RESEARCH TRIANGLE PARK – The gene therapy company Opus Genetics has appointed its acting CEO Ben Yerxa, Ph.D., to a permanent role as chief executive for the startup firm.

Yerxa previously served as the chief executive for the Foundation Fighting Blindness and its venture arm, the Retinal Degeneration Fund, which invested $19 million in seed capital in Opus Genetics at the company’s formation last September.

Opus Genetics is the first spin-off company launched out of the Retinal Degeneration Fund.

Ben Yerxa, Ph.D., CEO of Opus Genetics. Image provided by Opus Genetics.

“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 Dr. Yerxa in a statement.  “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.”

According to Yerxa, more than 280 genes are currently known to cause inherited retinal diseases.

The company he now heads, officially, is working to advance the pipeline for gene therapies, said Yerxa.  The firm is entering what Jean Bennett, M.D., Ph.D., the scientific founder of Opus Genetics who is also a member of the company’s board of directors called “a pivotal time in its evolution,” as the startup’s first therapeutic program OPGx-001 is “expected to enter the clinic this year, bringing a potential treatment another step closer to patients in need.”

The firm also recently landed a partnership with National Resilience, Inc.

Startup spotlight: Opus Genetics, with $19M, works to advance cures for blinding retinal diseases

Other changes

Yerxa will depart his role as CEO at the Foundation Fighting Blindness, the organization also announced, as Jason Menzo will be appointed to fill the role.

Prior to joining the Foundation Fighting Blindness in 2017, Dr. Yerxa was the president and co-founder of Envisia Therapeutics, which developed therapies targeting the front and back of the eye.

According to a company statement, Yerxa 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.

Triangle startup Opus Genetics forms agreement with National Resilience, Inc.