FOSTER CITY, Calif.--(BUSINESS WIRE)--Geron Corporation (Nasdaq: GERN), a late-stage biopharmaceutical company focused on the development and commercialization of treatments for hematologic malignancies, today announced the appointment of Edward Koval as Executive Vice President and Chief Business Officer.
“Ed Koval’s business development expertise, extensive industry network and successful track record in corporate deal-making further strengthens our executive team,” said John A. Scarlett, M.D., Chairman and Chief Executive Officer. “With top-line results from our IMerge Phase 3 trial in lower risk MDS expected 13 months from now, and an interim analysis of our ongoing IMpactMF Phase 3 trial in refractory myelofibrosis expected in 2024, Ed will be a key member of our executive management as we explore multiple strategies to build and accrete value in both our imetelstat and telomerase inhibitor franchises.”
“Geron’s application of telomerase inhibition to treat hematologic malignancies and the disease modification potential of imetelstat stands apart from other approaches in use or in development today,” said Edward Koval, Executive Vice President and Chief Business Officer. “I am excited to be joining this exceptional executive team and look forward to contributing to Geron becoming a leader in the treatment of hematologic malignancies, and to maximizing the value of imetelstat for patients, physicians and shareholders.”
In his role at Geron, Mr. Koval will be a member of the Company’s Executive Management Committee and report to Dr. Scarlett. Mr. Koval will be responsible for business development, including evaluation and execution of out-licensing, in-licensing and strategic transaction opportunities. In connection with Mr. Koval’s appointment as Chief Business Officer, Melissa Kelly Behrs has been appointed Executive Vice President, Business Operations, and Chief Alliance Officer, and will continue to serve on the Executive Management Committee and report to Dr. Scarlett.
Mr. Koval brings more than 25 years of biotech and pharmaceutical experience in business development and both in-licensing and out-licensing of products and platform technologies. Prior to joining Geron, Mr. Koval was the Chief Business Officer of ZebiAI Therapeutics, a company spun out of X-Chem Pharmaceuticals in order to discover and develop advanced drug discovery programs based on novel machine learning technologies, and which was recently acquired by Relay Therapeutics. Prior to the spin-out of ZebiAI, he was Senior Vice President, Corporate Development, at X-Chem Pharmaceuticals, a drug discovery company, where he closed multiple transactions with multinational pharmaceutical companies for programs in oncology, hematology/oncology, inflammation, infectious disease and rare diseases. Prior to X-Chem, Mr. Koval served as an independent corporate and business development consultant, advising multiple private and public biotech companies on partnering and fundraising. Mr. Koval’s prior pharmaceutical experience also includes serving roles in business and corporate development, strategic planning, alliance management and financial evaluation and analysis at Novartis Pharmaceuticals Corporation, Merck & Co., Inc. and Chiron Corporation, where he finalized negotiations and executed and managed multiple strategic corporate partnerships and alliances.
Mr. Koval holds an M.Sc. in Engineering from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute and an M.B.A. from the Sloan School of Management at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
Inducement Grants Under Nasdaq Listing Rule 5635(c)(4)
In connection with the commencement of Mr. Koval’s employment with the Company on December 1, 2021, the Company granted him a non-statutory stock option to purchase 700,000 shares of Geron common stock which vests over four years, with 12.5% of the shares underlying the option vesting on the six-month anniversary of commencement of employment and the remaining shares vesting over the following 42 months in equal installments of whole shares, subject to Mr. Koval’s continued employment with Geron. In addition, Mr. Koval was granted a non-statutory stock option to purchase 250,000 shares of Geron common stock on December 1, 2021 with vesting conditioned on the achievement of a certain regulatory milestone for imetelstat, subject to Mr. Koval’s continued employment with Geron on the vesting date. All of Mr. Koval’s stock options have a 10-year term and an exercise price of $1.38 per share, which is equal to the closing price of Geron common stock on the date of grant. The stock options were granted as a material inducement to Mr. Koval’s employment in accordance with Nasdaq Listing Rule 5635(c)(4) and are subject to the terms and conditions of stock option agreements covering the grants and Geron’s 2018 Inducement Award Plan, which was adopted December 14, 2018 and provides for the granting of stock options to new employees.
Imetelstat is a novel, first-in-class telomerase inhibitor exclusively owned by Geron and being developed in hematologic malignancies. Data from Phase 2 clinical trials provide strong evidence that imetelstat targets telomerase to inhibit the uncontrolled proliferation of malignant stem and progenitor cells in myeloid hematologic malignancies resulting in malignant cell apoptosis and potential disease-modifying activity. Imetelstat has been granted Fast Track designation by the United States Food and Drug Administration for both the treatment of patients with non-del(5q) lower risk MDS who are refractory or resistant to an erythropoiesis stimulating agent and for patients with Intermediate-2 or High-risk MF whose disease has relapsed after or is refractory to janus associated kinase (JAK) inhibitor treatment.
Geron is a late-stage clinical biopharmaceutical company focused on the development and potential commercialization of a first-in-class telomerase inhibitor, imetelstat, in hematologic malignancies. The Company currently is conducting two Phase 3 clinical trials: IMerge in lower risk myelodysplastic syndromes (MDS) and IMpactMF in refractory myelofibrosis (MF). For more information about Geron, visit www.geron.com.
Use of Forward-Looking Statements
Except for the historical information contained herein, this press release contains forward-looking statements made pursuant to the “safe harbor” provisions of the Private Securities Litigation Reform Act of 1995. Investors are cautioned that such statements, include, without limitation, those regarding: (i) that top-line results from the IMerge Phase 3 trial in lower risk MDS are expected 13 months from now, and an interim analysis of the IMpactMF Phase 3 trial in refractory myelofibrosis is expected in 2024: (ii) that there is strong evidence imetelstat targets telomerase to inhibit the uncontrolled proliferation of malignant stem and progenitor cells in myeloid hematologic malignancies resulting in malignant cell apoptosis and potential disease-modifying activity; and (iii) other statements that are not historical facts, constitute forward looking statements. These statements involve risks and uncertainties that can cause actual results to differ materially from those in such forward-looking statements. These risks and uncertainties, include, without limitation, those related to: (a) whether imetelstat actually demonstrates disease-modifying activity in patients in any Phase 3 clinical trials; (b) the timelines in (i) may not be met due to the Company’s inability to manage the procedures necessary for obtaining the top-line results in IMerge Phase 3, the continuing COVID pandemic or the lack of sufficient patient enrollment in IMpactMF; and (c) whether the FDA imposes a clinical hold on the clinical trials that causes a delay or cessation. Detailed information on the above risks and uncertainties and additional risks, uncertainties and factors that could cause actual results to differ materially from those in the forward-looking statements are contained in Geron’s periodic reports filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission under the heading “Risk Factors,” including Geron’s quarterly report on Form 10-Q for the quarter ended September 30, 2021. Undue reliance should not be placed on forward-looking statements, which speak only as of the date they are made, and the facts and assumptions underlying the forward-looking statements may change. Except as required by law, Geron disclaims any obligation to update these forward-looking statements to reflect future information, events or circumstances.