P Kay Wagoner, Ph.D.

Associate Director for Entrepreneurship Executive in Residence Adjunct Associate Professor

Kay Wagoner, Ph.D., founded and served as president and CEO of Icagen Inc., a biopharmaceutical company in RTP. In her time there, she negotiated licenses to technologies from more than two dozen major universities and also negotiated and led multi-million dollar strategic alliances with six major pharmaceutical companies. She took venture-backed Icagen public on the Nasdaq in 2005 and in 2011, led its acquisition by Pfizer Inc.

Prior to Icagen, Wagoner founded a nonprofit cardiovascular company that delivered a broad array of cardiovascular preventive and rehabilitation services. Today, this services company forms a valuable part of the UNC Wellness Center complex. She also held research management positions at Glaxo, where she initiated and led Glaxo’s U.S. ion channel drug discovery efforts in central nervous system, cardiovascular and metabolic diseases. Wagoner has served on a variety of private, public and nonprofit boards of directors, including the N.C Biotechnology Center Board, the Biotechnology Industry Organization’s Emerging Companies Board, the UNC Eshelman School of Pharmacy Board of Visitors and the UNC School of Nursing Foundation Board.

Wagoner holds a master’s degree in nursing, is a certified clinical nurse specialist in cardiovascular disease and holds a Ph.D. in physiology from UNC. Her clinical practice spanned multiple hospital and out-patient healthcare delivery settings, and additionally she served on the UNC Chapel-Hill faculty in the School of Nursing.

Positions and Employment

  • Associate Director, Eshelman Institute for Innovation, 2017-present
  • Life Science Executive in Residence (EIR) in Office of Commercialization and Economic Development – UNC Chapel Hill, 2016-present
  • Entrepreneur Executive in Residence, Eshelman School of Pharmacy, 2015-present
  • External Chair, NC Translational Clinical Sciences 4D Strategic Initiative &  Kickstart Venture Services, 2014-present
  • President, Wagoner Discovery / Development, LLC, 2012-present
  • EIR, Blackstone Entrepreneurs Network, 2012-present
  • Adjunct Associate Professor, Department of Cell Biology and Physiology, UNC-Chapel Hill, School of Medicine, 2008-present
  • CEO, Icagen, Inc., 1996–2011
  • President, Director and Head of Research, Icagen, Inc., 1992-2011
  • Head, Physiology and Biophysics, Glaxo Inc. (GSK), 1991-1992
  • Group Leader, Ion Channel Biology, Glaxo Inc., 1990
  • Research Investigator, Pharmacology, Glaxo Inc., 1989
  • Senior Scientist, Pharmacology, Glaxo Inc., 1987-1988
  • Founder, Exec Director, Cardiovascular Foundation, Inc., 1978-1986
  • Assistant Professor, UNC CH School of Nursing, 1978-1980
  • ICU Nurse, Queens Medical Center, Honolulu, HI, 1973-1976
  • Neurology / Urology and ICU Nurse, N.C. Memorial Hospital, 1970-1973


  • Academy of Pharmacy Practice and Management Presentation Merit Award, American Pharmacists Association, 2012
  • Robert Wood Johnston Scholar, 1968, 1976
  • Grass Fellow, 1984
  • PhD Letter of Distinction, 1986
  • UNC-Chapel Hill Distinguished Alumna for Science and Business, 2001
  • CED Entrepreneurial Excellence Award, 2004
  • E&Y Entrepreneur of the Year Regional Award, 2004
  • Women in Bio Outstanding Achievement Award, 2007
  • Coordinated the care of hospitalized patients with life-threatening cardiovascular, CNS and metabolic diseases and surgeries
  • Founded and led a not-for-profit cardiovascular disease prevention and rehabilitation company
  • Coordinated and taught physiology and pathophysiology courses for undergraduate healthcare students
  • Led drug discovery programs at Glaxo, Inc. in cardiovascular, CNS and metabolic diseases
  • Founded Icagen, Inc., a biopharmaceutical company, and determined its strategic R&D and business directions
    • Coordinated technology transfer, business development with universities and companies
    • Led negotiations for multi-million dollar strategic alliances with Eli Lilly & Co., Bristol Myers-Squibb, Abbott Laboratories, Yamanouchi (Astellas) Pharmaceuticals, Johnson & Johnson, and Pfizer, Inc.
    • Led R&D, intellectual property development and FDA interactions culminating in preclinical and clinical development of novel treatments for sickle cell disease (orphan indication/fast track: Phase III), epilepsy, asthma and pain (Phase II), atrial fibrillation (Phase I), urinary incontinence (IND), memory disorders (preclinical)
    • Took Icagen public in 2005 with the assistance of J.P. Morgan, UBS and CIBC
    • Developed commercial strategy, branding and marketing plans for advanced stage clinical programs
    • Grew public company, strengthened Board of Directors (Chairman – Dr. Charles Sanders), met or exceeded SEC, Sarbanes Oxley and financial/audit/legal requirements
    • In 2007, led negotiations for Icagen’s first “billion dollar” deal with Pfizer, Inc.
    • Raised over $150 million in equity financing and led negotiations that generated over $200 million in revenue
    • Coordinated the acquisition of Icagen by Pfizer in 2011
  • Assisted 40 early stage drug discovery, device, diagnostic, service and ehealth companies in completing key milestones, by mentoring academic founders, building management and advisory teams, developing strategic business directions, and finding initial funding

