Research Triangle Park-based Dignify Therapeuticis, which recently set up operations at startup incubator First Flight Venture Center, has hired industry veteran Benny Ward as its CEO.

Dignify recently was awarded a $50,000 company inception loan from the North Carolina Biotechnology Center.

Ward was announced as the CEO on Tuesday. He also is a member of the startup’s board.

“As an early stage biotech company, we are so fortunate to have attracted someone with as much biomedical business experience as Benny,” said Dr. Karl Thor, the startup’s president.

“We have worked with Benny over the past several months and our senior management team has benefited from his service as a business and financial advisor since then. Across that time he has proven himself as both a team leader and a self-sacrificing teammate, which I and the other founders consider a critical factor to the success of our previous ventures,” he added.

Ward most recently served as executive vice president for strategy and business development at BioDeliverSciences International (Nasdaq: BDSI).

“I have really enjoyed working as an advisor with the group at Dignify,” Ward said in a statement. “I am very excited to join a team with the enthusiasm and heartfelt desire to improve the quality of life for people with spinal conditions and to provide therapy for a severe unmet medical need that has been neglected by the larger pharmaceutical industry”

Ward was vice president of finance and chief financial officer at Closure Medical before that company went public. It was acquired by Johnson and Johnson in 2005. He also served as CFO at startup InnerPulse. He currently is a member of the board at Chesson Labs. 

Dignify is developing drugs to address incontinence. Specifically, Dignify aims to restore bladder and bowel control in patients who have had a spinal injury, spina bifida and other neurological conditions.

Dignify’s lead drug program is DTI-100, a compound being developed to treat urinary retention in people with spinal cord injury. The drug is intended to reduce or replace use of bladder catheters, which in turn reduces health care costs. The company estimates that the U.S. incontinence products market is $19 billion.