Virion’s mission is to transform the clinical management of human respiratory virus infections using our proprietary Therapeutic Interfering Particles (TIPs).
These first-in-class biologicals enhance a naturally occurring dual mechanism that interferes with viral replication, preventing infection and alleviating disease. Using this unique approach, we address the two major challenges in treating patients with respiratory virus infections – the sheer breadth of viruses that cause such infections and the risk of drug resistance.
Based on pioneering scientific work on mechanisms for controlling viral replication, we were founded in 2017 and funded by leading trans-Atlantic bioscience investment firm, Abingworth.
A Universal Approach
The development of a treatment that can effectively treat the wide variety of viruses that cause RVIs in humans will transform the management of these common infections. Such a treatment would also provide an essential tool for management of an emergent pandemic or epidemic of a novel respiratory virus, such as those in 2009 (influenza A H1N1), 2008 (MERS) and 2003 (SARS).
Virion is the first company to be able to address this huge patient need and market opportunity through its unique TIP modality.
Viral infections of the respiratory tract have a significant impact on lives across the globe. In any given year, the average adult suffers 2-3 colds, while children suffer even more. During influenza seasonal outbreaks 5-20% of the population may be infected. This equates to over a billion respiratory virus infections (RVIs), and hundreds of millions of doctor visits.1-3
Because RVIs affect so many people, the economic costs are enormous. In the US alone, more than $27 billion is spent each year on direct medical expenses, with an additional $100 billion in indirect costs related to absenteeism and premature death. The World Health Organization estimates that acute respiratory infections kill over 3 million people per year internationally, making these infections one of the top five causes of mortality worldwide.3-6
RVIs can be caused by influenza and non-influenza viruses. While vaccines and virus specific therapies are available for influenza virus infection and illness, their use is limited by variable efficacy, side effects and drug resistance. There are no available vaccines or antiviral therapies available for treatment of non-influenza respiratory virus infections, which represent approximately 85% of all RVIs.7-10
Because RVIs are caused by wide range of viruses, implementing an effective vaccination program requires multiple vaccines. Similarly, antiviral drugs are also highly specific, requiring physicians to identify the precise virus causing the patients’ illness. Modern diagnostic tests cannot deliver this information in time to be practically useful in treating patients. Lastly, the extreme mutability of respiratory viruses enables (and may even facilitate) the emergence of drug resistance, making therapy useless for patients infected by resistant strains.
A treatment approach that effectively treats the wide variety of viruses that cause RVIs in humans addresses each of these challenges, and will transform management of these diseases.
Virion is led by a world class team of virologists and experienced drug developers, including scientific management responsible for the development and commercialization of the world’s top selling antiviral agents.
Virion was founded based on the ground-breaking work on viral interference and molecular mechanisms controlling viral replication of Professor Nigel Dimmock and Professor Andrew Easton.
Vanessa has spent the last two decades on the operating, deals and R&D side of pharma and biotech. Vanessa comes to Virion from Luc Therapeutics, where, as President and CEO, she led the company’s transformation from single asset neuropsychiatry play to a precision medicine neuroscience company with a clinical pipeline. Prior to that, she led business development in the founding leadership team for the restart of deCODE genetics, which was acquired by Amgen in 2012 for $415 million. Vanessa has served as Chairman of Tiaki Therapeutics, been an Entrepreneur in Residence at Atlas Venture, and held senior business development and operating positions at Amgen and Novartis. She earned her PhD in molecular genetics from the University of Cambridge.
Penny has more than 20 years of experience in clinical development and medical affairs. Her work has contributed to the approval of multiple therapies for the treatment of infectious diseases, osteoporosis and autoimmune disorders in the US, EU and Japan. She was the Global Clinical Development Leader for Tamiflu, which was approved in an industry-leading rapid timeframe and additionally contributed to the development of antiviral therapies for HIV (Fuzeon, Invirase, Viracept, Aptivus and Rescriptor), CMV (Valcyte) and Hepatitis (Pegysys). During her extensive career, Penny has held senior management roles in Pharmacia and Upjohn, Roche, Glaxo SmithKline and UCB, and has served as Chief Medical Officer for several start up companies including Blue Earth Diagnostics, Karus Therapeutics, Topivert and Novimmune. Penny qualified in medicine from University College Hospital London and is a Visiting Senior Lecturer in Pharmaceutical Medicine at Kings College, London.
