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Media Kit

Overview

At Variant Bio, our mission is to leverage the power of human genetic diversity to develop life-saving therapies. We are dedicated to strong ethics, benefit sharing, and improving health around the world. Our research model is based on respect for the people and communities who work with us. 

Our therapeutic pipeline includes multiple programs at several stages, and our priority areas of interest are inflammatory, fibrotic, and kidney diseases. Targets with strong human genetics are at the foundation of our biology and drug discovery pipeline.

The following kit contains materials to represent Variant Bio in the press. Please contact Sarah LeBaron von Baeyer for any inquiries or additional assets.

Contents

Media Resources

  • Boilerplate
  • FAQs
  • Additional Assets

Company Information

  • Leadership Team Bios
  • Press
  • Published Research
  • Highlights from the Variant Bio Blog
  • Social Media 
  • Media Contact 
  • Permissions

Boilerplate

About Variant Bio 

Variant Bio is developing life-saving therapies by studying the genes of people with exceptional health-related traits. By identifying communities with unique genetic architectures and outlier phenotypes, Variant Bio has identified novel human genetic evidence that is the basis for programs with breakthrough potential across multiple therapeutic areas. The company’s research is powered by its proprietary VB-Inference platform, which integrates across deep phenotyping and multi-omic data using statistical genetics and AI/ML approaches to identify and validate therapeutic targets. With ethics at its core, the company launched an unprecedented benefit-sharing program in 2020, in which it has pledged tangible benefits that directly impact the communities it partners with throughout the world. Variant Bio is now poised to advance multiple potentially life-changing therapeutic programs toward the clinic, and to create concomitant value for partner communities who have entrusted the company with their genetic data. Follow Variant Bio’s news and updates at variantbio.com and via its blog, on X/Twitter @VariantBio, on Instagram @variant_bio, and on LinkedIn.

FAQs

What is Variant Bio’s origin story?

  • Variant Bio was founded in 2018 by Kaja Wasik, PhD, and Stephane Castel, PhD, and is headquartered in Seattle, Washington. Kaja and Stephane met while studying genetics at Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory. After graduating, Kaja went on to become Chief Scientific Officer and a co-founder of Gencove, a genomic technology company that was the first to commercialize low-pass whole genome sequencing. Stephane completed a postdoctoral research fellowship at the New York Genome Center studying the molecular mechanisms underlying genetic associations to disease. Kaja and Stephane shared a passion for doing research with scientific and moral impact and, together, they formed the core scientific thesis of Variant Bio: to engage diverse participants in genomic studies that use cutting edge approaches to better capture the entire genome and to discover novel targets for drug discovery. 

Who works at Variant Bio?

  • Our team is 40 employees strong, with expertise spanning genetics, drug development,  molecular biology, chemistry, anthropology, and ethics. We are united in the belief that human genomics has the power to transform drug development.
  • Meet the full team including our Advisors, Board of Directors, Ethics Advisory Board, and Scientific Advisory Board.

What role do anthropologists play at Variant Bio? 

  • Variant Bio co-designs genomic research studies with local researchers in association with partnering communities and is committed to sharing research findings with them. Because of the company’s emphasis on community-engaged research, anthropologists were among the earliest hires at Variant Bio. They helped frame, design, and implement a community engagement model that Variant Bio employs to elicit pre-study feedback as well as input on benefit sharing and the return of results. Anthropologists' deep understanding of diverse cultural contexts is critical for a company like ours that seeks to carry out transparent and respectful, informed collaboration with communities around the world. 
  • See an example from Madagascar of how anthropologists from Variant Bio work with study partners to carry out co-designed, community-engaged research. 

Where does Variant Bio have projects? 

  • To date, the company has built a foundation of more than 20 genomic research partnerships across six continents – including locations such as the Faroe Islands, Indonesia, South Africa, New Caledonia, Madagascar, and French Polynesia – and has spent the last several years developing novel insights based on these collaborations. 
  • See our project map here

How does Variant Bio identify partners to work with? 

  • We form research collaborations throughout the world with communities, academics, healthcare professionals, disease experts, hospitals, laboratories, industry partners, and biobanks. 
  • We look for populations or cohorts with unique and medically relevant health traits and a genetic architecture that facilitates drug discovery and development.
  • The therapeutic areas we currently focus on include inflammatory, fibrotic, and kidney diseases, and we are always expanding our existing pipeline.
  • For those interested in forming a partnership with Variant Bio, we can be reached at partnerships@variantbio.com.  

What is Variant Bio’s benefit-sharing program?

  • Variant Bio was created from the ground up with ethics at its foundation and is committed to partnering with individuals, communities, and researchers around the world in a way that respects the privacy, beliefs, cultures, and data of study participants. Variant Bio believes in a long-term commitment to partner communities and in providing product access and long-term benefit sharing to those communities who have contributed to Variant Bio’s genomics database. To help achieve those objectives, Variant Bio created the Affordable Medicines Pledge and a Benefit-Sharing Pledge.
  • In the short term, benefits can include support for local healthcare, environment, education, and cultural initiatives. In the long term, the company has pledged to share 4% of revenue plus 4% of its equity value with partner communities.
  • Read about our benefit-sharing programs.
  • Read the full Affordable Medicines Pledge and Long-Term Benefit-Sharing Pledge here

What is Variant Bio’s Affordable Medicines Pledge?  

