RSV specialist ReViral hires ex-Dova leader as CEO 

Alex Sapir forms part of ReViral's new-look, U.S.-skewed leadership team. (Pixabay)

ReViral has named Alex Sapir as CEO. Sapir arrives at the midphase respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) specialist six months after abruptly leaving Dova Pharmaceuticals. 

U.K.-based ReViral has spent the past eight years working on antiviral drugs against RSV, culminating in it posting phase 2a data on lead prospect sisunatovir and raising $55 million in a round led by New Leaf Venture Partners and Novo Ventures. The developments set ReViral up to put its small molecule antiviral fusion inhibitor through an expanded midphase development program. 

Ex-Domainex CEO Eddy Littler led ReViral through those recent milestones but is now stepping into the chief operating officer position to make space for Sapir, who has been out of work since leaving Dova late last year.

Sapir joined Dova in 2016 but left abruptly in December. Dova disclosed Sapir’s exit with immediate effect in a statement to reveal the appointment of David Zaccardelli as his successor as CEO. 

In his time as CEO, Sapir led Dova to a $75 million IPO, and the company won FDA approval for avatrombopag in the treatment of thrombocytopenia in adults with chronic liver disease. Ahead of approval, Dova talked up the advantages avatrombopag, now known as Doptelet, has over Amgen’s Nplate and Novartis’ Promacta, the incumbents in a $1.2 billion field. Doptelet sales totaled $4 million in the first quarter.

Prior to joining Dova, Sapir, like Zaccardelli, worked at United Therapeutics as executive vice president of marketing and sales. Sapir spent 10 years at United, in which time it grew into a multiproduct company with annual sales of $1.6 billion. 

In unveiling Sapir as its new CEO, ReViral highlighted the growth and commercial evolution that took place at Dova and United during his spells at the companies, plus the $160 million he raised on public markets while at Dova. 

"Alex's experience running public biotech companies will enable ReViral to realize its full potential,” now-COO Littler said in a statement. ReViral raised $55 million privately 10 months ago.

Sapir forms part of a new-look, U.S.-skewed leadership team that will take responsibility for spending the investment. The appointment of Sapir comes months after ReViral named Seth Hetherington as chief medical officer. Hetherington, like Sapir, has worked out of North Carolina in recent years.  

As CMO, Hetherington will oversee global phase 2a trials of sisunatovir, also known as RV521, in children. ReViral posted phase 2a data on sisunatovir in February 2018, and at the time of the series B later that year planned to start a global pediatric trial “soon.” Since then, ReViral has quietly put the drug through a trial to assess its interaction with midazolam, itraconazole rifampicin and verapamil.