Karius Inc. Adds Dr. Norman Sharpless, Former National Cancer Institute Head, and Elizabeth O’Farrell, Eli Lilly Veteran, to its Board of Directors
Redwood City, Calif., August 10, 2023 – Karius®, Inc. a world leader in liquid biopsy for infectious diseases, is announcing the appointment of two healthcare veterans to its Board of Directors: Norman (Ned) Sharpless, M.D. and Elizabeth (Liz) O’Farrell.
Sharpless, highly regarded for his contributions to healthcare leadership and patient-centric innovation, served as the Director of the National Cancer Institute (NCI) from 2017 to 2022. His achievements include the prioritization of the Childhood Cancer Data Initiative and the Cancer Moonshot program, along with the introduction of the NCI's Equity and Inclusion Program in response to the 2020 calls for racial justice. In 2019, Sharpless served as the U.S. Food and Drug Administration's (FDA) Acting Commissioner for seven months. His tenure focused on the opioid crisis, youth e-cigarette use, new drug approvals, and leading the FDA's COVID-19 response, including emergency authorization of vaccines and treatments, before resuming his role as the director of NCI.
Karius CEO, Alec Ford, stated, "Ned brings an important perspective to our mission to improve treatment for those most at risk from infectious diseases. His deep understanding of the interplay between cancer and infectious diseases, particularly in the context where infections are a leading cause of morbidity and mortality in cancer patients—accounting for up to 50% of deaths—is invaluable. He recognizes that to win the war on cancer, we must also develop more effective strategies to address infections in these patients."
Former Eli Lilly executive, O'Farrell, joins the Board with more than two decades of global responsibility within a multinational public company. Known for fostering a positive work culture and driving transformative change through collaboration, her financial and business acumen is an asset to Karius.
"Liz’s impressive track record and visionary leadership in global finance make her a significant addition to our board," added Ford. "She has demonstrated the ability to identify areas for improvement and drive transformative changes throughout her career. Together, Ned and Liz will be instrumental as we strive to further our work in infectious disease diagnostics through genomics."
Sharpless brings his extensive knowledge of oncology and genetic research to enhance Karius' research and development efforts. Chairing the Audit Committee, O’Farrell's financial and operational expertise will play a key role in strategic growth, reinforcing Karius' global leadership position in infectious disease detection.
“Infection causes so much suffering in patients with cancer, and our ability to treat infection remains imperfect,” Sharpless said. “I am excited by the Karius approach to help clinicians diagnose infectious disease, relying on next-generation sequencing and artificial intelligence to identify deadly pathogens sooner and with much greater sensitivity than standard approaches. I believe this technology can transform the management of infection in patients with cancer and other diseases, and am excited to play a role in its development as a member of the Board.” “I’m very excited to have the opportunity to join the Karius Board of Directors at such an exciting time for the company,” O’Farrell said. “I look forward to leveraging my financial and operational experience to support the Karius team in their mission to improve the lives of patients with undiagnosed infectious disease.”
About Norman Sharpless, M.D.:
Dr. Sharpless most recently held the position of the Director of the National Cancer Institute (NCI), spearheading initiatives to advance cancer research, prevention, and treatment. Previously, he served as the Acting Commissioner for Food and Drugs at the U.S. Food and Drug Administration(FDA) in 2019 and as the director of the University of North Carolina (UNC) Lineberger Comprehensive Cancer Center from 2014 to 2017. Dr. Sharpless began his clinical training at Massachusetts General Hospital and the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute and co-founded G1 Therapeutics and Jupiter BioVentures. Dr. Sharpless is a graduate of the University of North Carolina School of Medicine where he is now the Professor of Cancer Policy and Innovation.
About Elizabeth O’Farrell:
Ms. O’Farrell’s successful career spanned 24 years at Eli Lilly, where she held several executive management positions including General Auditor, CFO of Lilly USA, and SVP of Policy and Finance. Her final role before retiring in 2017 was as Chief Procurement Officer and Head of Global Shared Services. She possesses a wide range of experience in accounting and reporting, FP&A, operational finance and audit. Elizabeth also serves as the Audit Committee Chair on two other Boards, namely Geron Corp (where she also serves as Lead Independent Director) and Lensar Inc. Additionally, she holds the position of Chairperson at PDL BioPharma (private) and serves as a Board Director, audit committee member and compensation committee member at Genmab A/S. Elizabeth earned an MBA in Management Information Systems and a BA in Accounting from Indiana University Bloomington.
Karius Inc., a global leader in liquid biopsy for infectious diseases, harnesses metagenomics, next-generation sequencing, and artificial intelligence (AI) to help enhance the precision and speed of pathogen diagnosis. The Karius Test®, used in over 300 healthcare institutions–including 90+ transplant centers and 40+ children’s hospitals across the United States–identifies more than 1,000 pathogens, including viruses, bacteria, fungi, and parasites from a single blood draw typically within a day of sample receipt. A landmark study in the Journal of Clinical Microbiology found that the Karius Test detected 701 unique microbial taxa across a cohort of 15,000 patients, making it the largest study of its kind, demonstrating the capability of the Karius Test in pathogen identification. The Karius Test also has been incorporated into the diagnostics recommendations in the 2023 Duke-ISCVID Criteria for Infective Endocarditis.