Speaker Biographies

Michael Gara

Michael J. Gara is the Director of Technology Development at the Clemson University Biomedical Engineering Innovation Campus, CUBEInC. Located in Greenville, SC, CUBEInC strives to develop high-impact medical technology and devices for disease management and the transfer of this technology from bench to bedside.

Most recently, Mr. Gara was Director at the Wallace H. Coulter Foundation, where he was involved in managing translational research programs in biomedical engineering at major universities across the U.S. Mr. Gara was the Coulter representative for the Translational Partnership Program at University of Wisconsin, Case Western, Louisville, Drexel, Pittsburgh, Missouri and Boston University. He was also the Program Director for the Coulter Translational Research Awards, a national university competition for translational biomedical research. Mr. Gara’s current position with Clemson University’s life science incubator, CUBEInC, involves starting, funding and commercialization of life science companies in Upstate South Carolina. He holds a B.S. and M.S. in Chemistry and an MBA from the Kellogg Graduate School of Management.

Employed in the pharmaceutical and biotechnology industries for over 30 years, Mr. Gara has held positions in the R&D, manufacturing, product development and business development functions for a number of large and small pharmaceutical companies. These include Baxter Healthcare, Zeneca Pharmaceuticals, Schwarz Pharma, Bone Care International and CURx Pharma, which he co-founded. In addition, Mr. Gara was involved in the private equity financing of biotechnology companies and university based start-ups while at Senmed Medical Ventures. At the University of Chicago, Mr. Gara was responsible for the licensing and commercialization of medical technology and was involved in the formation of two medical start-up companies.


Steve Johnson

Steve Johnson is President and Chief Operating Officer of Brookhaven Medical which owns CreatiVasc Medical in Greenville, South Carolina and FutureMatrix Interventional (FMI) of Athens, Texas. He is also President and Chief Executive Officer of CreatiVasc.

CreatiVasc started full time operations in 2007 and is developing innovative technology solutions for the End Stage Renal Disease (ESRD), a field where there has been little innovation in 30 years and costs the U.S. healthcare system over $50 billion annually. CreatiVasc and the company’s major invention, the Hemoaccess Valve System® (HVS) was one of the three inaugural companies competitively selected by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to be part of FDA’s new Innovation Pathway program, designed to speed critical medical device innovations to market without compromising patient safety. The device began clinical trials in Greenville then expanded to Johns Hopkins.

Texas-based FMI is a 22 year old medical device company that has over 350 employees and creates and manufactures a wide range of innovative devices for the coronary and urinary markets. It designs or supplies components and finished products to leading medical device companies around the world.

Johnson has over 25 years of new product development and technology commercialization experience, rising through the ranks of a division of Dow Chemical to become Vice President of New Product Development. He also headed technology management and intellectual property for Concurrent Technologies Corporation. He has served as an advisor in medical device and health care technologies for a wide range of organizations including Kimberly-Clark Professional Health Care, Harvard-MIT-Draper Lab-Partners Healthcare Medical Simulation Group and MaxLife Venture Capital Fund.

CreatiVasc is his third successful start-up, the first being Creative Technologies which was an inaugural winner of the Deloitte InnoVision Award in 1999. Steve has also won the Private Sector Initiative Award from the U.S. Department of Commerce and the Marine Corps Commandant’s Award for Innovation in 2006. He was also the winner of the 2008 InnoVision Award. Johnson has been a sponsor and instructor at the New Product Development Lab at the University of Chicago Graduate School of Business, and is a frequent guest lecturer and speaker on entrepreneurship at the University of South Carolina Moore School of Business. He also developed the curriculum on intellectual property for the National Defense University in Washington, DC. Johnson was awarded the InnoVision Charles H. Townes Lifetime Personal Achievement Award for Innovation in November 2012.

He has served on numerous boards including the Southeastern Medical Device Association (SEMDA), former vice-chairman and current Executive Board member of SCBIO, the life sciences industry organization in SC as well as a member of the Executive Board of SC MedTech, which focuses on medical device development in South Carolina.

He is one of the patent holders for the Marine Corps Materiel and Equipment Readiness Information system which is a “dashboard” equipment status system which is credited with saving the Corps over 1 million man-hours in its first year of use. In 2016 Johnson was named Professor of Practice in Bioengineering at Clemson University.

He and his wife Nancy are Furman University graduates and have 3 daughters. He is an active and involved member of Westminster Presbyterian Church where he is an Elder.


Naren Vyavahare

Dr. Naren Vyavahare is a Hunter Endowed Chair and Professor of Bioengineering at Clemson University, Clemson, SC, USA. Dr. Vyavahare research and teaching interests are in the area of heart valve biomaterials, site-specific therapies, and extracellular matrix remodeling in tissue regeneration. Dr. Vyavahare is a Director of NIH funded South Carolina Bioengineering Center of Regeneration and Formation of Tissues (SC BioCRAFT). Dr. Vyavahare’s research is published in over 150 journal publications and conference proceedings, and 6 book chapters; additionally Dr. Vyavahare holds 13 International and US Patents. Some of the patents are now licensed to companies to develop products. He has graduated 10 PhD students and 20 MS students as a major advisor.

Dr. Vyavahare is the recipient of many awards including; McQueen Quattlebaum Faculty Excellence Award, Clemson University and Alumni award for outstanding achievement in research, Clemson University. He is a Fellow of American Institute of Medical and Biological Engineering (AIMBE), Dr. Vyavahare is an active participant in several scientific societies and conference series; he chaired Cardiovascular Biomaterials special interest group in the Society for Biomaterials, he was chair of the North American Vascular Biology workshop in 2013. Prior to joining Clemson, Dr. Vyavahare served as a Research Assistant Professor at the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine (1996-1999), and University of Michigan (1993-1996). He finished his PhD at National Chemical Laboratory, in India (1990). His current research includes targeted treatments to restore extracellular matrix and tissue function in heart valves, aortic aneurysms, vascular calcification, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), and skin disorders.