How much money has Variant Bio raised to date?

  • The company has raised $130mm to date from a top-tier syndicate of biotech and tech investors, including Lux Capital, General Catalyst, Alta Partners, SoftBank, Cercano Management, Casdin Capital, Sahsen Ventures, and others.

What is Variant Bio’s therapeutic pipeline? 

  • Our pipeline includes multiple programs at several stages, and our priority therapeutic areas of interest are inflammation-immunology, fibrosis, and kidney diseases. We focus on both common and orphan indications with an emphasis on delivering precision medicines to patients with diseases of great unmet medical need. We exclusively pursue novel targets and fully leverage orthogonal datasets – such as tissue mRNA and protein expression patterns – to guide the selection of compelling opportunities. Both small molecule and biologics drug discovery campaigns are rapidly implemented giving rise to programs in advanced stages of preclinical optimization and to selection of clinical candidates. 
  • See an updated pipeline here

What is Variant Bio’s current focus?

  • Based on findings from our research around the world, we are now focused on developing successful drug candidates that we can advance to clinical trials. Our long-term goal is to improve the health of patients around the world, and to share the financial benefits of our success with the communities who partner with us. 

Additional Assets

Leadership Team Bios

Andrew Farnum - Chief Executive Officer

Andrew Farnum is the CEO of Variant Bio. Previously, he was the Director of the Gates Foundation's Strategic Investment Fund, where he led the foundation's $2 billion investment program and chaired the foundation’s investment committee. The fund invests around the world in the foundation’s priority sectors, including biotech, healthcare delivery, financial services for the poor, agriculture and education.  While at Gates, Andrew and his team led the foundation’s early, private round investments in many companies that later IPO’d or were acquired, such as BioNTech, CureVac, Butterfly and Vir.  Earlier, Andrew was an investor and investment banker at TPG and Goldman Sachs. Andrew has a master’s degree in international development from the Harvard Kennedy School and an AB in molecular biology from Princeton University.

Holly Vance - Chief Operating Officer & Chief Legal Officer

Holly Vance is the Chief Operating Officer and Chief Legal Officer of Variant Bio.  Previously, she served as General Counsel of Neoleukin Therapeutics, a publicly traded biopharmaceutical company creating next generation immunotherapies for cancer and autoimmune conditions. Holly also previously served as Associate General Counsel at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, where she provided legal and strategic guidance on investments, transactions, and operational matters to the foundation’s Strategic Investment Fund. Prior to her role at the Gates Foundation, Holly was a partner in the Seattle office of the law firm K&L Gates, where she advised companies on a broad range of commercial and business matters. Holly received a J.D. from the University of Washington School of Law, a Pharm.D. from the University of Washington School of Pharmacy, and a B.S. degree in Cell and Molecular Biology from the University of Washington.

Stephane Castel, PhD - Co-Founder, Chief Technology Officer & Chief Genomics Officer

Stephane has expertise analyzing the genome to understand how genetic variation contributes to disease. His work has been published in Nature, Nature Genetics, Science, and Cell. Before co-founding Variant Bio, he was a postdoctoral Research Fellow at Columbia University and the New York Genome Center, advised by Dr. Tuuli Lappalainen. As a postdoc, he was a lead analyst on the GTEx Project, the largest study of human regulatory variation. He also co-founded Fiix Software, which develops cloud-based asset management software and was acquired by Rockwell Automation in 2020. Stephane completed his PhD studying genetics at Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory advised by Dr. Robert Martienssen. 

David Moller, MD - Chief Scientific Officer

David brings over 20 years of experience leading R&D efforts in both large pharmaceutical companies and in biotech - most notably Eli Lilly and Merck. At Variant Bio, he will be responsible for leading scientific-related activities with a focus on the discovery and development of novel therapeutics. Dr. Moller is an expertly trained physician-scientist with a demonstrated ability to turn genetic insights into therapeutic programs, and to oversee both research and clinical development. His accomplishments included the advent of several successful medicines such as Januvia (sitagliptin), Trulicity (dulaglutide), and Mounjaro (tirzepatide) injection.

Steve Bryant, PhD - Chief Business Officer

Steve is a recognized industry leader in business development and partnering strategy, and will be responsible for leading this area at Variant Bio, including structuring, negotiation, and oversight of industry collaborations. Dr. Bryant trained as a geneticist and bioinformatics scientist before embarking on a long career in business development. Most recently, he served as Head of Global Business Development at Genmab, where he led the deal team that put together numerous high-value licensing deals that resulted in successful drugs and many drugs now in clinical development. Several of these launched products are now blockbusters and have collectively resulted in several billion dollars in licensing revenue.

