Terns Pharmaceuticals, Inc., a biopharmaceutical company focused on developing best-in-class single-agent and combination therapies to treat liver disease, announced today the appointment of Senthil Sundaram as Chief Executive Officer (CEO) and member of the Board of Directors and Mark Vignola, Ph.D. as Chief Financial Officer. In addition, Erin Quirk, M.D., who joined Terns in January 2019 as Chief Medical Officer, will become President of Terns, in addition to her role as Chief Medical Officer. Weidong Zhong, Ph.D., who has served as CEO of Terns since the Company was founded, will now serve as Chief Scientific Officer and Chairman of the Board of Directors.
Mr. Sundaram commented, “Terns has an unparalleled NASH pipeline targeting multiple clinically validated mechanisms with several significant clinical data readouts in 2021. I look forward to working closely with the team as we advance through Phase 2 studies of our liver-selective FXR agonist, TERN-101, and our highly selective SSAO inhibitor, TERN-201, and execute on our exciting NASH combination strategy, with the upcoming initiation of clinical development of our THR-β agonist, TERN-501, and advancement of our small molecule GLP-1R agonist program.”
“Global prevalence of NASH is rapidly increasing, and there remains no approved therapy to treat the disease. I’m proud of Terns’ incredibly dedicated and talented clinical development team members who work with a true sense of urgency towards our goal of advancing best-in-class combinations to treat NASH,” said Dr. Quirk. “Terns has paired world-class scientific expertise with operational excellence, enabling us to build a powerful pipeline and advance it efficiently. We have brought both TERN-101 and TERN-201 through Phase 1 clinical studies and gained Fast Track Designation for TERN-101. Our team proactively planned and engaged with patients, vendors, and investigators to initiate our TERN-101 Phase 2 LIFT Study in presumed NASH patients, which, despite the COVID-19 pandemic, has been met with tremendous enthusiasm and is ahead of schedule in enrollment. We look forward to continuing our momentum into 2021.”
“Senthil and Mark each have distinguished track records leading successful biopharmaceutical companies, with experience in corporate strategy, business development and finance teams. They are highly regarded within the business community, and their background in liver disease and NASH will fully complement the extensive drug discovery and development expertise of the Terns R&D team led by Dr. Erin Quirk,” said Weidong Zhong, Ph.D., Terns founder and Chairman of the Terns Board of Directors. “Since joining Terns, Erin has done an exemplary job of rapidly advancing our multiple NASH programs to key inflection points in clinical development. Her extensive experience in developing co-formulated drug regimens has greatly aided and advanced our combination strategy. I also want to thank Dr. Ankang Li for his past contributions as CFO and his continued service as the Head of Terns China. On behalf of our entire team, I want to welcome Senthil and Mark to the team and congratulate Erin on her accomplishments.”
Mr. Sundaram brings to Terns over 20 years of strategy and financial experience in the life sciences industry. Prior to joining Terns, Mr. Sundaram was the Chief Financial Officer of Nightstar Therapeutics plc, a clinical-stage gene therapy company, until it was acquired by Biogen in 2019. While at Nightstar, Mr. Sundaram led a number of private and public equity offerings, including its initial public offering, and a variety of business development efforts including the M&A process that resulted in the acquisition by Biogen. Prior to Nightstar, Mr. Sundaram served in a variety of positions at Intercept Pharmaceuticals, Inc., including most recently as its Vice President and Head of Business Development. Prior to joining Intercept, Mr. Sundaram spent 13 years in the healthcare investment banking groups at Lehman Brothers/Barclays, Citigroup, and Lazard. Mr. Sundaram earned a B.S. in Computer Engineering and a B.A. in Economics from Brown University.
Prior to joining Terns as its CFO, Mark Vignola, Ph.D. was most recently the Chief Financial Officer of Applied Therapeutics, a clinical-stage biopharmaceutical company. While at Applied Therapeutics, Dr. Vignola led the company’s initial public offering, private placement, and follow-on offering. Prior to joining Applied Therapeutics, Dr. Vignola was Head of Corporate Development & Investor Relations at Intercept Pharmaceuticals, during which time he was a top ranked healthcare executive in the 2019 Institutional Investor All-America Executive Team survey. Prior to joining Intercept in 2015, he was a member of the biotechnology equity research team at Needham & Company. Dr. Vignola earned his Ph.D. in Molecular Genetics and Microbiology from Duke University and B.S. in Biology from Boston College.
Erin Quirk, M.D., is the President and Chief Medical Officer of Terns Pharmaceuticals. During her 15-year pharmaceutical industry career, she has worked on dozens of clinical-stage drug and vaccine projects and has personally contributed to the development of 14 approved drug products to date, including initial marketing applications for five novel fixed-dose combinations. Prior to joining Terns in 2019, Dr. Quirk was Vice President of Clinical Research at Gilead Sciences, where she oversaw clinical development activities for investigational HIV treatments, as well as the development strategy and post-marketing studies for the company’s HIV portfolio. Prior to joining Gilead, Dr. Quirk was Director of Clinical Research at Merck Research Laboratories, where she advanced clinical trials for HIV vaccines and small molecules for hepatitis C virus infection. Dr. Quirk holds a bachelor’s degree from Drew University and an M.D. from the University of Colorado. She completed training in internal medicine and infectious diseases at Washington University in St. Louis where she was a faculty member prior to joining the pharmaceutical industry.
Weidong Zhong, Ph.D. is the co-founder, Chief Scientific Officer, and Chairman of the Board of Terns Pharmaceuticals. Dr. Zhong is an accomplished industry veteran who brings 25 years of experience and a proven track record in discovery and development of successful drug candidates. During his career, he has played critical roles in advancing over 20 small molecule and biologic drug candidates into the clinic. Prior to founding Terns Pharmaceuticals in 2017, Dr. Zhong served as Global Head of Antiviral Research at Novartis Institutes for BioMedical Research. At Novartis, he oversaw drug discovery activities spanning multiple viral disease areas and established a strong pipeline of both small molecules and biologics. Prior to Novartis, he served at Gilead Sciences where he led discovery and early stage research projects to combat significant viral pathogens (HCV and HBV) and liver disease. Early in his career, Dr. Zhong held positions of increasing responsibility at Ribapharm, ICN Pharmaceuticals, Schering-Plough Research Institute, and SmithKline Beecham. Dr. Zhong received his Ph.D. in Biochemistry from the University of Wisconsin, Madison, and conducted postdoctoral research at University of California, San Francisco.
About Terns Pharmaceuticals
Terns Pharmaceuticals, Inc. is a clinical-stage biopharmaceutical company focused on developing best-in-class single-agent and combination therapies to treat liver disease including a pipeline of orally administered drug candidates for the treatment of non-alcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH). The company’s liver-selective FXR-agonist, TERN-101, is currently enrolling a multi-center, randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled Phase 2a clinical trial designed to evaluate efficacy, safety, and pharmacokinetics in 96 presumed NASH patients who receive placebo or TERN-101 at various dose levels for 12 weeks. Terns recently announced positive Phase 1 clinical data for its highly selective SSAO inhibitor, TERN-201, demonstrating potent and sustained target engagement. In addition, the company is actively planning to initiate clinical studies for its thyroid hormone receptor-β agonist TERN-501 as monotherapy and in combination with its other pipeline assets for NASH, as well as advancing its small molecule GLP-1R agonist program. Terns’ investors include OrbiMed, Vivo Capital, Lilly Asia Ventures, and Decheng Capital.
For more information, visit www.ternspharma.com