Scangos Surfaces to Lead New Infectious Disease Startup, Vir Biotech

Xconomy San Francisco — 

George Scangos, who stepped down from the top spot at Biogen late last year, didn’t take long to land a new gig. He is now CEO of Vir Biotechnology, a biotech startup developing treatments for infectious diseases.

The move to Vir brings Scangos (pictured) back to the San Francisco area, where he led Exelixis (NASDAQ: EXEL) before joining Cambridge, MA-based Biogen (NASDAQ: BIIB) in 2010. At Vir, Scangos will oversee efforts to apply “immune programming” to the discovery of new infectious disease treatments. The company says that its approach manipulates the way that pathogens and hosts interact. Vir points to global opportunities given the millions affected by infectious diseases such as hepatitis B, influenza, and tuberculosis. But the company has not yet disclosed what its first target will be.

Vir says the concept for the company came from Robert Nelsen, the Seattle-based co-founder of Arch Venture Partners. That firm and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation are lead investors in Vir. The company hasn’t disclosed how much it has raised to date, though it says Arch pledges to invest $150 million. Vir adds that it has other financial commitments from sovereign wealth funds, public mutual funds, individual investors, and family offices. Vicki Sato, a veteran executive of Biogen and Vertex Pharmaceuticals, will serve as the company’s chairman of the board.

Vir’s technology comes from its acquisition of Beaverton, OR-based TomegaVax. That company’s technologies were originally developed at Oregon Health & Science University, where scientists Louis Picker and Klaus Frueh received grants from the Gates Foundation. Vir plans to conduct its lab activities in San Francisco, Boston, and Portland, OR.