Cell No. 4 Interpretation of a cancer cell, provided by Angela Canada Hopkins, daughter of a cancer patient.

Cell No. 4 Interpretation of a cancer cell, provided by Angela Canada Hopkins, daughter of a cancer patient.

Who We Are

Viracta is committed to advancing new medicines to benefit patients with viral-associated cancers and other serious diseases.

Viracta’s proprietary platform is a highly targeted combination therapy approach for virus-associated malignancies. Our initial focus is on cancers associated with the Epstein Barr Virus (EBV). We will also expand into additional applications to utilize this approach for a range of cancers and virus-associated diseases.

Our team possesses deep, cross-functional experience and longstanding commitment to develop new medicines to benefit patients.

Meet the Team

Board of Directors

Roger J. Pomerantz, M.D. – Chairman of the Board

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Dr. Pomerantz has extensive board experience and currently serves on the board of directors of Intec Pharma, Collplant Biotechnologies, Silicon Therapeutics, and X-Vax Inc., in addition to ContraFect. He also serves as the Chairman of the Scientific Advisory Board of Aridis Pharmaceuticals. Dr. Pomerantz was a Venture Partner at Flagship Pioneering from 2014 through 2019. In addition, he served as the President, CEO and Chairman of the Board of Seres Therapeutics from 2014-2019, where he continues to serve as Senior Advisor to its Board of Directors. Previously, Dr. Pomerantz was Senior Vice President, Worldwide Head of Licensing & Acquisition at Merck & Co., Inc and prior to that was Senior Vice President and Global Franchise Head of Infectious Diseases at Merck. Prior to joining Merck, Dr. Pomerantz was Global Head of Infectious Diseases for Johnson & Johnson Pharmaceuticals. He also served as CEO of Tibotec Pharmaceuticals, Inc. Dr. Pomerantz has now led the development of 12 drugs, for HIV, HCV, MDR-TB, CMV, and C Diff, which have been approved and launched world-wide (including both small and large molecules and fixed dose combinations).

Dr. Pomerantz received his B.A. in Biochemistry at the Johns Hopkins University and his M.D. at the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine. He received post-graduate training at the Massachusetts General Hospital, Harvard Medical School and M.I.T. Dr. Pomerantz is Board Certified in both Internal Medicine and Infectious Diseases. He was Professor of Medicine, Biochemistry and Molecular Pharmacology, Chief of Infectious Diseases, and the Founding Director and Chair of the Institute for Human Virology and Biodefense at the Thomas Jefferson University and Medical School.

Richard Ghalie, M.D. – Director

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Richard brings over 20 years of drug development experience. He currently serves as Senior Vice President of Clinical Development at MEI Pharma. As a hematologist and oncologist, Richard has held several executive positions in the pharmaceutical industry, including Chief Medical Officer at Denovo BioPharma, HemaQuest Pharmaceuticals, Novalar Pharmaceuticals, and Favrille. He also served as Medical Director of the Bone Marrow Transplant Center of Rush University Medical Center. Richard holds a medical degree from the French School of Medicine in Lebanon, a M.S. from the University Paris XI and a M.B.A. from the University of Washington in Seattle. He has authored or co-authored more than 125 manuscripts, book chapters and scientific publications.

Sam Murphy, Ph.D – VP and Head of International Business Development, Salubris Pharmaceuticals

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Sam Murphy currently serves as VP and Head of International Business Development for Salubris Pharmaceuticals and its US subsidiary SalubrisBio. His role encompasses origination, evaluation, and execution of licensing transactions, strategic investments and acquisitions outside of China. He leads the externally-facing efforts ongoing at Salubris to pivot towards an innovation-driven product portfolio and a global presence. Prior to joining Salubris, Sam worked for ten years in strategy consulting and transaction advisory services across several global firms including IMS (now IQVIA) and Simon-Kucher & Partners. Sam’s commercial strategy engagements encompassed 18 of the top 25 pharmaceutical companies, as well as numerous small and mid-sized biotech companies, with an emphasis on pricing and market access. Sam’s transaction advisory work included licensing and acquisitions collectively exceeding $2B USD in value, and he also supported early-stage financing for a number of emerging pharma/biotech companies. Sam completed his B.A. in Biochemistry, Ph.D. in Molecular Biology and Post-Doctoral Fellowship in Gene Therapy and Translational Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania, where he focused principally on gene therapy during his 13 years of bench research. Sam was also awarded a Presidential Management Fellowship in which he supported policy development around a $1B congressional initiative to build the national biodefense stockpile. Sam is currently a board member at GO Therapeutics, Viracta Therapeutics, and MedAlliance S.A., and a board observer at Mercator Medsystems.

Ivor Royston, M.D. – Director & Chief Executive Officer

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In addition to his roles and accomplishments, described below, Ivor was founding Managing Partner with Forward Ventures.

Michael Huang, M.S., M.B.A. – Managing Partner, Taiwania Capital Management, Life Science Fund

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Michael L. Huang currently serves as the Managing Partner of Taiwania Capital Management Company's Life Science Fund and on the board of Frequency Therapeutics (NASDAQ: FREQ), Elixiron Therapeutics, and Annji Pharma. Prior to joining Taiwania, Michael was the Co-founder and CEO of  NeuroVive Pharmaceutical Asia, Inc. (NVP Asia), a new drug development company focusing on the development of mitochondria-related diseases. During his tenure, NVP Asia had successfully reached out-licensing deals with Sihuan Pharmaceutical and Sanofi Korea. Prior to NPV Asia, he had served as head of IR for TWi Pharmaceuticals, Inc., a specialty generics company in Taiwan, and had played a critical role during TWi's IPO process. Before working in the industry, Michael had over 12 years of experience as a venture capitalist, focusing on investments in life science startups in US, Taiwan and Japan. Some of his notable deals include Coley Pharmaceuticals, Inc. (Nasdaq Listed then acquired by Pfizer), MediciNova (Dual listing on Nasdaq and Osaka Stock Exchange)、Nellix, Inc.(acquired by Endologix)、Mycenax Biotech, Inc. (TPEx)、Savior Lifetec Corp. (TPEx)、PharmaEngine, Inc. (TPEx)、Apex International Co. (Acquired by Paraxel).Michael's expertise is in investing and managing early to late stage biotech and medical device companies in the Greater China, Japan, Europe and North America regions. He earned his MS degree in Chemistry from the University of Texas at Arlington and an MBA degree from Rice University's Jones Graduate School of Business.

Gur Roshwalb, M.D. – Managing Director at aMoon

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Gur Roshwalb, MD, MBA, is a Managing Director at aMoon with over 20 years of healthcare industry and finance experience. Prior to joining aMoon, he was CEO at several private and public biotech companies. Before moving to industry, Gur was a Vice President at Venrock, where he was an investment professional on the healthcare team investing in both private and public companies. Gur started his finance career at Piper Jaffray, where he worked as a vice president and equity analyst, publishing research on specialty pharmaceutical companies. Prior to Piper, Gur was in private practice in New York following residency training in internal medicine at Mount Sinai Medical Center, where he served as Chief Resident. Gur obtained his medical degree from Albert Einstein College of Medicine of Yeshiva University, his MBA from the NYU Stern School of Business and a B.A. from Columbia University.

Strategic Advisor

Mark A. McCamish, M.D., Ph.D – Strategic Advisor

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Dr. McCamish has significant leadership in the life science industry, most recently serving as President and Chief Executive Officer of Forty Seven Inc., which he led through IPO and multiple financings until the acquisition by Gilead for approximately $4.9 Billion. Dr. McCamish has also served as the Global Head of Biopharmaceutical Development of Novartis' Sandoz division, receiving Novartis's Chairman award each year from 2010-2015. Prior to his time at Novartis, Dr. McCamish was a Vice President and Chief Medical Officer at several companies including PDL BioPharma, Perlegen Sciences, and Facet Labs, which was acquired by Abbott Laboratories due in part to Dr. McCamish's work advancing multiple myeloma and multiple sclerosis therapies. Additionally, Dr. McCamish has also held senior research and development roles at Amgen Inc. and Abbott Laboratories.

Dr. McCamish received his PhD in Human Nutrition from Penn State University and his MD from the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA). He completed his residency and fellowship training at the University of California, Davis (UC Davis). Dr. McCamish has been named one of the top 50 global antibody industry influencers by the European Antibody Congress and has held professorships at UC Davis and The Ohio State University.

Senior Management

Ivor Royston, M. D. - Chief Executive Officer

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Dr. Royston is the President and CEO of Viracta Therapeutics, a San Diego-based biotechnology company focused on novel therapies for viral-associated cancers. Previously, Dr. Royston was a Managing Partner (1990-2017) of Forward Ventures, a San Diego specialized life science venture capital firm, and the founding President and CEO of the Sidney Kimmel Cancer Center (1990-2000).  Prior to the above, he was Director of Clinical Immunology of the University of California, San Diego. Cancer Center. Dr. Royston was the co-founder of Hybritech, Inc., San Diego’s first biotechnology company, which developed the PSA test for prostate cancer; and the co-founder of IDEC Corporation, which developed the first monoclonal antibody therapy for cancer, and which subsequently merged with Biogen to form Biogen Idec, now Biogen [NASDAQ: BIIB].

Dr. Royston has been instrumental in the formation, financing, and development of numerous biotechnology companies. Today, he serves on the boards of Biocept [NASDAQ:BIOC] and Viracta.

Dr. Royston received his B.A. and M.D. degrees from Johns Hopkins University and completed post-doctoral training in internal medicine and medical oncology at Stanford University. Dr. Royston’s honors include the San Diego Entrepreneur of the Year Award, the appointment by President Clinton to a six-year term on the National Cancer Advisory Board, and the induction into the San Diego Entrepreneur Hall of Fame.

Dan Chevallard - Chief Financial Officer

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Mr. Chevallard joins Viracta from Regulus Therapeutics Inc. where he held various key positions including Chief Financial Officer, Vice President, Finance and Accounting and Vice President, Accounting and Financial Reporting. At Regulus, Mr. Chevallard led the finance and operations teams, played a key role in the execution of $270M in equity and growth capital financings, and implemented all integrated finance functions. Prior to Regulus, Mr. Chevallard spent seven years at Prometheus Laboratories Inc. (acquired by Nestlé Health Science) where he held senior roles in corporate finance. Prior to joining industry, Mr. Chevallard spent five years in public accounting at Ernst & Young, LLP. Mr. Chevallard has a Bachelor of Accountancy from the University of San Diego and is a Certified Public Accountant in California.

Lisa Rojkjaer, M.D. - Chief Medical Officer

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Dr. Rojkjaer joins Viracta from Nordic Nanovector, a publicly traded precision oncology company located in Oslo, Norway, where she served as Chief Medical Officer and led the clinical development and medical affairs functions. Prior to that, she served in several senior positions focused on theadvancement of small molecule and biologic programs, from Phase 1 - Phase 4 development, for hematology/immunology indications, and brings significant US and ex-US regulatory experience. She served as Global Clinical Program Head, Oncology Global Development at Novartis Pharmaceuticals, Chief Medical Officer at Molecular Partners, Vice President, Head of Clinical Development at Morphosys AG and both Director of Clinical Development, Hematology in the US and Head, Global Medical Affairs, Biopharmaceuticals for Novo Nordisk. Dr Rojkjaer received her medical degree from the University of Toronto and is board-certified in both internal medicine and hematology.

Xiaohu Deng, Ph.D. - Senior Vice President of Product Development

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Dr. Deng joins Viracta from Kura Oncology, Inc. and Wellspring Biosciences, where he was Senior Director, Head of CMC.  Dr. Deng led the CMC function - including development, manufacture, quality control, and clinical supply - of multiple programs through various phases of development (I, II and III and registrational).   Prior to Kura, Dr. Deng spent thirteen years at Janssen Pharmaceutical Companies of Johnson & Johnson in various roles of increasing responsibility associated with process chemistry R&D, CRO management, and project management of discovery/preclinical development.  He has more than 30 peer-reviewed journal publications, a book chapter and 14 issued patents to his credit.  Dr. Deng holds a Ph.D. in organic chemistry from Emory University and MS and BS in chemistry from Fudan University.

Robert McRae - Vice President, Operations and Strategic Alliances

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Prior to joining Viracta, Robert conducted Business Development for a global clinical research organization, working closely with many biotech organizations. Robert’s experience includes roles in clinical operations and management of global clinical trials in rare disease and immunology related indications across all phases of development. Robert also conducted molecular biology and microbiology research at Wright State University and was the recipient of a fellowship from The Oak Ridge Institute for Science Education in areas of biodefense interest with The United States Air Force Research Laboratory.

Scientific Advisory Board

Douglas V. Faller, M.D., Ph.D. – Scientific Founder and Chairman, Scientific Advisory Board

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SAB Chairman; scientific founder for Viracta’s therapeutic approach; former Director Boston University School of Medicine’s Cancer Center and Vice Chairman of the Division of Medicine.

Robert Baiocchi, M.D., Ph.D.

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Professor and Head of the Lymphoma Program at Ohio State University, and member of Blood and Marrow Transplant Clinical Trials Network.

Corey Casper, M.D., MPH

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Chief Medical Officer at Infectious Disease Research Institute (IDRI), and Co-Director of University of Washington/Fred Hutch Center for AIDS Research.

Charles Cobbs, M.D.

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Director of the Ivy Center for Advanced Brain Tumor Treatment in Seattle; pioneered the concept of the potential role of cytomegalovirus in cancer pathogenesis and therapy.

Carl June, M.D.

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Richard W. Vague Professor in Immunotherapy, Department of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine; Director of the Center for Cellular Immunotherapies; Director of Translational Research, Abramson Cancer Center at the University of Pennsylvania.

Ronald Levy, M.D.

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Professor and Director of the Lymphoma Program at Stanford University School of Medicine; Associate Director of Translational Science for the Stanford Cancer Institute; former Chief of the Stanford Division of Medical Oncology; member of the National Academy of Medicine and the National Academy of Sciences.

Pierluigi Porcu, M.D.

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Director of the Hematologic Malignancies and Hematopoietic Stem Cell Transplantation Division in the Department of Medical Oncology for Sidney Kimmel Cancer Center at Thomas Jefferson University.

Hao Shen, Ph.D.

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Professor of Microbiology at Penn Institute for Immunology at University of Pennsylvania bringing expertise in viral models of immune responses, epigenetics and T cell exhaustion.

Daniel D. Von Hoff, M.D., F.A.C.P. FASCO, FAACR

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Physician-in-Chief and Distinguished Professor at the Translational Genomics Research Institute (TGen); Professor of Medicine, Mayo Clinic; Senior Consultant-Investigations, City of Hope; member of President Bush’s National Cancer Advisory Board and past President of the American Association for Cancer Research.

Lawrence Young, Ph.D.

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Vice President and Director of the Warwick Cancer Research Centre at University of Warwick, UK, distinguished by work in the roles of the Epstein-Barr virus in nasopharyngeal carcinoma and other cancers; Fellow of the UK Academy of Medical Sciences.