MENLO PARK, Calif., May 6, 2015 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) -- Versartis, Inc. (Nasdaq:VSAR), an endocrine-focused biopharmaceutical company that is developing VRS-317, a novel, long-acting form of recombinant human growth hormone (rhGH) for growth hormone deficiency (GHD), today announced the appointment of Jay Shepard as the Company's President and Chief Executive Officer. Mr. Shepard succeeds Jeffrey L. Cleland, PhD, who will remain with the Company as a senior scientific advisor to the CEO.
Jay Shepard, Chief Executive Officer, said, "It's an exciting time for Versartis and I look forward to building on the recent successes of the Company. As we move closer toward the potential commercialization of VRS-317, we are implementing our anticipated transition to enable the executive leadership to evolve into a fully integrated commercial organization. In my previous role as Executive Chairman, I worked alongside Jeff and the senior executive team to begin building a strong infrastructure, including strategic hires in key commercial functions. Jeff, the Board of Directors, and I all recognized that now is the appropriate time to shift the Company's focus to further building its strong commercial strategy and team to support these efforts. To that end, I am pleased to assume the permanent CEO position while Jeff will continue providing his deep knowledge and expertise in growth hormone deficiency in a senior scientific advisory role."
Mr. Shepard continued, "Jeff has achieved significant accomplishments as CEO and co-founder of Versartis. Under Jeff's leadership, the Company has made great strides in the research, clinical development and manufacturing of VRS-317. The Board of Directors would like to thank Jeff for his leadership and contributions throughout his tenure. He has helped Versartis to become an innovator in the treatment of GHD. I am extremely excited about the future for Versartis and its large potential commercial opportunity."
Jeffery L. Cleland, PhD, said, "Jay has been a tremendous asset to Versartis as our Executive Chairman and I will be working closely with him as he now assumes the role of CEO. I want to thank all of the Versartis employees for their dedication and hard work. I have truly enjoyed my time leading Versartis through the early clinical development stage and look forward to supporting its growth into a commercial enterprise."
Mr. Shepard is a seasoned executive with over 33 years of experience across pharmaceutical, biotechnology and drug delivery companies. Prior to serving as President and CEO, Mr. Shepard first joined Versartis as Executive Chairman of the Board in 2014. Most recently, he has been an Executive Partner at Sofinnova Ventures, a healthcare focused venture capital firm, where he leveraged his industry expertise in support of the firm's portfolio companies. Previously, he served as President and CEO of NextWave Pharmaceuticals, a pediatric-focused company acquired by Pfizer; President and CEO of Ilypsa, a nephrology company acquired by Amgen; and interim President and CEO of Relypsa (Ilypsa's spin-out company). Mr. Shepard has extensive commercial experience, having led over 17 product launches and establishing and coordinating multiple sales and marketing operations. He previously served as Vice President of Commercial Operations at Telik, where he oversaw all commercialization and market planning activities for the company's oncology programs. Prior to Telik, Mr. Shepard was one of the early commercial executives at Alza Pharmaceuticals, where he was Vice President in the Commercial Operations group, having held leadership roles of increasing responsibility in its operations and commercial presence across Alza's expanding focus in endocrinology, urology, oncology and CNS products. Alza was acquired by Johnson & Johnson in late 2001. He started his career at Johnson & Johnson and Syntex Labs. Mr. Shepard is a board member of Bullet Biotechnologies, Durect Corporation, Marinus Pharmaceuticals and the Santa Clara University Entrepreneurial School. Mr. Shepard holds a BS in Business Administration from the University of Arizona.
With Mr. Shepard's appointment as CEO, he will step down as the Executive Chairman of the Board of Directors. The Company's Board of Directors has appointed Srinivas Akkaraju, MD, PhD, as Chairman of the Board. Dr. Akkaraju has been a member of the Versartis Board of Directors since July of 2013 and also served on the Board from February 2011 to February 2013. Dr. Akkaraju is currently a General Partner at Sofinnova Ventures and has more than 16 years of investment and operational experience in the life sciences sector. As part of the transition, Dr. Cleland is stepping down as a director of Versartis, effective immediately.
Versartis, Inc. is an endocrine-focused biopharmaceutical company initially developing VRS-317, a novel, long-acting form of recombinant human growth hormone for the treatment of growth hormone deficiency (GHD). VRS-317 is intended to reduce the burden of daily injection therapy by requiring significantly fewer injections, potentially improving compliance and, therefore, treatment outcomes. The Company completed the Phase 2a stage of a Phase 1b/2a trial evaluating weekly, twice monthly and monthly dosing regimens of VRS-317 in children with GHD in June 2014 and initiated a global Phase 3 registration trial, VELOCITY, in GHD children in January 2015. In addition, the Company initiated a Phase 2/3 trial in Japan for children with GHD in April 2015. Further information on Versartis can be found at www.versartis.com.
Cautionary Note on Forward-Looking Statements
This press release contains forward-looking statements for purposes of the safe harbor provisions of the Private Securities Litigation Reform Act of 1995. Forward-looking statements include statements regarding our intentions or current expectations concerning, among other things, plans and timing of our clinical trials and the potential for eventual regulatory approval of VRS-317. Forward-looking statements are not guarantees of future performance and are subject to risks and uncertainties that could cause actual results and events to differ materially from those anticipated, including, but not limited to, risks and uncertainties related to: our success being heavily dependent on VRS-317; VRS-317 being a new chemical entity; the risk that VRS-317 may not have favorable results in clinical trials or receive regulatory approval; potential delays in our clinical trials due to regulatory requirements or difficulty identifying qualified investigators or enrolling patients; the risk that VRS-317 may cause serious side effects or have properties that delay or prevent regulatory approval or limit its commercial potential; the risk that we may encounter difficulties in manufacturing VRS-317; if VRS-317 is approved, risks associated with its market acceptance, including pricing and reimbursement; potential difficulties enforcing our intellectual property rights; our reliance on our license of intellectual property from Amunix Operating, Inc. and our need for additional funds to support our operations. We discuss many of these risks in greater detail under the heading "Risk Factors" contained in our Annual Report on Form 10-K for the year ended December 31, 2014, which is on file with the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), and in our Quarterly Report on Form 10-Q for the three months ended March 31, 2015, which we expect to file with the SEC on or before May 11, 2015. Forward-looking statements are not guarantees of future performance, and our actual results of operations, financial condition and liquidity, and the development of the industry in which we operate, may differ materially from the forward-looking statements contained in this press release. Any forward-looking statements that we make in this press release speak only as of the date of this press release. We assume no obligation to update our forward-looking statements whether as a result of new information, future events or otherwise, after the date of this press release.
CONTACT: Corporate Joshua Brumm Chief Financial Officer (650) 963-8582 [email protected] Investors Nick Laudico The Ruth Group (646) 536-7030 [email protected] Media Debra Bannister Corporate Communications (530) 676-7373 [email protected]