Virgin Hyperloop’s Ryan Kelly joins Recursion as it plots clinical trials

The first trial is for a drug to treat a condition called cerebral cavernous malformations.

Kelly joins Recursion from Virgin Hyperloop.
Kelly joins Recursion from Virgin Hyperloop.

SALT LAKE CITY: After six years at Virgin Hyperloop, Ryan Kelly is trying to help biotechnology company Recursion travel smoothly through its first clinical trials. 

The communications executive joined Recursion, which is based in Salt Lake City, shortly after it launched its first trial, with preparations to launch three more this year. He will serve as its chief communications officer. 

For Recursion, which was founded in 2013, the new phase created a need for someone like Kelly, said Chris Gibson, CEO of Recursion.

“We have done a really good job, as a scientist myself, in telling this story to really nerdy folks like me,” said Gibson. But it’s important “as we take medicines into clinical trials to try to get them to patients, that we start telling our story to a broader audience.”

Kelly, 35, spent six years as VP of marketing and communications at Virgin Hyperloop, which is developing high-speed travel technology. Prior to that, he worked at the agencies Catch 24 Advertising & Design and GW New York, and his clients included Salesforce, Oracle, Lufthansa, American Express and Bose, according to a statement from Recursion. 

“Given Ryan's expertise, taking a challenging technical company like Hyperloop, which is full of similarly excitable scientists and engineers like Recursion, but turning that into a narrative that the world could wrap their head around, that's an important part of the responsibility we have,” said Gibson. “As scientists and engineers, we're not always the best communicators, and we need great communicators by our side.”

Kelly said he joined Recursion because of his interest in the drug-development process and Recursion’s place in the industry. 

“This idea that 90% of clinical trials fail was something mind-blowing to me…and this idea that it takes 10 years and $2 billion for drugs to come to market,” Kelly said. 

The first trial is for a drug to treat a condition called cerebral cavernous malformations, which are groups of tightly packed, abnormal small blood vessels and can cause seizures and severe headaches, according to the Mayo Clinic.

Gibson said he’s not aware of another company working on a treatment for the condition. 

For Kelly, the key is communicating “the value of what we are trying to do,” he said. “We’re not creating technology for technology’s sake, but this could radically improve the cost of drug discovery [and[ how many drugs we can discover.”

Kelly sees the challenge as similar to when he joined Virgin. At his former position, he spent time talking to the engineering and regulatory audiences and had to “learn the lingo and pick up all the acronyms,” he said. 

“With Hyperloop, I had never worked with rocket scientists before I worked with them. I never worked with pharma folks before this,” Kelly said. “It's a challenge, but what's really driving me right now is the mission of the company. And that's the most exciting thing to me, to be able to tell the story about the incredible things that are happening here.”

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