Virion Biotherapeutics fills out executive ranks with CEO, CSO

Virion Biotherapeutics announced Monday that Vanessa King and Isabel Najera have signed on as CEO and chief scientific officer, respectively. 

King has held a number of business development and operations roles, including at Novartis and deCode Genetics and has led Luc Therapeutics as its CEO. Najera is an R&D veteran of Roche, most recently serving as deputy head of discovery and leading its clinical microbiology and influenza discovery teams. 

“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,” King said in a statement. “We are focused on moving our lead product, VH244, into the clinic and building the capabilities required to support its development.”  

Virion Biotherapeutics started out as VirionHealth in October 2017, with $17 million in series A backing from Abingworth and research by Professors Nigel Dimmock and Andrew Easton of the University of Warwick. At the time, it said it had set out to create the “first broad-spectrum therapy” based on a new class of biological antiviral and that its initial focus would be influenza and respiratory syncytial virus (RSV). 

Now, a year down the line, Virion says it is developing proprietary biologics known as Therapeutic Interfering Particles (TIPs), which can penetrate the cells that line the respiratory tract but cannot multiply. In cells that have been infected by a respiratory virus, they block the virus’ replication via genomic interference and stimulation of the patient’s innate immunity, the company says. Its lead asset, VH244, is an optimized RNA molecule designed to treat and prevent respiratory virus infections.

King is filling a vacuum left by Virion’s initial CEO, Nicola Thompson, who appears to have left quietly in June. Aside from King and Najera, the only other executive team member currently listed on Virion’s website is Chief Medical Officer Penelope Ward. Thompson was named as CEO and Laura Lane as chief operating officer in a University of Warwick press release from VirionHealth’s launch, but an almost identical press release on Virion’s website omits the paragraph naming the company’s board members.