PHILADELPHIA, June 16, 2014 /PRNewswire/ -- Spark Therapeutics, a late-stage gene therapy company developing treatments for a wide range of rare, debilitating diseases, announced today the appointments of Lars Ekman, former president of research and development at Elan, and Vin Milano, former president and CEO of ViroPharma, to its board of directors. Anand Mehra, general partner, Sofinnova Ventures, also joined the Spark board at the close of the company's Series B financing.
"Both Lars and Vin have impressive records of success building innovative companies and delivering groundbreaking therapies to market. We are thrilled that such talented and respected biopharmaceutical industry leaders are joining our mission to deliver one-time, curative therapies to address severe rare diseases," said Jeffrey D. Marrazzo, co-founder and CEO. "In particular, we are excited to leverage Vin's experience developing, commercializing and ushering important rare disease therapeutics through the process of achieving orphan drug status and approval, as well as Lars' extensive R&D and commercial launch expertise from his time at Elan."
The appointments continue Spark's ongoing strategy to expand its leadership team as it prepares to complete clinical development of its Phase 3 program to address inherited retinal dystrophies caused by mutations in the RPE65 gene, which has the potential to be the first approved gene therapy in the U.S.
Lars and Vin join other R&D and rare disease leaders on Spark's board, including Elliott Sigal, former director, EVP and CSO of Bristol-Myers Squibb, and Rogério Vivaldi, former head of the rare diseases business unit at Genzyme, a Sanofi company.
"Spark's early, promising clinical results in gene therapy, coupled with the extensive expertise of their founding team in this highly potent, but complicated, field of research, make for an exciting start to what should be a fully integrated company with multiple products to offer patients in need. I look forward to working with Spark to grow their portfolio and help support the company's first commercial launch," said Lars Ekman.
"Spark is leading an industry forward in transforming the treatment paradigm for patients with debilitating, rare diseases," said Vin Milano. "I look forward to contributing to the company's success and drawing on my own background in providing innovative therapeutics to underserved patient populations."
For a complete list of Spark Therapeutics' board of directors and their biographies, please visit our website at www.sparktx.com/pioneering-leadership/board-directors.
About Lars Ekman, executive partner, Sofinnova Ventures
Lars has more than 28 years of experience in senior executive, scientific, and clinical functions. He has served as executive partner at Sofinnova Ventures since 2008, lending his extensive expertise in the life sciences industry to the investment team in driving new companies toward success. Prior to joining Sofinnova Ventures, Lars was president of research and development at Elan. Lars is credited with advancing Elan's drug discovery pipeline during his tenure, and under Lars' leadership, the company received approval for four U.S. New Drug Applications, three European Marketing Approval Applications and five Investigational New Drug Applications. These efforts resulted in advancing Elan's immunotherapeutic approach and bringing to market three neuroscience products, including Tysabri for multiple sclerosis. Prior to joining Elan, Lars was executive vice president, research and development, at Schwarz Pharma AG, and before that, held a variety of senior scientific and clinical roles at Pharmacia (now Pfizer). Lars is a board-certified surgeon with a Ph.D. in experimental biology, and an M.D., from the University of Gothenburg, Sweden.
About Vin Milano, former president and CEO, ViroPharma
Vin most recently served as president, chief executive officer and chairman of the board of directors of ViroPharma Incorporated, which was acquired by Shire Pharmaceuticals in January 2014, and was focused on bringing innovative therapies to market for serious, unmet medical needs. ViroPharma's lead product was Cinryze, approved and commercially available in the U.S. for the prevention of hereditary angioedema attacks and in Europe for both the treatment and prevention of hereditary angioedema attacks, a rare disease. Vin joined the company in 1996 and served as vice president, chief financial officer, and treasurer from 1997 to 2006. He was instrumental in building the company, including leading efforts in raising nearly $900 million in capital, as well as the acquisitions of Lev Pharmaceuticals, and the drug Vancocin from Eli Lilly. Vin played critical roles in all business development and investor relations activities for ViroPharma, as well as contributed significantly to establishing the strategic focus of the company. Prior to joining ViroPharma, Vin served as senior manager at KPMG LLP, independent certified public accountants. He received his Bachelor of Science degree in accounting from Rider College.
About Spark Therapeutics
Spark Therapeutics is developing curative, one-time gene therapy products with the potential to transform the lives of patients and re-imagine the treatment of debilitating diseases. Spark's lead gene therapy candidate, for RPE65-related blindness, is currently in Phase 3 clinical trials with the potential to be the first approved gene therapy in the United States, and the first approved treatment to address the significant unmet needs of patients living with blindness due to inherited retinal dystrophies. Additionally, the company has clinical and preclinical programs in other inherited retinal dystrophies and hematological disorders, and a proprietary manufacturing platform that has successfully supported human gene therapy trials across diverse therapeutic areas and routes of administration. Spark's founding team includes scientists who led the movement to develop gene therapy as a new treatment paradigm, establishing clinical proof of concept in the eye and liver and contributing key insights to the field that have resulted in a resurgence of industry interest in gene-based medicines. To learn more visit www.sparktx.com.
SOURCE Spark Therapeutics