Our history

Eldec Pharmaceuticals Inc. was spun out  of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (UNC-CH). The company was founded in 2017 by Drs. Saira Ahmad, Flori Sassano, and Robert Tarran.

Ongoing research in Dr. Tarran’s lab has explored the role of SPLUNC1 in the development of persistent pulmonary inflammation, which led to the founding of Eldec. Dr. Tarran discovered that a novel sequence from SPLUNC1’s C-terminus controls the Orai1 Ca2+ channel in neutrophils and other immune cells. The discovery that SPLUNC1 can inhibit Orai1 as well as the identification of the active region that is responsible for this functional activity was the basis for Eldec’s lead development program. The company is leasing laboratory and office space at NC Central University’s Biomanufacturing Research Institute and Technology Enterprise (BRITE) in Durham, NC.

The company’s research programs are currently supported by funding from the NHLBI, NIAID, and the NC Biotech Center. The research, totaling $6 million in non-dilutive funding, supports or has supported drug development in ARDS/bacterial pneumonia, asthma, CF, and viral lung infections, including SARS-CoV-2.

Our Team

Robert Tarran


Dr. Tarran is a co-founder, president, and CSO of Eldec. Dr. Tarran is a world leader in the study of cystic fibrosis and SPLUNC1’s role in airway biology. Dr. Tarran received his Ph.D. in Physiology from the University of Newcastle-upon-Tyne in the UK and has over 25 years of experience in studying airway ion channels, including CFTR, ENaC, and Orai1, and their role in lung health and disease. Dr. Tarran previously founded Spyryx Biosciences and helped guide them through the IND process and through Phase I and Phase II clinical trials.

Flori Sassano


Dr. Sassano is the co-founder of Eldec Pharmaceuticals and currently serves as the senior director of operations. Dr. Sassano received her BSc in Biochemistry and Chemistry from the College of Charleston and her Ph.D. in Pharmaceutical Sciences with a concentration in Medicinal Chemistry from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. She completed postdoctoral research in the Department of Pharmacology at the same institution, where she focused on the early stages of drug development. Dr. Sassano has over 12 years of experience in drug discovery and development. She has an appointment as an Assistant Professor in the Department of Cell Biology and Physiology at the University of North Carolina, where she has concentrated her efforts on the development of several compound leads and assessing the toxicity of commercially available e-liquids using a high-throughput screening approach. Dr. Sassano’s background in early drug discovery and development allowed her to provide valuable efforts toward the discovery of ELD607 through an exhaustive optimization plan to produce the most efficacious and potent Orai1 antagonist. In addition, she is directly involved in the design of several lead peptides in Eldec’s pipeline.

Saira Ahmad

Ph.D., Director of Science at ELDEC

Dr. Saira Ahmad is the Director of Science at Eldec Pharmaceuticals. She received her Ph.D. in Biosciences with a concentration in Microbiology and Infectious Diseases from George Mason University in Fairfax, VA. During this time, she identified a peptide’s mechanism of action for anti-biofilm activity. She also received a fellowship from the National Science Foundation to fund this research. Dr. Ahmad completed her postdoctoral research at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and received a fellowship through the National Institute of Health to screen peptides for anti-microbial activity and anti-inflammatory effects against CF-related pathogenic infections. Using her extensive background in peptides, microbiology, and host–pathogen interactions, Dr. Ahmad leads the scientific research at Eldec Pharmaceuticals.

Jim McGuire


Jim has worked in pharma and biotech for over 20 years in Europe and the United States. In his 15 years at Novo Nordisk, he focused on biotherapeutics in the cardiometabolic space with an increasing level of personnel and project responsibility. He was a key member of 13 projects that transitioned from discovery to development and was a part of bringing semaglutide to the market for the treatment of diabetes and obesity (Ozempic, Rybelsus, and Wegovy). Additionally, Jim worked on multiple projects that focused on peptide and protein therapeutics, including unimolecular multi-agonists, PK extension, fusion proteins, tissue targeting, orally-available peptides, and strategies for the passage of large molecules across the blood-brain barrier. More recently, he led the early discovery efforts at Catalyst Biosciences to progress protein degradation strategies to target diseases of the complement system. The success of those efforts led to the assets being sold recently to Vertex Pharmaceuticals.

Scott M. Bryant

Eldec Corporate Attorney

Scott is a managing partner and advises technology and life sciences companies at all stages of development and across a range of industries, including software, SaaS, digital health, e-commerce, networking, advanced materials, medical devices, clean tech, mobile gaming and entertainment, and education IT. His practice focuses on the areas of general counseling, corporate structuring and formation, venture capital and other equity and debt financing transactions, mergers and acquisitions, and intellectual property transactions, including licensing, OEM, joint venture and development agreements, and trademark prosecution and protection. Scott also regularly counsels clients on the commercialization of university intellectual property. Prior to joining Hutchison, Scott practiced with Siavage Law Group, LLC, an Atlanta-based technology and venture law firm, and McKenna Long & Aldridge LLP.


Matthias Salathe

MD, Chair of Internal Medicine, KUMC

Jay Kolls

MD, Chair of Internal Medicine, Tulane University

David Thickett

MD. Chair of Respiratory Medicine, University of Birmingham, UK

James Chmiel

MD. Division Chief, Peds Pulmonary, University of Indiana

Farrah Kheradmand

MD. Pulmonary & Critical Care, Baylor College of Medicine

Scientific Advisors

Mohamed Trebak

 PhD Pharmacology, University of Pittsburgh

Matt Wolfgang

PhD Microbiology & Immunology, UNC

“Eldec team members enjoying some fresh air outside BRITE”