For Profit

  • Valanbio Therapeutics, Inc – Executive Chairman, 2015-present
  • Symberix, Inc – Board Member, 2016-present

Past For Profit

  • Icagen, Inc – Board Member, Governance Committee, 1993-2011Coordinated the care of hospitalized patients with life-threatening cardiovascular, CNS and metabolic diseases and surgeries

Non Profit Boards and Committees

  • Eshelman School of Pharmacy, Board of Visitors, 2012-present
  • UNC-Chapel Hill School of Nursing, Foundation Board, Secretary to the Board, Corporate Relations Committee, 2014-present
  • UNC-Chapel Hill Kickstart / 4D Strategic Initiative, Chief External Advisor, 2014-present
  • Blackstone Entrepreneurs Network, EIR and Co-chair, 2012-present

Past Non Profit

  • Orange Cardiovascular Foundation, Inc, 1976-1986
  • Bio – Emerging Companies, 2000-2004
  • NC Biotechnology Center, 2002-2006, 2012-2016
  1. SBIRs: Phase I and II – P. Kay Wagoner, Ph.D. (PI) Functional Assays for Ion Channel Drug Targets
  2. Advisor/Consultant on 10 SBIR and STTR grants submitted across three companies (2013 – 2017).  Five awards granted to date.
  3. PI or advisor on multiple awarded NC Biotech and UNC Kickstart Grants
  •    Wagoner, P.K. and Oxford, G.S.  Cation permeation through the voltage-dependent potassium channel in the squid axon: characteristics and mechanisms.  Journal of General Physiology. 90:261-290, 1987.
  •    Wagoner, P.K. and Pallotta, B.P.  Modulation of acetycholine receptor desensitization by forskolin is independent of cAMP. Science. 240: 1655-1657, 1988.
  •    Oxford, G.S. and Wagoner, P.K.  The inactivating K+ current in GH3 pituitary cells and its modification by chemical reagents.  Journal of Physiology (London). 410:587-612, 1989.
  •    Wagoner, P.K. and Oxford, G.S.  Aminopyridines block an inactivating potassium current having slow recovery kinetics.  Biophysical Journal. 58:1481-1489, 1990.
  •    Chen C. and Wagoner, P.K.  Endothelin induces a nonselective cation current in vascular smooth muscle cells.  Circulation Research. 69:2:447-454, 1991.
  •    Pallotta, B.S. and Wagoner, P.K.  Voltage-dependent potassium channels since Hodgkin and Huxley.  Physiological Reviews (Suppl.). 72:4:49-67, 1992.
  •    Wagoner, P.K., Chen, C., Worley, J.F., Dukes, I.O. and Oxford, G.S.  Amylin modulates b-cell glucose sensing via effects on stimulus-secretion coupling.  Proceedings of the National Academy of Science.  90:9145-9149, 1993.
  •    Wickenden, A.D., Yu, W., Zou, A., Jegla T. and Wagoner, P.K.  Retigibine, a novel anti-convulsant enhances activation of KCNQ2/Q3 potassium channels.  Molecular Pharmacology. 58(3):591-600, 2000.
  •    Liu, Y., Liu, D., Heath, L., Meyers, D.M., Krafte, D.S., Wagoner, P.K., Silvia, C.P., Yu, W. and  Curran, M.E.. Direct activation of an inwardly rectifying potassium channel by arachidonic acid.  Molecular Pharmacology. 59(5):1061-1068, 2001.
  •    van Rhee, M.A., Stocker, J., Printzenhoff, D., Creech, C., Wagoner, P.K. and Spear, K.L.  Retrospective analysis of an experimental high-throughput screening data set by recursive partitioningJournal of Combinatorial Chemistry. 3(3):267-277, 2001.
  •    Wickenden, A., Zou, A., Wagoner, P.K. and Jegla, T.  Characterization of KCNQ5/Q3 potassium channels expressed in mammalian cells.  British Journal of Pharmacology. 132:381-384, 2001.
  •    Zou, A., Lin, Z., Humble, M., Creech, C., Wagoner, P.K., Krafte, D., Jegla, T. and Wickenden, A.  Distribution and functional properties of human KCNH8 (Elk1) potassium channels.
    American Journal of Physiology (Cell Physiology). 285:C1356-C1366, 2003.
  •    Wickenden AD., Krajewski J., London B., Wagoner P.K., Wilson W.A., Clark S., Roeloffs R., McNaugton-Smith G., Rigdon G.C. W-(6-Chloro-pyridin-3-yl)-4-difluoro-benzamide (ICA-27243): A Novel Selective KCNQ2/Q3 Potassium Channel Activator
    Mol Pharmacol. 73: 977-986, 2008.
  •    McCormack K., Santos S, Chapman M., Krafte D., Marron B.,, West C., Krambis M., Antonio B., Zellmer S., Printzenhoff D., Padilla K., Lin Z., Wagoner P.K., Swain N., Stupple P., de Groot M., Butt, R., and Castle, N.  Voltage sensor interaction site for selective small molecule inhibitors of voltage-gated sodium channels. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2013 Jul 16;110(29):E2724-32. doi: 10.1073/pnas.1220844110. Epub Jul 1 2013.

Kellogg Graduate School of Management – Short Courses

Postdoctoral Fellow
University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill Pharmacology

Doctor of Philosophy in Physiology with Letter of Distinction
University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

Master of Science in Nursing and Cardiovascular Clinical Nurse Specialist
University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

Bachelor of Science in Nursing
University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill