Terns Pharmaceuticals Taps 2 Scientific Advisors as it Eyes the Clinic for its New NASH Programs


Less than one week after licensing three non-alcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH) programs from Eli Lilly and Company, startup company Terns Pharmaceuticals has strengthened its leadership team with the appointment of two scientific advisors.

This morning Terns announced it added Juan Carlos Lopez-Talavera and Chuan (Joe) Shih as scientific advisors to support the advancement of the company’s programs for liver disease and cancer.

Weidong Zhong, president and chief executive officer of Terns, said bringing in Shih and Lopez-Talavera will be invaluable as the company takes its two lead compounds into the clinic this year.

“Their expertise in liver disease and oncology drug discovery and development is highly relevant and complementary to that of our internal team and we have already started integrating them into their advisory function,” Zhong said in a statement.

With more than 20 years of experience in the industry, Lopez-Talavera was most recently head of medical affairs at Intercept Pharmaceuticals. He has also held positions with AbbVie, Bristol Myers Squibb and Roche.  A medical doctor, Lopez-Talavera also served as attending physician of the Liver Unit at the Hospital General Universitari Vall D’Hebron in Barcelona.

Shih is currently a venture partner at Lilly Asia Ventures, which supported the 2017 launch of Terns Pharmaceuticals with $30 million. Prior to Lilly Asia Ventures, Shih was the director of the Institute of Biotechnology and Pharmaceutical Research (IBPR) of the National Health Research Institutes (NHRI) in Taiwan. Shih also led drug discovery and translational medicine teams across multiple therapeutic areas at Crown Biosciences, Inc., Lilly Research Laboratories and Eli Lilly and Company.

Terns, which is helmed by a number of former Gilead Sciences executives, is diving into the $40 billion NASH market with three programs licensed from Eli Lilly. Earlier this month the two companies struck a deal for the small molecule therapeutic candidates to treat non-alcoholic steatohepatitis. Terns plans to take TERN-101 and TERN-201 into the clinic. TERN-101 is a farnesoid X receptor (FXR) agonist that has already begun Phase I testing in Europe, according to the company’s website. TERN-201 is a semicarbazide-sensitive amine oxidase (SSAO) inhibitor that is nearing IND submission.

NASH, a severe form of non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD), is increasing worldwide in part due to the increase of obesity and diabetes diagnoses. In the United States NASH affects 2 to 5 percent of people. In China, where Terns has offices, it is estimated that 15 percent of the adult population has NAFLD and of those about 20 percent will develop NASH. The disease is projected to become the leading indication for liver transplant by 2020.


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