John McKearn, Ph.D.

Managing Director
St. Louis, Missouri
Joined in 2008
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The RiverVest team is highly collaborative, experienced, and thoughtful in its work with portfolio companies and investors. This ‘personality’ is one of the key reasons we are successful in creating and building value.

John has three decades of drug development and investing experience in life sciences. He joined RiverVest in 2008 and focuses on early-stage biotechnology investments. Currently, John serves on the boards of Allakos, Inc. (IPO), OncoResponse, Inc., Good Therapeutics, Arch Oncology, Inc., and Adarza Biosystems, Inc. He previously served on the boards of Lumena Pharmaceuticals, Inc. (acquired by Shire Plc), Otonomy, Inc. (IPO) and ZS Pharma, Inc. (acquired by AstraZeneca Plc).

Prior to RiverVest, John was president and CEO and a director of Kalypsys, Inc. from 2003 to 2008, and an executive at Searle/Pharmacia (Pfizer, Inc.) from 1987 to 2003, where he held increasingly responsible positions, including the global head of Research. John helped establish the groundwork for studies that led to the commercialization of several major products, including DayPro®, Arthrotec®, and Celebrex®, one of the leading pharmaceuticals to treat arthritis. He also served on the boards of IDM Pharma, Inc. (acquired by Takeda America Holdings, Inc.), Epimmune, Inc., and Keel Pharmaceuticals, Inc. Prior to 1987, John was a senior scientist at E.I. DuPont de Nemours and Company, a member of the Basel Institute for Immunology in Basel, Switzerland, and a research associate in the Department of Microbiology and Immunology at Washington University in St. Louis.

John holds a Ph.D. in Immunology from the University of Chicago and a B.S. in Biology from Northern Illinois University. He has co-authored more than 70 published, peer-reviewed scientific papers, and holds more than 50 patents and numerous patent applications, primarily in the areas of cancer treatment and inflammatory disease.

  • Personal Interests: organic gardening, BBQ chef-in-training, and Eye Thrive

  • Named after alumni John and Cassandra McKearn, the Northern Illinois University McKearn Fellows Program transforms fellows’ undergraduate experience and advances their professional development by providing them with co-curricular and scholarship funding, academic programming and personalized advising.

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