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aTyr Pharma Appoints Catharine E. Johnson As Senior Vice President of Business Development

SAN DIEGO, June 14 /PRNewswire/ -- aTyr Pharma, Inc. today announced that Catharine E. Johnson, Ph.D. has recently joined the company as its Senior Vice President of Business Development.  Dr. Johnson's extensive biotechnology industry experience will help to advance aTyr Pharma's portfolio of resectin-based therapeutics. Resectins are a novel class of endogenous human proteins derived from aminoacyl tRNA synthetases, and have activities relevant to multiple disease areas, including autoimmunity, inflammation, and blood disorders. The privately held biotech was co-founded by Dr. Xianglei Yang and Dr. Paul Schimmel, a leading aminoacyl tRNA synthetase scientist and serial entrepreneur in the biotech sector.

Dr. Johnson brings a broad range of strategy and business development experience to aTyr. She was most recently Vice President, Corporate Development at Momenta Pharmaceuticals, Inc. (MNTA), where she managed corporate strategy and negotiated transactions related to the company's proprietary technology platform and product portfolio, including significant transactions with Novartis AG/Sandoz.  Dr. Johnson was previously a Principal at Atlas Venture, where she was responsible for new biotech investments and the management of portfolio companies.  She also served as head of business development at Regeneron Pharmaceuticals, where she was responsible for new business initiatives, strategic partnering, and alliance management, and her activities included key transactions with Novartis, Aventis, and Serono.  Dr. Johnson received her Doctorate from the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine's Department of Biological Chemistry.

"Catharine is an important addition to our senior management team," said Jeff Watkins, aTyr Pharma's Chief Executive Officer, adding "She brings extensive expertise in a variety of functions essential for building a strong and sustainable biotech company, and will bring substantial value to aTyr as we build our product portfolio and select strategic partners."

"Resectins are an enormous opportunity for the development of new medicines, and it is a privilege to be a part of such promising new science.  I am excited to work along side such a talented and committed management team, backed by experienced investors and successful scientific founders," said Dr. Johnson.  "Overlooked by the human genomics efforts, and with activities that are differentiated from existing therapies and common pharmaceutical discovery targets, the resectins represent a wealth of completely novel product opportunities.  The establishment of a select set of strategic partnerships will be a significant catalyst for aTyr's growth, and will enable the company to fully capture the value underlying aTyr's novel source of the resectin human proteins and drug targets."

About aTyr Pharma

aTyr Pharma engages in the generation of innovative therapeutics based on a new class of naturally occurring human proteins.  These proteins, called resectins, modulate extracellular signaling pathways in a variety of biological processes.  Resectins, previously overlooked by genomic efforts due to their hidden intra-protein location in ancient aminoacyl tRNA synthetase genes, have recently been discovered by aTyr, which is leading to connections in human physiology and pathophysiology ranging from inflammation to metabolic disease to peripheral neuropathy to blood disorders.  Resectin biology is distinct from currently known pathways and pharmaceutical targets and thus represents breakthrough opportunities for novel therapeutic interventions.  Tmax, aTyr's first program, is a preclinical replacement protein candidate with a novel thrombopoietic activity for the treatment of thrombocytopenia.  aTyr Pharma has established a dominant intellectual property estate surrounding resectin based compositions and therapeutic applications.

The privately held biotech was founded by Dr. Paul Schimmel, a leading aminoacyl tRNA synthetase scientist and biotechnology entrepreneur who is also a founder of Alkermes (ALKS), Cubist (CBST), Alnylam (ALNY), Sirtris (acquired by GlaxoSmithKline, GSK), Momenta Pharmaceuticals (MNTA), and Repligen (RGEN), and a founding SAB member of Illumina (ILMN). aTyr Pharma is backed by leading life sciences investors Alta Partners, Cardinal Partners, and Polaris Ventures.  For more information please visit

SOURCE aTyr Pharma, Inc.
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