GV20 Therapeutics Announces Appointment of Three Advisers

CAMBRIDGE, Mass.–()–GV20 Therapeutics, a biopharmaceutical company using cutting-edge genomics and artificial intelligence approaches to discover next-generation cancer therapeutics, announced the appointment of three key advisers as it prepares to advance its first drug candidate into the clinic. Appointments include Alessandra Cesano, M.D., Ph.D., current Chief Medical Officer of ESSA Pharmaceuticals; Julie Cherrington, Ph.D., a drug development expert who has served as the CEO of multiple oncology companies; and Mike Varney, Ph.D., the former head of Genentech Research and Early Development (gRED).

We are thrilled to welcome Alessandra, Julie, and Mike at this pivotal time for our company,” said Shirley Liu, CEO of GV20. “Our advisers are some of the most respected and accomplished leaders in oncology, with a wealth of experience building companies and translating innovative science into medicines for patients. Their recruitment speaks to the promise of our integrated STEAD genomics and AI platform. Their guidance will be a critical asset for us as we advance XBH25 towards the clinic and work to expand our pipeline.”


Alessandra Cesano, M.D., Ph.D., currently serves as the Chief Medical Officer of ESSA Pharmaceuticals. Prior to joining ESSA, Dr. Cesano was Chief Medical Officer at NanoString Technologies, Inc., Cleave Biosciences, Inc., and before then she served as Chief Medical Officer and Chief Operations Officer at Nodality, Inc., where she built and led the research and development group, while providing the overall clinical vision for the organization. Between 1998 and 2008, Dr. Cesano held various management positions at Amgen, Biogen Idec, and SmithKline Beecham Pharmaceuticals, where she helped to advance various oncology drugs through late-stage development and FDA approvals.

Early in her professional career Dr. Cesano spent 12 years conducting research in tumor immunology, including nine years at the Wistar Institute, an NCI Basic Cancer Center connected with the University of Pennsylvania.

She also holds membership in several professional and scientific societies including ASCO, ESMO, ASH, EHA, AACR, and SITC. In the latter she serves as co-chair in the SITC Industry Committee, associate editor for the biomarker section of JITC, and is an active member of the SITC Biomarker Working Group. Over her career she has authored over 100 publications. Dr. Cesano received an M.D. summa cum laude, a board certification in oncology, and a Ph.D. in tumor immunology from the University of Turin (Turin, Italy).


Julie M. Cherrington, Ph.D., is an experienced life science executive with extensive insight in bringing drugs into the clinic and through to commercialization. She has been a key contributor to the successful development of multiple FDA-approved products, including SUTENT®, PALLADIA®, VISTIDE®, VIREAD®, and HEPSERA®.

Dr. Cherrington is also an experienced company builder – she has served as President and CEO at several biotechnology companies, including QUE Oncology, Arch Oncology, Revitope Oncology, Zenith Epigenetics, and Pathway Therapeutics. In addition, she served as President and Executive Vice President, R&D at Phenomix Corporation, a diabetes and antiviral company. Earlier in her career, Dr. Cherrington was Vice President of Preclinical and Clinical Research at SUGEN, a Pharmacia/Pfizer company. Dr. Cherrington began her career at Gilead Sciences, where she held a range of positions of increasing responsibility.

Dr. Cherrington holds a B.S. in biology and an M.S. in microbiology from the University of California, Davis. She received her Ph.D. training in microbiology and immunology from the University of Minnesota and Stanford University and completed a postdoctoral fellowship at the University of California, San Francisco.

Dr. Cherrington is active in entrepreneurship initiatives through CLS, UC San Francisco, UC Davis, and Equalize (2020, 2021, 2022). Currently, she is a Venture Partner at Brandon Capital Partners and serves on the Boards of Syncona Ltd, Sardona Therapeutics, KisoJi Biotechnology, MycRx, Vaxart, Mirati Therapeutics, and Actym Therapeutics (Chair).


Mike Varney, Ph.D., is a pioneer drug discoverer and biotech leader. As one of the original fifteen employees at Agouron, a biotech based in San Diego, he built a team that developed protein-structure based design, a novel approach to drug discovery that is utilized globally by drug discovery teams today. In 1997, the Agouron team launched Viracept®, an HIV protease inhibitor that achieved the highest first year launch sales of any biotech product at the time. Dr. Varney’s leadership at Agouron resulted in the discovery of a number of currently marketed anti-cancer agents, including Xalkori® and Inlyta®, a drug that won the American Chemical Society’s Heroes of Chemistry Award in 2018.

In 2005, Dr. Varney was recruited to Genentech to expand the organization’s drug discovery capabilities to include small molecules. Focused on agility and pioneering science, Dr. Varney built a team-based organization that today produces more than 40% of Genentech’s development portfolio, including the marketed anti-cancer agents Erivedge® and Cotellic®.

In 2015, Dr. Varney was appointed Executive Vice President and Head of Genentech Research and Early Development (gRED) and a member of the Roche Corporate Executive Committee. In this role, he was responsible for all aspects of gRED innovation, drug discovery, and development. Dr. Varney also focused on building a team-based culture empowered to clear the path to patients. Under his leadership, gRED teams discovered and developed successful medicines that include Venclexta® with AbbVie, the first BCL-2 inhibitor, Polivy®, an antibody drug conjugate for the treatment of DLBCL, and Lunsumio, a first-in-class CD20xCD3 T-cell engaging bispecific antibody. Pioneering molecules in clinical development include GDC-9545, a next-generation estrogen receptor degrader, tiragolumab, a novel immune checkpoint inhibitor, and GDC-0077, a selective PI3Kα inhibitor. Dr. Varney retired from Genentech in July 2020, leaving a diversity of drug platform types that includes personalized therapeutic vaccines and cellular therapies.

Dr. Varney holds a B.S. in chemistry from the University of California, Los Angeles, and a Ph.D. in synthetic organic chemistry from the California Institute of Technology, and was an American Cancer Society postdoctoral fellow at Columbia University. Dr. Varney is currently an advisor and Board member for several private and public biotechnology companies.


GV20 Therapeutics is a biopharmaceutical company with 50 employees, and sites in Cambridge, Massachusetts and Shanghai, China. The company closed a Series B financing led by Coatue Management in October 2021. GV20 uses high-throughput functional genomics and artificial intelligence to identify novel cancer immunology drug targets and antibody therapeutics. The company’s pipeline includes XBH25, a novel NK checkpoint inhibitor targeting solid tumors, which is currently progressing toward the clinic. “GV20” references one of the most important acupoints for the human body, symbolizing the company’s mission to find and exploit vulnerabilities in cancer biology.

To learn more about GV20, please visit https://gv20tx.com/ and follow the company on LinkedIn and Twitter.


Recent Articles

Get a free copy of "Cracking the Generics Code"

Looks like you are using an ad-blocking browser extension. We request you to whitelist our website on the ad-blocking extension and refresh your browser to view the content.