Laura Yerges-Armstrong, PhD - SVP, Computational Genetics

Laura Yerges-Armstrong is a statistical geneticist with specialized training and experience in genetic epidemiology and related statistical methodologies. She is Vice President of Computational Genetics at Variant Bio where she manages a team responsible for statistical genetics, population genetics and functional genomics analysis to support genomic discoveries. Previously at GSK, Laura was Senior Director of Statistical Genetics and Genomic Data Sciences where she led several multi-disciplinary teams supporting early target identification and validation campaigns and lead capability development projects supporting key genomic data resources. In her previous academic role as a faculty member at University of Maryland School of Medicine, she studied the pharmacogenomics of clopidogrel response, worked with international genomics consortia for non-alcoholic liver disease, osteoporosis and sarcopenia and was the principal investigator for an NIH award evaluating the role of exonic variant architecture in the Old Order Amish. 

Yvette Latchman, PhD - Sr. Director, Discovery Research

Yvette is Sr. Director of Research and Discovery at Variant Bio. She has extensive experience in fundamental immunology and immune-related diseases, including immuno-oncology, inflammation, vaccines, autoimmunity, and drug discovery. Her recent role was at Silverback Therapeutics where she was responsible for biology oversight for several immune-oncology preclinical programs concentrating on antibody drug conjugate technologies. At ImmunityBio, formerly Etubics, she designed and implemented pre-clinical in vivo immunology studies in mice on new vaccines based on the company’s advanced viral vector platform. Prior to this, she was an Assistant Member at BloodWorks and Adjunct Assistant Professor at the University of Washington. Her lab focused on the PD-1 and innate cells in tumor immunity. She received her PhD in Immunology from University College, London researching the role of IgE complexes and the low affinity IgE receptor in atopic eczema. After completing postdoctoral research, she received a Wellcome Trust fellowship to research the role of PD-1 pathway in T cell activation and autoimmunity at Harvard Medical School and Brigham and Women’s Hospital.

Prathap Kasina - Sr. Director, Partnerships & Business Development

Prathap joins the Variant Bio team from the world of International Development. For the past 13 years, Prathap has worked with world-class economists and led teams that developed and implemented 100+ randomized controlled trials of social programs in Asia and South America. Prathap also comes to Variant Bio with extensive partnership management experience ranging from local governments to international organizations, small and medium-sized non-profits to large corporate conglomerates, etc. He holds a master's degree in Public Policy from the University of Michigan and a bachelor's degree in Engineering from The Indian Institute of Technology, Roorkee. He is originally from Kakinada, a coastal town in Andhra Pradesh, India.

Leslie Hepner - VP, Operations

Leslie is responsible for the day to day operations at Variant Bio. Prior to joining the team she was a Portfolio Manager for a small biotech VC firm in Seattle where she managed portfolio reporting, pipeline development and financial operations. Leslie was formerly a Project Coordinator at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation where she coordinated the investment process for the Strategic Investment Fund, the strategic investment arm of the foundation. Leslie also spent time with the Enterprise Partner Group (EPG) at Microsoft providing sales support and industry analysis for clients across the world. She holds a BS in Business from Southern Oregon University and an MBA with a focus on International Business from Seattle University.

Press 

An Ethics First Approach to Genetic Research and Drug Development with Sarah LeBaron von Baeyer - May 2, 2024

Variant Bio Turns Toward Discovery of Novel Medicines, Marking a New Chapter of Growth for the Company - June 5, 2023

Medicines Based on Unusual Genetic Traits: Andrew Farnum on the Long Run - November 23, 2020

Published Research

Mid-pass whole genome sequencing enables biomedical genetic studies of diverse populations

Why community consultation matters in genomic research benefit-sharing models

The gout epidemic in French Polynesia: a modelling study of data from the Ma’i u’u epidemiological survey

Recent Highlights from the Variant Bio Blog

Variant Bio, GHICL, and Loyalty Islands Province of New Caledonia Launch Genomic Research Project - November 27, 2023

Passing the Torch: From Founding CSO to the Next Stage of Scientific Growth at Variant Bio - June 6, 2023

Engaging Communities Participating in Genomic Research at Kenya’s 2023 Turkana Cultural Festival - October 30, 2023

Introducing Variant Bio’s Phenotyping Platform and How We Adapt it to Different Contexts Around the World - March 22, 2023

Announcing Variant Bio’s Affordable Medicines Pledge - October 26, 2022

Social Media 

Variant Bio on Medium

Variant Bio on LinkedIn

Variant Bio on X/Twitter

Variant Bio on Instagram

Media Contact

For interview requests, media inquiries, the most recent news and press releases, or additional photo/video assets, please contact Sarah LeBaron von Baeyer.  

Permissions

Images and headshots available upon request. Please contact contact Sarah LeBaron von Baeyer.

Brand images and use of Variant Bio likeness for media use only. Include one of the following credits when repurposing Variant Bio image assets: 

  • Photo provided by Variant Bio 
  • Image provided by Variant Bio
  • Video provided by Variant Bio 

Companies should not distribute, copy, display, or reuse images and video for any product in which you or your company will benefit, including reports, proposals, presentations, social media, and web sites.