Meet ESSA’s Executive Team

ESSA’s Executive Team has an extensive background and a long proven track record of working successfully in pharmaceutical drug development.


David R. Parkinson, MD

President, Chief Executive Officer & Director

Dr. Parkinson has served as a director of the Company since June 24, 2015 and has been employed full time as the President and Chief Executive Officer of the Company since January 7, 2016. He is responsible for the management of the Company, developing objectives, strategy and standards of performance, securing and leading a team of professionals and directing them to deliver the required performance. Most recently Dr. Parkinson has served as a venture partner at New Enterprise Associates (NEA), Inc., and following his assumption of these new Essa-related responsibilities he has moved to the role of venture advisor to NEA. From 2007 until 2012, Dr. Parkinson served as President and CEO of Nodality, a biotechnology company focused on the biological characterization of signaling pathways in patients with malignancy to enable more effective therapeutics development and clinical decision-making. Dr. Parkinson has previously led oncology clinical development activities at Novartis (1997-2003), Amgen (2003-2006) and Biogen Idec 2006-2007). He worked at the National Cancer Institute from 1990 to 1997, serving as Chief of the Investigational Drug Branch, and then as Acting Associate Director of the Cancer Therapy Evaluation Program (CTEP). Dr. Parkinson is a past Chairman of the Food & Drug Administration (FDA) Biologics Advisory Committee, has also served on the FDA’s Science Board, and is a recipient of the FDA’s Cody Medal. He has served on the National Cancer Policy Forum of the Institute of Medicine, as a board director for the Ontario Institute for Cancer Research, and is a past co-chair of the Cancer Steering Committee of the NIH Foundation Biomarkers Consortium. He currently serves as a Board Director for the Multiple Myeloma Research Foundation and has served as Chairperson of the American Association of Cancer Research (AACR) Finance and Audit Committee for the last 15 years. Dr. Parkinson was formerly a Director of Facet Biotech, Inc. and Ambit Biosciences, both public biopharma companies which were acquired by large pharma. He currently serves as Director on the Boards of Cerulean Pharma Inc., 3S Bio Inc. He has held academic positions both at Tufts and at the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center, and has authored over 100 peer-reviewed publications.

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Peter Virsik, MS, MBA

Chief Operating Officer, Executive Vice President

Peter Virsik has served as Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer since August 2016. Mr. Virsik has over 20 years of experience in corporate development, strategy, new product planning, alliance management, and finance. During his career, Mr. Virsik has completed over 30 licensing, M&A and financial transactions, totaling over $3 billion in value. Most recently, he served as Senior Vice President, Corporate Development for XenoPort (acquired by Arbor Pharmaceuticals), leading licensing, strategy, new product planning and alliance management for the company. During his tenure at XenoPort, Mr. Virsik played an integral role in the licensing and commercialization of Horizant® (gabapentin enacarbil). Prior to XenoPort, Mr. Virsik worked for Gilead Sciences from 2000 through 2005 in Corporate Development, where he was involved in building Gilead’s HIV franchise through the acquisition of Triangle Pharmaceuticals and the licensing of Vitekta® (elvitegravir). Before joining Gilead, Mr. Virsik worked at J.P. Morgan in the biotechnology equity research group and as a consultant for Ernst and Young. Mr. Virsik began his career in R&D at Genentech. Mr. Virsik received an MBA from the Kellogg Graduate School of Management at Northwestern University, an MS in Microbiology from the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, and a BA in Molecular and Cellular Biology from the University of California, Berkeley.

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David S. Wood, MBA, CPA, CMA

Chief Financial Officer

Mr. Wood has been CFO of ESSA since October 2013. He is responsible for managing all financial aspects of ESSA’s business and matters related to compliance and corporate governance. Mr. Wood has over 30 years of experience in management of both large and early stage companies in North America and the U.K. From 2003 to 2013, he was Head of Finance, Secretary and Treasurer at Celator Pharmaceuticals Inc. Prior to 2003, he was Managing Director of Cubist Pharmaceuticals (UK) Ltd., and Finance Director at TerraGen Discovery, Inc. During 18 years in the biopharmaceutical industry, Mr. Wood has overseen several M&A transactions and numerous financings, raising over $100 million. Mr. Wood began his career in the finance and exploration departments of Chevron Corp. He received a B.Sc. in Biology from Queen’s University, an M.B.A. from University of Western Ontario and holds a CPA, CMA accounting designation. He served on the governing body of the National Research Council of Canada from 2008 to 2014.

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