SAN DIEGO, July 6, 2021 /PRNewswire/ -- Viracta Therapeutics, Inc. (Nasdaq: VIRX), a precision oncology company targeting virus-associated malignancies, today announced the appointment of Ayman El-Guindy, Ph.D., as Chief Scientific Officer. In addition, Viracta announced the addition of Patric Nelson, MBA, as Senior Vice President, Business Development and Corporate Strategy and Biljana Nadjsombati, Pharm.D., as Vice President, Pharmaceutical Development.
"Ayman is one of the world's leading experts on Epstein-Barr virus (EBV)-associated cancers and a tremendous addition to our management team," said Ivor Royston, M.D., President and Chief Executive Officer of Viracta. "Ayman's appointment, along with the addition of Patric and Biljana, strengthens the team at an important time as we are poised to advance our clinical program into EBV-associated solid tumors and explore additional opportunities to expand our portfolio. Their diverse and complementary skill sets add valuable depth to our leadership team, and I look forward to their contributions."
Dr. El-Guindy added, "Viracta's kick and kill approach targeting latent viral infections in cancer elegantly applies the concepts I've spent much of my career studying into clinical practice in an area of high unmet medical need. Our impressive clinical data has validated the approach, and I am thrilled to have the opportunity to join Viracta as Chief Scientific Officer at this very exciting time. As Viracta's NAVAL-1 pivotal trial and solid tumor program continue to progress, I look forward to advancing our pre-clinical efforts to evaluate and identify potential additional opportunities to apply Viracta's approach and further expand our pipeline."
Ayman El-Guindy, Ph.D., has over 23 years of experience studying the role of viruses in cancer and spent the last decade as a faculty member at Yale University School of Medicine, most recently as an Associate Professor in the Department of Pediatrics, Section of Infectious Disease, and the Department of Pathology. At Yale, Dr. El-Guindy ran a laboratory focused on the involvement of herpesviruses in the etiology and prognosis of cancer. His group studied the fundamental role of herpesvirus protein kinases in viral pathogenesis and as potential targets for drug development. Additionally, he made seminal contributions to the understanding of oncogenic herpesvirus reactivation from latent to lytic state, the process of viral DNA replication, role of virally encoded cytokines in mediating cell proliferation, and temporal regulation of viral gene expression during infection. He has been awarded numerous grants from organizations such as the American Cancer Society and the National Cancer Institute to study the mechanisms regulating EBV gene expression and the role of viruses in cancer as both a Principal and Co-Investigator. Dr. El-Guindy has authored over two dozen peer-reviewed publications and serves in editorial roles at the scientific journals Pathogens and Frontiers in Microbiology. He also serves as a reviewer for multiple journals including PloS Pathogens and the Journal of Virology. He received his Ph.D. and M.Ph. in Molecular Biophysics and Biochemistry from Yale University and his M.Sc. in Biochemistry from Ain-Shams University (Egypt).
Patric Nelson, MBA, joined Viracta from Esperion Therapeutics, where he served as Vice President, Business Development and Alliance Management. At Esperion, Mr. Nelson led the company's global business development strategy, closing over $2 billion in licensing transactions. Furthermore, he created Esperion's alliance management function, where he led Esperion's global partnerships with Daiichi Sankyo and Otsuka. Prior to his time at Esperion, he was a Program Therapeutic Leader at Ionis Pharmaceuticals, where he oversaw the clinical and lifecycle strategy for antisense oligonucleotide therapies. Additionally, Mr. Nelson previously held management positions at Amgen, Amylin Pharmaceuticals (acquired by AstraZeneca) and Allergan (acquired by Abbvie). During his tenure, he contributed to the development of multiple commercially available therapies such as Byetta®, Symlin®, Restasis®, Tegsedi®, and Evolocumab®. Mr. Nelson earned his MPH in Public Health from the University of Southern California's Keck School of Medicine and his MBA with distinction from the University of Southern California's Marshall School of Business.
