Ex-Biogen boss Scangos lands at newly launched infectious disease upstart

After leaving Biogen last year, Scangos will now helm the upstart with a healthy funding pot.

It didn’t take George Scangos very long to find a new role after leaving Biogen as he starts 2017 as the head of a new upstart: Vir Biotechnology.

The California-based company, which publicly launches today, says it aims to take on a “new approach” to tackling the oft-forgotten area of infectious diseases.

It says in a statement that it plans to take on “some of the world's most challenging infectious diseases for which solutions are non-existent or inadequate.”

Featured Whitepaper

Accelerate Clinical Operations Across Sponsors, CROs, and Partners

The most advanced life sciences organizations know that digital innovation and multi-platform integrations are essential for enabling product development. New platforms are providing the life sciences industry with an opportunity to improve the efficiency of clinical trials and reduce costs while remaining compliant and reducing risk.

Its new way is to use “breakthroughs in immune programming” to manipulate pathogen-host interactions. The company will take a multiprogram, multiplatform approach to this, although exact details at this early stage were not given.

It did say however that it was “adopting a broad technological portfolio” that will include the viral vectors obtained through the acquisition of TomegaVax.

These technologies were originally developed by a team at Oregon Health & Science University, led by Louis Picker and Klaus Frueh. Vir’s own lab work will be across the U.S. in San Francisco, Boston and Portland, Oregon. 

Big ideas, and big backers: Its lead investors include ARCH Venture Partners as well as the deep pockets of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

Vir is the brainchild of Robert Nelsen, co-founder ARCH, which has committed to invest $150 million on its own, a remarkable sum for such a young company.

Nelsen said in the statement: “The scale and scope we envision for Vir will allow us to fund targeted academic research, ramp our own research and development efforts, and write individual checks of up to $100 million to in-license innovative technology platforms and novel clinical assets from biotech and pharmaceutical companies.”

The now-reemployed Scangos added: “The opportunity to lead Vir is one I could not pass up. There is a tremendous global need for effective therapies and preventions for infectious diseases of considerable public health importance. Success would mean alleviation of a lot of human suffering as well as meaningful financial returns for Vir investors. The science has matured to a point where exciting new approaches are at hand, and there is a need for a company to pursue those approaches with excellence, critical mass and scale. Vir is that company, and I am very excited to take on a leadership role.”

Suggested Articles

Spinal Elements, maker of a wide range of implants and products for minimally invasive spine procedures, has filed a $100 million IPO.

United Airlines will begin providing COVID-19 screening tests for passengers, allowing those who test negative to skip local quarantine requirements.

Galecto picked up $64 million to push its lead lung disease treatment toward an approval in Europe and fund midstage studies for its other programs.