alexius Medical Center and the Finance Committee for the Alexian Brothers Health System.
Mark received his MBA in IT from the University of Minnesota and his BS in Accounting from The Ohio State University.