Four Questions with Katrin Schoeneweis: Welcoming the MYR Team to Gilead

Stories@Gilead - March 04, 2021

Katrin Schoeneweis began her career as a virologist working in a research lab focusing on antiviral treatments for hepatitis B virus (HBV) and hepatitis delta virus (HDV). She was MYR’s first employee and, today, with the completion of the previously announced acquisition, she joins Gilead.

Chronic hepatitis D is rare and occurs only in people who have been previously or are simultaneously diagnosed with HBV. HDV is considered the most severe form of viral hepatitis.

“Hepatitis D is a terrible liver disease with a high unmet medical need – and it is also highly underdiagnosed,” says Katrin. “There’s a significant need for an increase of awareness and effective therapies.”

With the completion of the acquisition of the German biotechnology company, Gilead builds on years of experience improving care for people with viral hepatitis. For nearly two decades, Gilead has innovated in this space, and it has had three medicines approved for HBV.

We connected with Katrin to discuss how treatment for the disease has evolved and what she hopes will emerge with MYR now being part of Gilead.

Q: What has the research around HDV looked like historically?
Originally discovered in 1977, HDV is still a neglected virus. When I joined the Molecular Virology Lab of Stephan Urban, Professor for Translational Virology at the University of Heidelberg, Germany, research in the lab on HDV just didn’t seem to be a hot topic of interest.

With the discovery of the viral entry receptor and the development of the first entry inhibitor for HBV and HDV, there appeared to be a heightened interest in HDV.

Q: How has this lack of treatment options impacted people living with the disease?
Individuals who acquire HDV can be asymptomatic for a long time. By the time they start to feel sick, with fatigue or flu-like symptoms, the disease is often already in a late stage. Chronic HDV can lead to the development of cirrhosis, and, in some cases, liver cancer or liver failure.

Until recently, there were no approved therapy options available.

Q:  What did it mean to you to be a part of the development of a treatment for HDV?
It was great to be a part of Stephan’s lab researching questions such as, “How does the virus enter the cell and what happens within the liver cell?”

During this research, the lab was full of scientific discussions. It was really exciting to see the evolution of this treatment from bench into clinical development. It has been an amazing journey for me and incredible to be part of this experience.

Q: How will joining Gilead help accelerate MYR’s work for people living with HDV?
Gilead’s decades of work in viral hepatitis will help accelerate our work and help get the treatment to more people in the world.

I am passionate about making a change for people living with this severe disease – and bringing innovative medicines from the bench to the person in need.