Biotech executive and company builder Mark Pruzanski named Chairman and Chief Executive Officer
Industry veterans John Maraganore and Barbara Duncan join Board of Directors
NEW YORK, July 20, 2022 — Versanis Bio (“Versanis”), a clinical-stage company advancing novel therapeutics for cardiometabolic diseases, today announced three organizational appointments. Versanis welcomes Mark Pruzanski, M.D., as Chairman and Chief Executive Officer, and John Maraganore, Ph.D., and Barbara Duncan, MBA, to the Board of Directors. Lloyd Klickstein, M.D., Ph.D., who co-founded the company in 2021 with Aditum Bio, will continue in the role of President and Chief Scientific Officer.
“As accomplished biotech leaders, Mark, John, and Barbara bring a depth and breadth of expertise to Versanis that will help us realize our mission to bring transformational medicines to people living with cardiometabolic diseases,” Klickstein said. “Their joining signals growing momentum and confidence in our potential, and I look forward to working with them to build on the strong scientific foundation we have established for bimagrumab.”
Versanis is advancing its lead asset bimagrumab, a first-in-class monoclonal antibody that binds activin type II receptors, into a Phase 2b study later this year for the initial indication of obesity. Bimagrumab will be evaluated both as a monotherapy and co-administered with semaglutide to assess its ability to drive additive fat loss while preventing the concomitant substantial loss of lean mass associated with semaglutide and other incretin therapies. An earlier study demonstrated that one year of bimagrumab treatment in overweight and obese patients with type 2 diabetes resulted in more than 20% fat loss with a gain in lean mass.
“Obesity is the most pressing chronic public health challenge we face, with more than 40% of American adults now living with this disease,” Pruzanski said. “While effective weight loss therapies are now emerging, achieving the best long-term health benefits is about more than just the number on a scale. Bimagrumab’s unique mechanism of action directly targets both muscle and fat to drive improved body composition, which we believe will result in better outcomes.”
Pruzanski brings more than 25 years of combined experience as a CEO, advisor, board member, and investor in the life sciences industry. Most notably, he founded Intercept Pharmaceuticals and was the company’s CEO until 2021, having led its evolution from a drug discovery stage to a global development and commercial organization. While at Intercept, Pruzanski pioneered novel surrogate endpoints supporting accelerated approval in chronic liver diseases, championing the first therapeutic for NASH, which has surged in the wake of the global obesity epidemic to become a leading cause of liver failure.
Pruzanski was previously the Executive Chairman of the Versanis Board of Directors. He is an active board member for several biotechnology companies and healthcare organizations, including the Emerging Company Section of the Biotechnology Innovation Organization (BIO). Earlier in his career, Pruzanski worked in life sciences investment and venture capital, having co-founded Apple Tree Partners. Pruzanski earned his M.D. from McMaster University Medical School and his M.A. in International Affairs from Johns Hopkins University.
“I am thrilled by the opportunity in this next chapter to join a company committed to the development of novel therapies for diseases that limit healthspan for so many, with great societal implications,” Pruzanski said.
As independent directors, John Maraganore and Barbara Duncan bring proven strategic and operational leadership experience to the Board of Directors to help Versanis realize the full potential of bimagrumab.
Maraganore is the former founding CEO of Alnylam Pharmaceuticals, leading the company to break new ground creating the world’s first five RNAi therapeutic medicines. Prior to Alnylam, he served in business and scientific leadership roles at Millennium Pharmaceuticals, Biogen, and Zymogenetics. Maraganore is an active member of several significant public and private boards in the industry and is an advisor to a number of life sciences investment firms. He earned a Ph.D. in biochemistry and molecular biology from the University of Chicago.
“Versanis is pioneering a whole new approach and innovative pathway to unlock what could become a very important therapy for a large number of people around the world, and I’m excited to work with Mark and the rest of the Board in this effort,” Maraganore said. “Mark is both highly experienced and passionate about building companies and advancing new therapies, and he knows what it takes to lead a program through development and to the market. Without question, he is uniquely suited to guide Versanis forward.”
Duncan worked in investment banking before joining DOV Pharmaceutical, Inc. as Chief Financial Officer for six years and then CEO and Director for almost four years. Duncan then served at Intercept Pharmaceuticals as Chief Financial Officer for seven years and has since provided counsel and expertise to several leading life sciences companies as they progress through key inflection points as a board member. Duncan earned an MBA from the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania.
“It is an exciting time to be working with the proven team at Versanis to advance the treatment of cardiometabolic disease and bring improved health within reach for so many people,” Duncan said.
Maraganore and Duncan join existing non-executive Board Directors Joe Jimenez, managing director of Aditum Bio; Mark Fishman, co-founder & SAB Chair of Aditum Bio; Michael Gladstone, partner at Atlas Venture; and Nick Williams, partner at Medicxi.
Bimagrumab is a first-in-class, fully human IgG1/λ monoclonal antibody to activin type II receptors that blocks binding of ligands including myostatin, activins and GDF11. Bimagrumab treatment decreases body fat, especially abdominal visceral fat, while at the same time increasing muscle mass. Bimagrumab has been administered to more than 1,000 patients across more than 20 clinical studies. It is now being advanced as a novel treatment for patients living with obesity, with additional indications to follow.
Versanis is a privately held, clinical-stage biopharmaceutical company bringing transformational treatments to people living with cardiometabolic disease. The company’s lead asset, bimagrumab, is being advanced in a Phase 2b study as a novel treatment for obesity to help adults achieve and maintain both substantial fat loss and a healthy body composition, with additional indications to follow. Versanis was founded in 2021 and is a portfolio company of Aditum Bio, Atlas Venture and Medicxi. For more information, please visit https://www.versanisbio.com/.