Rare Daily Staff
Opus Genetics, a gene therapy company spun out of the Foundation for Fighting Blindness’ venture philanthropy arm The Retinal Degeneration Fund, named acting CEO Ben Yerxa as its permanent CEO.
Yerxa served as CEO of the Foundation Fighting Blindness and the Retinal Degeneration (RD) Fund. The Foundation Fighting Blindness promoted Jason Menzo to CEO to replace Yerza and named Russell Kelley managing director of the Retinal Degeneration Fund.
More than 280 genes are known to cause inherited retinal diseases, and it is estimated that more than 180,000 patients are waiting for treatments for their individual genetic conditions. Opus is the first spin-off company internally conceived and launched by the RD Fund. It has wholly owned AAV-based gene therapy programs in inherited retinal diseases and is creating novel manufacturing scale and efficiencies tailored for producing rare disease therapeutics. Opus expects its first program, OPGx-001 to address mutations in the LCA5 gene, to enter the clinic this year.
“I’m exceptionally proud of the progress we’ve made toward our mission during my nearly five years at the Foundation, including the launch of the RD Fund to further the Foundation’s mission through venture philanthropy,” said Yerxa. “Stepping into the permanent CEO role at Opus Genetics—a company that we created and launched through the RD Fund—enables me to be on the front line of bringing potentially life-changing treatments to the patients who so urgently need them.”
Yerxa has more than 25 years’ experience in biotechnology, nonprofit, and drug development and in translating promising research discoveries into clinical milestones and commercial launches in the ophthalmology, pulmonary, rare disease, cardiovascular, and HIV fields. He has been involved with the discovery and development of nine investigational new drugs, four phase 3 clinical programs, two new drug applications, and two drug approvals. Prior to joining the Foundation, Yerxa served as president and co-founder of Envisia Therapeutics, a company focused on developing novel ocular sustained-delivery therapies for the front and back of the eye. He also has previously held founding and executive positions in several ophthalmology-based R&D organizations, including Liquidia Technologies, Clearside Biomedical, Parion Sciences, and Inspire Pharmaceuticals.