CLEVELAND, Oct. 20, 2010 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) -- Athersys, Inc. (Nasdaq:ATHX) announced today that the Company's Board of Directors unanimously voted to elect Ismail Kola, Ph.D., as a director of the Company, effective October 18, 2010. Dr. Kola currently serves as Executive Vice President of UCB S.A. in Belgium, a biopharmaceutical company dedicated to the development of innovative medicines focused on the fields of central nervous system and immunology disorders, and also serves as President of UCB New Medicines, UCB's discovery research through proof-of-concept organization, since November 2009. Since March 2007, Dr. Kola was Senior Vice President, Discovery Research and Early Clinical Research & Experimental Medicine, and Chief Scientific Officer at Schering-Plough Corporation. Previously, Dr. Kola held senior positions commencing in 2003 at Merck & Company, where he was Senior Vice President and Site Head, Basic Research, and responsible for atherosclerosis and cardiovascular diseases, diabetes, obesity, infectious diseases, immunology and rheumatology, animal pharmacology and basic and medicinal chemistry. Prior to that, Dr. Kola was Vice President, Research, and Global Head, Genomics Science and Biotechnology, with Pharmacia Corporation, and served as consultant to SmithKline Beecham Pharmaceuticals, where he was also a member of the Genomics Advisory Board. During his tenure of proven leadership at several major pharmaceutical companies, Dr. Kola has overseen the successful development of numerous innovative new medicines, including products in the fields of diabetes, cancer, cardiovascular diseases and central nervous system disorders. "Dr. Kola's extensive clinical development expertise and success in bringing drug programs through regulatory approvals and to the marketplace make him an invaluable strategic addition to the Athersys Board of Directors. Ismail is a highly accomplished scientist with significant experience developing and managing research and development laboratories at some of our industry's leading large pharmaceutical companies," said Gil Van Bokkelen, Ph.D., Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of Athersys. "Ismail's experience and leadership in successfully taking drug development programs from the research stage through to commercialization brings a unique and valuable perspective to Athersys. I believe that Ismail's experience, specific to our areas of clinical focus, will enable him to make significant contributions as a member of our Board."