Isabel has two decades of experience in preclinical and clinical R&D in the pharmaceutical industry, with proven record of leveraging external innovation and funding. Since 1999, she has held multiple positions in Roche Infectious Diseases Therapeutic Area, discovering and developing novel drug candidates. Most recently, she served as Senior Director, Deputy Head of Discovery, Head of Clinical Microbiology and Discovery Area Leader for Influenza. Isabel’s leadership led to the successful in-licensing of baloxavir marboxil, a novel influenza Cap-endonuclease inhibitor from Shionogi, which was recently launched in Japan and holds fast-track designation in the US. Furthermore, she was responsible for Tamiflu post marketing resistance studies. In her career, Isabel has also made significant contributions to the approval of marketed antiviral products such as Ziagen for HIV and Pegasys and Copegus for HCV. She obtained her PhD in HIV genetic variability from Universidad Complutense de Madrid, Spain.
Dr. Guido Dietrich joins Virion from Merck, Sharpe & Dohme (MSD) where he was most recently Vice President Quality Biologics and Steriles. In this position he built and developed its Global Biologics and Steriles Quality team with responsibility for a range of products including leading immunotherapy Keytrudaâ, as well as viral and bacterial vaccines and anti-infectives. Dr. Dietrich is an expert in quality assessment, manufacturing and development of vaccines and biopharmaceuticals with extensive experience in the successful maintenance of compliance standards required by health authorities including the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and European agencies. Previously, he held senior management roles in manufacturing and quality of biopharmaceuticals, vaccines and steriles at Novartis, GlaxoSmithKline and Lonza. He holds a PhD in Microbiology from Julius-Maximilians-University in Würzburg, Germany.
Professor Dimmock is a world leading authority on interfering viruses and has worked in this area for many decades. His mission has been to deliver reliable interfering antiviral activity in vivo and to see this successfully translated to the clinic. He has developed and optimized the influenza interfering viral system, yielding multiple patents that cover this work. He received his PhD in virology from the University of London and BSc in zoology from the University of Liverpool.
Professor Easton is a leader in the study of the molecular biology and pathogenesis of respiratory virus infections, particularly the pneumoviruses, which includes respiratory syncytial virus (RSV), the major cause of hospitalization of infants with respiratory disease worldwide. His laboratory has established the related pneumovirus PVM as the preferred small animal model for pneumovirus disease, overcoming one of the major challenges in the study of RSV pathogenesis. Using “reverse genetics” Professor Easton has been able to closely examine the molecular mechanisms controlling virus genome replication and gene expression, and he has spent the last decade focusing on influenza defective interfering viruses. He received his PhD in virology from the University of Glasgow and BSc in biochemistry from the University of Aberdeen.
Dr. Moses brings to Virion over 25 years of Board level and executive leadership experience and 35 years overall in the biotech industry. He joined Ablynx in 2004 as Chairman of the Board and in 2006 became the CEO, a position he held until Ablynx was acquired in 2018 by Sanofi for €3.9 billion. As CEO, Dr. Moses led the company’s Euronext Brussels and Nasdaq listings in 2007 and 2017, respectively, delivered several partnerships with major pharmaceutical companies and was responsible for multiple successful private and public financings. Ablynx achieved EU market approval for the company’s lead product earlier this year. Dr. Moses has been the Chairman of several European companies and contributed to a variety of strategies focused on value creation and the development of important medicines to meet unmet medical needs. During his career, he has raised more than €500 million in equity and debt financing.
Jeffrey is currently Visiting Professor of Microbiology at the Sir William Dunn School of Pathology, University of Oxford. Before that, he was Vice President and Head of Discovery Research and External R&D at Sanofi Pasteur. Jeffrey serves on numerous scientific committees and advisory boards and is an elected Fellow of the American Academy of Microbiology and a Fellow of the UK Academy of Medical Sciences.
Peter is an independent science advisor and consultant for Abingworth, Sanofi and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. He was previously the Balfour Professor of Genetics at Cambridge University. Peter is the founder of several biotechnology companies, and Board member for Prosensa Holdings N.V., deCode, GenSight Biologics, and GammaDelta Therapeutics
Tim has more than 25 years of international management experience in the life sciences industry, in management and Board roles at both public and private companies. His current Board roles include GammaDelta Therapeutics, MEDIAN Technologies, Proteon, and Sientra. Before joining Abingworth in 2005, Tim was CEO of Astex Therapeutics.