Biljana Nadjsombati, Pharm.D., is an experienced chemistry, manufacturing, and controls (CMC) and technical operations executive with more than 25 years of experience across the pharmaceutical industry. She has contributed to the global development and commercialization of multiple pharmaceutical products and her areas of expertise include directing commercial and clinical production operations, process development, scale up and validation, product technology transfers, supply chain management, contract manufacturing oversight, and due diligence activities for new business development opportunities. Prior to joining Viracta, Ms. Nadjsombati served as Vice President, CMC, at Urovant Sciences, Inc., where she played an instrumental role in the registration filing, approval, and launch of GEMTESA®. Before joining Urovant, Ms. Nadjsombati held leadership roles within the R&D organization at Avanir Pharmaceuticals (acquired by Otsuka Pharmaceutical), most recently serving as Executive Director of Pharmaceutical Development and Supply Chain and was a key contributor to the registration and commercialization of NUEDEXTA® and ONZETRA® Xsail®. Prior to her time at Avanir, Ms. Nadjsombati held positions of increasing responsibility at Valeant Pharmaceuticals International, Ribapharm, and ICN Pharmaceuticals. Ms. Nadjsombati earned her Pharm.D. and completed additional postgraduate work in pharmaceutical technology at the University of Belgrade, School of Pharmacy in Serbia.
In accordance with Nasdaq Listing Rule 5635(c)(4), the Compensation Committee of Viracta's Board of Directors approved the grant of non-qualified stock options to new non-executive employees to purchase an aggregate of 285,000 shares of common stock, in each case as a material inducement to such individual accepting employment with the Company. Each such option shall vest over four years, with twenty-five percent vesting on the one-year anniversary of the applicable optionee's employment commencement date and the remaining seventy-five percent vesting in equal monthly increments over the succeeding thirty-six months, subject to the individual's continuous employment through each vesting date. The options each have an exercise price of $12.53 per share, which is equal to the closing price of Viracta's common stock on July 1, 2021.
The inducement awards were made outside of Viracta's current equity plan, under Viracta's 2021 Inducement Equity Incentive Plan and related stock option agreement but will have terms and conditions generally consistent with those of Viracta's 2021 Equity Incentive Plan. The Inducement Plan is used exclusively to grant equity awards to individuals who were not previously an employee or non-employee director of Viracta as an inducement material to such individual's entering into employment with Viracta in accordance with Nasdaq Listing Rule 5635(c)(4).
About Viracta Therapeutics, Inc.
Viracta is a precision oncology company targeting virus-associated malignancies. Viracta's proprietary investigational drug, nanatinostat, is currently being evaluated in combination with the antiviral agent valganciclovir as an oral combination therapy in two Phase 2 clinical trials for EBV-positive lymphoma. Viracta is also pursuing application of its inducible synthetic lethality approach in other EBV-associated malignancies, such as nasopharyngeal carcinoma, gastric carcinoma, and other virus-related cancers.
For additional information please visit www.viracta.com.
This communication contains "forward-looking" statements within the meaning of the Private Securities Litigation Reform Act of 1995, including, without limitation, statements regarding: the significance of the management appointments and the expected contribution of the appointees; Viracta's development plans; and other statements that are not historical facts. Risks and uncertainties related to Viracta that may cause actual results to differ materially from those expressed or implied in any forward-looking statement include, but are not limited to: Viracta's ability to successfully enroll patients in and complete its ongoing and planned clinical trials; Viracta's plans to develop and commercialize its product candidates, including all oral combinations of nanatinostat and valganciclovir; the timing of initiation of Viracta's planned clinical trials; the timing of the availability of data from Viracta's clinical trials; previous preclinical and clinical results may not be predictive of future clinical results; the timing of any planned investigational new drug application or new drug application; Viracta's plans to research, develop and commercialize its current and future product candidates; the clinical utility, potential benefits and market acceptance of Viracta's product candidates; Viracta's ability to identify additional products or product candidates with significant commercial potential; developments and projections relating to Viracta's competitors and its industry; the impact of government laws and regulations; Viracta's ability to protect its intellectual property position; and Viracta's estimates regarding future expenses, capital requirements and need for additional financing in the future.
These risks and uncertainties may be amplified by the COVID-19 pandemic, which has caused significant economic uncertainty. If any of these risks materialize or underlying assumptions prove incorrect, actual results could differ materially from the results implied by these forward-looking statements. Additional risks and uncertainties that could cause actual outcomes and results to differ materially from those contemplated by the forward-looking statements are included under the caption "Risk Factors" and elsewhere in Viracta's reports and other documents that Viracta has filed, or will file, with the SEC from time to time and available at www.sec.gov.
The forward-looking statements included in this communication are made only as of the date hereof. Viracta assumes no obligation and does not intend to update these forward-looking statements, except as required by law or applicable regulation.
Investor Relations Contact:
Chief Operating Officer and Chief Financial Officer
SOURCE Viracta Therapeutics, Inc.