Arbutus Biopharma Announces Karen Sims, MD, PhD Promoted to Chief Medical Officer

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Arbutus Biopharma Announces Karen Sims, MD, PhD Promoted to Chief Medical Officer
Credit: © Reuters.

Arbutus Biopharma (NASDAQ: ABUS ) Corporation (Nasdaq: ABUS) (“Arbutus” or the “Company”), a clinical-stage biopharmaceutical company leveraging its extensive virology expertise to develop novel therapeutics that target specific viral diseases, today announced the appointment of Dr. Karen Sims as Chief Medical Officer and Mr. Christopher Naftzger as General Counsel and Chief Compliance Officer. Mr. Naftzger succeeds Dr. Elizabeth Howard who will continue in an advisory role with respect to the on-going patent infringement litigations. Both Dr. Sims and Mr. Naftzger will report directly to William Collier, Arbutus President and Chief Executive Officer, effective immediately.

“We are excited to welcome Karen and Chris to the executive management team,” commented Mr. Collier. “Karen has played an integral role in the clinical development of AB-729, our lead RNAi therapeutic, during her six-year tenure at Arbutus, and has continued to advance our pipeline of HBV programs. I am confident that under her leadership, the clinical team will continue to effectively execute our mission to develop curative regimens for patients with chronic HBV.”

Mr. Collier continued, “Chris brings over a decade of experience serving as in-house general counsel for life science companies, making him well equipped to assist the company in its next stage of development. We expect this to be a seamless transition for the legal department as Liz continues to support the Company, serving in an advisory role with respect to our ongoing patent infringement litigation cases. On behalf of the entire Arbutus team and Board of Directors, I would like to thank Liz for her contributions over the last seven years as part of our legal team in addition to her many prior years of service as our external counsel. Liz has been instrumental in overseeing all legal initiatives for the Company and I’m thankful we will continue to benefit from her expertise moving forward as she serves in an advisory role.”

Dr. Karen Sims, MD, PhD, joined Arbutus in April 2017 and has held positions of increasing seniority, including most recently as Vice President, Clinical Development, before being promoted to Chief Medical Officer. Dr. Sims is a board-certified infectious disease physician with more than 12 years of industry experience in conducting and overseeing early stage through global Phase 2 clinical trials. Prior to joining Arbutus, Dr. Sims held multiple positions during her seven-year tenure at Bristol-Myers Squibb (NYSE: BMY ). Most recently she served as Medical Director in the Virology and Immunoscience therapeutic areas where she oversaw Phase 1 and 2 trials in the HCV direct-acting antiviral program and several HIV discovery programs, as well as support for HIV marketed products. Previously, Karen was an Attending Physician and Instructor in Medicine at the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania, with a focus on solid organ transplant infectious disease, HIV clinical care and translational research in lung transplantation. Dr. Sims obtained her BS in Biological Psychology at Bates College, her PhD in Neuroscience from the University of Pennsylvania, and received her MD from the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine. Karen completed her Internal Medicine and Infectious Diseases training at the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania.

Christopher Naftzger joins Arbutus with more than 25 years of legal experience, including over a decade of experience serving as senior in-house counsel with life science companies. Most recently he served as Interim-CEO, General Counsel and Corporate Secretary of Nabriva (NASDAQ: NBRV ) Therapeutics (Nasdaq: NBRV), a commercial-stage antibiotic company, where over the course of five years he held various roles including Vice President, Deputy General Counsel and Assistant Secretary. Mr. Naftzger has also served as General Counsel and Corporate Secretary of Krystal Biotech (Nasdaq: NASDAQ: KRYS ), an emerging-stage, gene therapy company and Vice President, General Counsel, Chief Compliance Officer, and Secretary of Unilife Medical Solutions, a developer and manufacturer of innovative drug delivery systems. He has held senior in-house counsel positions with Chesapeake Corporation and Koch Industries and was a corporate partner with Blank Rome LLP in Washington, DC. Mr. Naftzger obtained his undergraduate degree from Hampden-Sydney College and his law degree from the Willamette University College of Law.

Inducement Grants under Nasdaq Listing Rule 5635(c)(4)

In connection with the hiring of Mr. Naftzger, the Compensation Committee of the Arbutus Board of Directors granted to Mr. Naftzger an option to purchase an aggregate of 500,000 common shares as an inducement award material to Mr. Naftzger’s entering into employment with the Company in accordance with Nasdaq Listing Rule 5635(c)(4). The option has an exercise price equal to the closing price of Arbutus’ common stock on July 10, 2023 and will vest over a four-year period with 25% vesting on the first anniversary and the remaining 75% vesting in substantially equal increments monthly over the next three-year period thereafter, subject to the terms of the grant. The option was granted outside of the Company’s 2016 Omnibus Share and Incentive Plan, as supplemented and amended.

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