Neal Fowler, a veteran executive with several life science firms, is the new chief executive officer at Liquidia Technologies.

Like his predecessor, Fowler worked for a subsidiary of Johnson & Johnson.

Fowler replaces venture capitalist Steve Nelson, who had served as CEO on an interim basis. Fowler is a native of Raleigh.

Liquidia has raised some $22 million in venture capital, including a $16 million round closed a year ago.

"We are delighted to welcome Neal to Liquidia during this exciting time in the company’s development," said Liquidia founder Joseph DeSimone. "Given the breadth and depth of the company’s platform, Neal’s experience will provide invaluable guidance and strategies for growth.”

Liquidia lost its first CEO, Todd Pope, in the fall of 2006. He was recruited away by drug giant Johnson & Johnson. Pope had joined Liquidia in April when the company closed on its first $6 million in outside financing. Liquidia later closed on another $16 million.

Liquidia’s technology is based on materials known as fluoropolymers that are liquids at room temperature but cure to transparent solids when exposed to lights. Liquidia has developed a material platform technology called Fluorocur, which enables the mass production of precise and uniform micro-sized and nano-sized particles. Fluorocur is based on research done at UNC Chapel Hill and NCSU by Joe DeSimone. DeSimone has been involved in entrepreneurial ventures in the past, including the launching of a chain of dry cleaners that did not rely on chemicals. In 1996, he launched Micell Technologies, which focused on using carbon dioxide as a solvent.

Fowler most recently served as president of Centocor, a subsidiary of J&J. He worked for J&J for seven years.

"I am excited about this opportunity as I believe targeted therapeutics are poised to change the landscape of medical care, especially for delivery of siRNA and for the oncology field," Fowler said in a statement. "I look forward to guiding the strategic direction of a dynamic organization, advancing a novel technology platform towards commercialization, and returning home to North Carolina."

SiRNA, or small interfering RNA, is a class of RNA molecules that can interfere with the actions of a specific gene.

Fowler also worked for Ortho-McNeil Neurologics and Eli Lilly. He is a graduate of UNC-Chapel Hill with an undergraduate degree in pharmacy and a Masters in business administration.

Nelson will remain a member of Liquidia’s board. He is managing partner of Wakefield Group, an investor in Liquidia.