Gilead’s clinical research VP moves to U.S.-China NASH startup Terns Pharma

Gilead’s vice president of clinical research, Erin Quirk, M.D., is joining the NASH and cancer-focused Terns Pharmaceuticals as its new chief medical officer.

The Shanghai and San Mateo, California-based company raised $80 million last October to support its early-stage pipeline, including three NASH programs from Eli Lilly & Co. It aims to begin clinical trials this year.

“Erin is a highly accomplished clinician with an extensive track record in developing and registering new treatments for infectious diseases and liver diseases,” Terns President and CEO Weidong Zhong said in a statement. “Her expertise will be invaluable as we advance our portfolio of NASH drugs, including TERN-101, TERN-201, and future pipeline candidates, through the clinic.”

RELATED: Terns emerges with all 3 of Lilly’s NASH programs and $30M from Lilly Asia Ventures

At Gilead, Quirk oversaw all phases of clinical development for the big biotech’s HIV treatment, prevention and cure franchise. She also led the development of small molecules in its emerging and neglected viral diseases portfolio, including antivirals for Ebola.

Before that, Quirk was director of clinical research at Merck & Co., where she helped lead trials for HIV vaccines and small molecules for hepatitis C.

In the potentially lucrative NASH market, Terns will be squaring up against not only Gilead, but also Allergan, Boehringer Ingelheim and Intercept, to name a few.

Terns’ lead candidate, TERN-101, is a non-bile acid FXR agonist currently listed in a phase 1 study in Europe and preclinical studies in China. TERN-201, meanwhile, is an SSAO inhibitor that aims to reduce oxidative stress and recruit white blood cells to the liver.

Backed by Lilly Asia Ventures, Orbimed, Decheng Capital and Vivo Capital, the company’s other discovery-stage work areas include an ASK1 inhibitor, THR-beta agonist and another undisclosed NASH target, as well as targets in liver cancer, solid tumors and chronic myeloid leukemia.