Management Team

We believe that successful drug discovery and development requires merging the rigor and discipline of larger companies with the agility, energy, focus, and efficiency of a small biotechnology company. Our team consists of talented individuals with both pharmaceutical company and start-up experience.

Christopher J. Burns, Ph.D.

President and Chief Executive Officer

Dr. Burns, is Co-Founder, President and Chief Executive Officer of VenatoRx Pharmaceuticals, Inc. He brings 25 years of international experience with financial and scientific responsibilities for multidisciplinary R&D teams within major pharmaceutical (Aventis, Novartis) and start-up (Protez Pharmaceuticals) environments. Prior to VenatoRx, Dr. Burns served from 2004–2010 as a member of the Executive Management Team and as Vice President of Research at Protez Pharmaceuticals, a subsidiary of Novartis since 2008. Prior to Protez/Novartis he served as Director of Chemistry at ViroPharma, producing multiple clinical candidates for Hepatitis C infection, as well as clinical candidates for respiratory syncytial virus and smallpox infections (VP 14637, licensed to Teva, and Tecovirimat, licensed to Siga Technologies, respectively). Prior to this, Dr. Burns served as Chemistry Director and core member of the Global Lead Optimization Counsel at Rhone-Poulenc Rorer/Aventis. During his 12 years at RPR/Aventis, Dr. Burns led multidisciplinary teams in bone metabolism, cardiovascular disease (in the U.S.), and oncology (in France). Dr. Burns has appeared as co-author or co-inventor on more than 50 patents and publications. He received his Ph.D. in Organic Chemistry in 1989 from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology under Nobel-laureate Professor K. Barry Sharpless.

Luigi Xerri, Ph.D.

Chief Development Officer

Dr. Xerri is Co-Founder and Chief Development Officer of VenatoRx Pharmaceuticals, Inc. He has been co-founder and Chief Scientific Officer of Protez Pharmaceuticals and was previously Director of Antimicrobial Disease Strategy at GlaxoSmithKline. He had responsibility for the appropriate risk assessment of the portfolio, aligning discovery with Business Development, and to fill gaps via in-licensing. During his 36 year career in antibacterials, he has led or been part of international teams for the pre-clinical and clinical development of cephalosporins (cefuroxime and ceftazidime), carbapenems (Sanfetrinem and Razupenem) and quinolones (ofloxacin, levofloxacin and grepafloxacin) and made key contributions to their commercialization strategies. Dr. Xerri holds a Laurea in Biology and Microbiology from the University of Bologna, Italy.

Daniel Pevear, Ph.D.

Sr. Vice President, Biology and Grants Development

Dr. Pevear is Co-Founder and Vice President of Biology and Grants Development at VenatoRx Pharmaceuticals, Inc. He has over 25 years of experience in anti-infectives drug discovery and development, covering both anti-bacterials and anti-virals. He was previously the Director of Biology at Protez Pharmaceuticals (a subsidiary of Novartis Pharmaceuticals Corporation) where he co-led the team that advanced a first-in-class β-lactamase inhibitor into preclinical development. Prior to Protez, Dr. Pevear spent 2 years with Novartis Pharmaceuticals in Cambridge, MA, where he directed the billion dollar collaboration with Alnylam Pharmaceuticals on ground-breaking “RNA interference” technology. He has also worked with Progenics Pharmaceuticals (Tarrytown, NY) where he directed research efforts in both Human immunodeficiency virus and Hepatitis C virus. In 1994 Dr. Pevear was a scientific team founding member of ViroPharma Inc. (Exton, PA).  As the Director of Biology at ViroPharma, Dr. Pevear led a team of over 30 scientists working on a variety of anti-infective targets. He also served on the team that advanced a first-in-class inhibitor for the common cold viruses through NDA filing. This compound was discovered by Dr. Pevear’s laboratory during his time with Sterling Winthrop Research Institute (1988–1994). Dr. Pevear has been involved in the advancement of more than a dozen compounds from the lab bench into clinical development. He has published over 80 papers in peer-reviewed journals and has written more than a half dozen reviews. Dr. Pevear has served as the Principal Investigator and/or written 6 SBIR-Advanced Technology awards and contributed to several others. He also served as an NIH Center for Scientific Review Special Emphasis Panel Member for AIDS SBIR applications in 2005. He received his Ph.D. in Viral Immunology from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in 1984, and was a Postdoctoral Fellow of the National Multiple Sclerosis Society in the lab of Dr. Howard Lipton (Northwestern University Medical School, Chicago, IL) from 1985–1988.

