Building Team to Transform Respiratory Virus Infection Management using Therapeutic Interfering Particles
LONDON, UK, 17 September 2018 – Virion Biotherapeutics announced today the appointments of Vanessa King, PhD, as President & Chief Executive Officer and Isabel Najera, PhD, as Chief Scientific Officer. Virion is developing proprietary first-in-class biologicals called Therapeutic Interfering Particles (TIPs). These TIPs represent a new therapeutic modality, designed to enhance naturally-occurring mechanisms that interfere with viral replication, thereby preventing infection and stopping disease. Respiratory virus infections (RVIs) are the fourth leading cause of death globally, with limited treatments available today. Virion’s TIPs have the potential to treat the full range of respiratory viruses that cause human disease, transforming how these infections are prevented and treated.
“We are delighted to welcome Vanessa and Isabel, strong leaders with the skills and expertise to advance Virion and its pipeline for treating and preventing respiratory virus infections,” said Jeffrey Almond, PhD, Chairman of Virion. “Vanessa has a demonstrated track record of building, financing, and partnering successful biotech companies. Isabel has extensive expertise in the discovery and development of novel antiviral agents. We look forward to applying their knowledge and leadership to Virion’s objective to bring broad spectrum antiviral therapeutics to patients.”
“I’m delighted to join Virion at this exciting time. The company’s scientific approach has tremendous potential to transform the prevention and clinical management of patients suffering from the full range of respiratory virus infections,” said Vanessa King. “We are focused on moving our lead product, VH244, into the clinic and building the capabilities required to support its development.”
Vanessa King has held senior positions in pharma and biotech, leading business development, financing, and operations organizations. Previous to Virion, she was President and CEO of Luc Therapeutics, where she led its transformation into a precision medicine neuroscience company with a clinical pipeline. Before that, Vanessa led business development for deCODE Genetics, leading to its acquisition by Amgen in 2012 for $415 million. Vanessa has also served as Executive Chairman of Tiaki Therapeutics, been an Entrepreneur in Residence at Atlas Venture, and held senior business development and operating positions at Amgen and Novartis. She earned her PhD in molecular genetics from the University of Cambridge, UK.
Isabel Najera brings to Virion two decades of experience in preclinical and clinical R&D in the pharmaceutical industry, with a proven record of leveraging external innovation for novel drug development. Since 1999, she has held multiple positions in Roche Infectious Diseases Therapeutic Area, discovering and developing novel drug candidates. Most recently, she served at Roche as Deputy Head of Discovery, Head of Clinical Microbiology, and Discovery Area Leader for Influenza. Isabel’s leadership led to the successful in-licensing of baloxavir marboxil, a novel influenza Cap-endonuclease inhibitor, recently launched in Japan. In addition, she was responsible for TamifluÒ post marketing resistance studies. In her career, Isabel has also made significant contributions to the approval of marketed antiviral products, including Ziagen® in the HIV treatment area and PegasysÒ and CopegusÒ in the HCV treatment area. She obtained her PhD in HIV genetic variability from Universidad Complutense de Madrid, Spain.
About Therapeutic Interfering Particles (TIPs)
Virion is developing proprietary biologics, called Therapeutic Interfering Particles (TIPs). TIPs are able to penetrate cells of the respiratory epithelium, but are not able to multiply. In cells that have been infected by a respiratory virus, they harness two mechanisms of action to shut down replication of that virus. The first is genomic interference, and the second is stimulation of the patient’s innate immunity. Through this dual mechanism, TIPs are able to address the full spectrum of respiratory viruses that cause human infection.
Virion’s lead TIP, VH244, is an optimized RNA molecule designed for the treatment and prevention of respiratory virus infections (RVIs). Both genomic interference and stimulation of innate immunity mechanisms have been demonstrated by VH244 in preclinical studies in vivo, and VH244 is currently being progressed towards clinical development.
About Virion Biotherapeutics
Virion Biotherapeutics seeks to transform the management of respiratory viral infections with the development of its proprietary Therapeutic Interfering Particles (TIPs). These first-in-class biologicals enhance a naturally-occurring dual mechanism that interferes with viral replication, preventing infection and stopping disease, enabling treatment of the broad spectrum of respiratory virus infections. Virion was founded in 2017 based on the pioneering work on viral replication and interference of Professor Nigel Dimmock and Professor Andrew Easton. The company is led by an experienced management team with a track record in biotech start-ups and infectious disease drug development, and its founding investor is Abingworth. Further information can be found at www.virionbiotx.com.
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