Vanessa has spent the last two decades on the operating, deals and R&D side of pharma and biotech. Vanessa comes to Virion from Luc Therapeutics, where, as President and CEO, she led the company’s transformation from single asset neuropsychiatry play to a precision medicine neuroscience company with a clinical pipeline. Prior to that, she led business development in the founding leadership team for the restart of deCODE genetics, which was acquired by Amgen in 2012 for $415 million. Vanessa has served as Chairman of Tiaki Therapeutics, been an Entrepreneur in Residence at Atlas Venture, and held senior business development and operating positions at Amgen and Novartis.
John is an independent consultant and advisor to venture capital groups, biotech companies and not-for-profit organizations. John is currently also a non-executive director of Synpromics Ltd and Microbiotica Ltd. John previously spent 13 years at Abingworth LLP, and has served on the boards of PowderMed, Prosensa, Akubio and Edinburgh BioQuarter. Before that he held position at Glaxo and Cantab Pharmaceuticals.
Interfering viruses are spontaneously-generated mutant virus particles which interfere with the replication of the virus that created them. Virion Biotherapeutics’ lead TIP, VH244, was optimized from this natural phenomenon.
TIPs are able to penetrate cells of the respiratory epithelium, but are not able to multiply, there in the absence of infection. In infected cells they harness two mechanisms of action to shut down replication of respiratory viruses. The first is genomic interference, and the second is stimulation of the patient’s innate immunity. Through this dual mechanism, TIPs are able to address the full spectrum of respiratory viruses that cause human infection.
In genomic interference, when a TIP enters a cell that also contains an infectious virus, the TIP hijacks the replication machinery of the infectious virus. By producing large numbers of (non-infectious) TIP and very few of the infectious virus, the TIP brings infection to a halt. Development of resistance to this mechanism is highly unlikely.
In addition to this genomic interference effect, when a TIP enters a human cell a cascade of internal effects are stimulated, including the production of naturally occurring host antiviral proteins, such as interferon. This cascade, referred to as the innate immune reaction, acts to protect the cell and neighboring cells from further virus attack, to switch off virus replication and spread between cells. This mechanism applies to a broad set of interferon-sensitive respiratory viruses. By preferentially stimulating a host component of the innate immune pathway, the risk of developing resistance to TIPs is minimized.
VH244 is a Therapeutic Interfering Particle (TIP), being developed by Virion Biotherapeutics for the treatment and prevention of respiratory virus infections (RVIs).
VH244 protects against and/or treats illness caused by different RVIs via two distinct mechanisms of action. Both of these mechanisms have been demonstrated for VH244 in preclinical studies in vivo.
VH244 is currently being progressed towards clinical development. We believe VH244 has the potential to treat seasonal and epidemic viral infections simply and effectively, without the need to identify virus type and potentially without generating resistance to treatment.
VH244 is an optimized RNA molecule specifically that lacks an essential gene required for viral replication. Following administration to the respiratory tract, VH244 is taken up by epithelial cells. When these cells are also infected with influenza A, VH244 hijacks the replication machinery of that infectious virus so that production of VH244 out-competes the production of infectious influenza A virus, resulting in every viral replication cycle yielding more than 99% VH244 and less than 1% infectious influenza A. This cycle happens repeatedly until there is no more infectious virus to replicate and the disease is suppressed. Resistance is extremely unlikely to evolve via this mechanism.
Following topical administration to the respiratory tract, VH244 stops infection by other respiratory viruses by stimulating the innate immune system through direct production of cytokines such as type I interferon. This naturally-occurring anti-viral molecule triggers an antiviral cellular state in neighboring cells.
September 17, 2018
Virion Appoints Vanessa King as President & CEO and Isabel Najera as CSO
January 3, 2018
Virion Receives up to $4.2m from DARPA
October 12, 2017
Virion Raises Series A Funding from Abingworth
We seek passionate and talented individuals, as we are building a diverse and committed team with a common goal to transform the way patients are treated.
Virion offers a fast-paced, team-oriented and dynamic work environment plus a comprehensive benefits package. Virion is located in London, one of the UK’s leading life sciences hubs, linking closely with world-class academic research institutions, venture investors and global biopharmaceutical companies.
Thank you for considering a new career with Virion. If you feel that your skills and experience are aligned to the career opportunities posted, please e-mail your resume directly to firstname.lastname@example.org. Please include the position title in the subject line of your email.
We thank all applicants for their interest, but only candidates chosen for an interview will be contacted.
Virion Biotherapeutics has operations in both the UK and Switzerland.