Ezra Felker, MBA

Chief Operating Officer

Ezra Felker was appointed Chief Operating Officer in January of 2013 after serving as Chief Business Officer since May 2013. Mr. Felker has over 20 years of experience in biotechnology, pharmaceutical, and diagnostics, spanning business development, operations, and venture capital. Most recently, Ezra was VP, Operations at NuPathe where he is responsible for commercial manufacturing, technical operations, and new product planning. He assumed this position in May 2011 after acting as Vice President, Business Development since January 2006. Previously, Ezra served as an Entrepreneur in Residence at BioAdvance, where he advised on investment opportunities and provided assistance to portfolio companies. Prior to that, Mr. Felker served as Associate Vice President, BTG Ventures at BTG International. Ezra was the founding investor in Protez Pharmaceuticals, which was subsequently acquired by Novartis. Ezra has also served in business roles at Icagen (RTP, NC) and Athersys (Cleveland, OH).  He has also worked as a protein chemist at Hybritech and Biosite Diagnostics in San Diego, CA.

Ezra is an active participant in the entrepreneurial community in Philadelphia. He serves on the Investment Advisory Committee of Ben Franklin Technology Partners and advises several biotech and medical device companies in Philadelphia. Ezra holds a BS from the University of California, San Diego and an MBA from the Weatherhead School of Management at Case Western Reserve.

James G. Murphy, CPA

Chief Financial Officer

Jim has over 25 years’ experience as a senior financial executive in public and privately held companies in the life sciences and the media and technology industries. He has served as the Chief Financial Officer for three publicly held firms as well as a member of the Board of Directors of Biomimetic Therapeutics where he was the Chair of the Audit Committee. Jim has substantial fund raising experience and has helped to raise over $1.5 billion in financing for the companies he has served. Jim also has extensive merger and acquisition experience having led or participated in the purchase and sale of over 20 companies including both public and privately-held companies. Jim has worked with a number of venture capital firms including Canaan Partners, TL Ventures and Burrill and Company.

Jim holds a Bachelor of Science in Accounting with Honors from Villanova University and is a Certified Public Accountant

Tim Henkel, MD, PhD.

Chief  Medical Officer

Dr. Henkel has spent 20 years in the biopharmaceutical industry developing antibacterial, antifungal, antiviral, immunomodulatory and oncology drugs. He has successfully developed biologics, small molecules and natural products in the US and Europe. Prior to joining VenatoRx, Dr. Henkel was Executive Vice President of Research and Development at Ceptaris Therapeutics (acquired by Actelion). Dr. Henkel was also Executive Vice President of Research and Development at Ception Therapeutics (acquired by Cephalon), Executive Vice President and Chief Medical Officer of Vicuron Pharmaceuticals (acquired by Pfizer), and Vice President of Worldwide Anti-Infective Clinical Development for SmithKline Beecham.

Prior to joining SmithKline Beecham, Dr. Henkel was Assistant Professor of Internal Medicine and Infectious Diseases at Washington University in St. Louis, where he also earned his board certifications in both Internal Medicine and in Infectious Diseases. He received his MD degree and a PhD in immunology from Washington University in St. Louis, and his BS in Chemistry and Biology from Rhodes College.

Tony Meehan, PhD., MBA

SVP, Business and Corporate Development

Dr. Meehan has been working with large public and venture backed start-up pharmaceutical companies for 25 years, including Merck, Johnson & Johnson, and TransForm Pharmaceuticals. Immediately prior to joining VenatoRx, he was Chief Operating Officer of TetraLogic Pharmaceuticals. Tony has played leadership roles across all facets of the business, including business development, corporate venture, finance, product development, and manufacturing. He has facilitated raising over $100MM in investment capital, and led teams responsible for the development of over 50 investigational molecules and 8 new product registrations, including GARDISIL®, RotaTeq®, and VIOXX®.

Tony holds an M.B.A from the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania, a Ph.D. from Carnegie Mellon University and a B.S.E from the University of Pennsylvania.