San Diego's Vital Therapies Names Ex-Jazz Pharma Exec as New Chief Leader

Published: Dec 06, 2017 By

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Russell J. Cox, the chief operating officer for Jazz Pharmaceuticals, has been named chief executive officer for Vital Therapies.

Cox will assume his new role Jan. 3.  Jazz Pharma announced Cox’s resignation from that company on Dec. 4.  Cox has held the role of COO at Jazz since 2014. He was responsible for commercial activities, R&D, manufacturing / technical operations, new product planning and global molecule leadership at Jazz. Cox takes over for Vital Therapies CEO Terry Winters who will step down from the Vital Therapies Board and become a consultant to the company. In addition to his time at Jazz, Cox has served in various roles at Ipsen Group and Genentech.

Vital Therapies is focused on its ELAD program, a cell-based therapy targeting the treatment of acute forms of liver failure. The company’s ELAD System is an extracorporeal human allogeneic cellular liver therapy currently in a Phase III clinical trial called VTL-308. The trial is studying the effects of ELAD on patients with severe acute alcoholic hepatitis. Topline results from VTL-308 are anticipated in mid-2018.

“I couldn’t be more excited to join Vital Therapies at this important stage,” Cox said in a statement.  “I believe ELAD is a remarkable regenerative therapy with the potential to transform the treatment of acute forms of liver failure, bringing a lifesaving therapy to a large, underserved disease state.” 

Winters steps down from his role of CEO at Vital Therapies after 14 years at the helm of the company. Winters said he was thrilled to hand over the reins of the company to someone of Cox’s caliber. The company’s VTL-308 Phase III trial is now over 80 percent enrolled and is approaching topline data. Winters said it was essential for Vital Therapies to transition from “an intense focus on clinical development to potential commercialization of ELAD.”

Vital Therapies Chairman of the Board Faheem Hasnain praised Winters for his tenure at the helm of the company. He said Vital Therapies would not be in the strong position it currently is in without the leadership of Winters.

“Looking ahead, I am delighted to welcome Russ to Vital Therapies and look forward to working with him.  As we move forward, Russ’ experience launching several new therapies will be critical as we prepare for potential commercialization of ELAD in the event of positive topline results for VTL-308 and subsequent FDA approval,” Hasnain said in a statement.

In October, Vital Therapies reported cash and cash equivalents $66.4 million, up from $60 million reported on Dec. 31, 2016. The company believes its current cash position could provide funding through the first quarter of 2019, which is past the expected announcement of VTL-308 top-line trial results.

Shares of Vital Therapies are down more than 5 percent this morning, trading at $4.55 as of 11:07 a.m.

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