Our why

We are uncovering something big in immuno-oncology. It’s called normunity.

That’s the name of our company, and we are pioneering cancer-fighting medicines that target novel immuno-oncology mechanisms. It’s also our new approach that treats cancer by restoring normunity – or the state of normal immunity – by removing cancer’s barriers to normal immune system function.

 

normunity.

/‘nôrm’/yo͞onədē/
  1. An organization that reveals cancer’s biggest secrets and removes its defenses by interrogating it in a humanly relevant manner to treat all cancers
  2. The restored state of normal immunity

A team like no other

We are able to pursue first-ever drug discovery in immuno-oncology because of our unparalleled team and partnership. Normunity was founded based on an ongoing partnership with the lab of Dr. Lieping Chen, a luminary in the field of immuno-oncology, at the Yale School of Medicine.

The team from Normunity and the Chen lab is deeply integrated and collaborative, bringing together a fusion of expert oncology minds in scientific discovery and drug development. It’s a powerful and invigorating partnership focused on a singular goal: to open up vast new opportunities to treat more cancers by targeting and disrupting novel mechanisms that interfere with normal cancer-fighting immunity.

Together with the Chen lab, our work identifies novel mechanisms using proprietary platforms that methodically interrogate the interactions between cancer and the immune system using human cells and tissues. Our Normunity team is led by highly experienced leaders with track records for pushing boundaries in pursuit of novel immuno-oncology medicines. Our pioneering spirit and drive to help cancer patients is already actively set in motion with our pipeline of cancer therapies – called immune normalizers – designed to restore normunity.

 

Our Team.

 
Rachel Humphrey, MD
Founding Chief Executive Officer
Rachel Humphrey, MD
Founding Chief Executive Officer

Rachel Humphrey has over 25 years of experience in clinical drug development, particularly in the field of cancer treatments and immunotherapies. Highlights of her career include leading the development of multiple blockbuster cancer therapies:  the CTLA-4 inhibiting immunotherapy Yervoy® (ipilimumab) at BMS, the PD-L1 inhibiting immunotherapy Imfinzi® (durvalumab) at AstraZeneca, and the kinase inhibitor cancer drug Nexavar® (sorafenib) at Bayer. After working at these big pharmaceutical companies, Rachel took her drug development expertise to emerging biotech companies, where she served in the role of Chief Medical Officer at Black Diamond Therapeutics, CytomX Therapeutics and Mirati Therapeutics, respectively. She previously served on the Board of Directors of CytomX Therapeutics and Xilio Therapeutics, respectively, and currently serves on the Board of Directors of Pyxis Therapeutics and Sporos Bioventures. Rachel started her career as an oncology fellow and staff physician at the National Cancer Institute. She received her training in internal medicine at The Johns Hopkins Hospital, her MD from Case Western Reserve Medical School, and her B.A. from Harvard University.

Lieping Chen, MD, PhD
Scientific Founder; United Technologies Corp. Professor in Cancer Research and Professor of Immunobiology, of Dermatology and of Medicine (Medical Oncology), Yale School of Medicine
Lieping Chen, MD, PhD
Scientific Founder; United Technologies Corp. Professor in Cancer Research and Professor of Immunobiology, of Dermatology and of Medicine (Medical Oncology), Yale School of Medicine

Dr. Lieping Chen is an immunologist known for his works in T cell biology, cancer immunology, and translational research to develop new treatments for human diseases, especially in the development of anti-PD-1/PD-L1 cancer immunotherapy. Prior to joining Yale Medical School, he was a faculty member at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, a faculty member at Mayo Clinic, and a scientist for the pharmaceutical company, Bristol-Myers Squibb.

Dr. Chen’s discoveries directly led to the development of anti-PD-1/PD-L1 cancer immunotherapy against broad spectrum of human cancers, and his work in the discovery of the PD-1/PD-L1 pathway
was cited as the #1 breakthrough of the year by Science magazine in 2013. He did the first proof-of-concept study in 1992 showing that the B7-CD28 family molecules could be the targets for cancer immunotherapy by introducing B7-1 into tumor cells to enhance therapeutic immunity. In 1999, he discovered PD-L1 (also called B7-H1) molecule and subsequently demonstrated the role of PD-L1 in the evasion of tumor immunity, and established the PD-1/PD-L1 pathway as the target for cancer immunotherapy. He also initiated and help organized the first-in-man clinical trial of anti-PD-1 antibody for treating human cancer and developed PD-L1 staining as a biomarker to predict treatment outcome. His laboratory also discovered many molecular pathways with immune modulatory functions and their applications in human disease treatment. These pathways include 4-1BB (CD137), ICOS/B7-H2, B7-H3, B7-H4, B7-H5/CD28H, PD-1H (VISTA), LIGHT/HVEM, RELT, TROY, B7-H2/CD28/CTLA-4 (human), SALM5/HVEM, FGL1/LAG-3, Siglec-15. These discoveries have led to the development of therapeutic agents in various stages of clinical trials for the treatment of human cancer.

Dr. Chen had his medical training in Fujian Medical University and his fellowship in immunology/ oncology in Peking Union Medical College in Beijing. He moved to U.S. to earn a PhD degree from Drexel University College of Medicine. He is a member of the National Academy of Sciences and a fellow of the American Association for Cancer Research. Dr. Chen has published over 370 peer-reviewed research articles.

Ellen K. Forest
Interim Head of Human Resources
Ellen K. Forest
Interim Head of Human Resources

Ellen K. Forest is the former Chief Human Resources Officer of Yumanity Therapeutics (now Kineta, Inc.).  While at Yumanity, she oversaw the company’s human resource efforts and is responsible for developing and implementing the strategic human resources vision in support of the overall goals and mission of the company.  Prior to joining Yumanity, Ms. Forest served as Senior Vice President and Head of Human Capital for Cogen Immune Medicine, a company developing immune modulation therapeutics that control the immune system, targeting the specific drivers of disease (now Repertoire Immune Medicines).  Previously as Vice President and Head of Human Resources for publicly traded Merrimack Pharmaceuticals, Ms. Forest was responsible for leading human resources strategy including organizational leadership, talent management, change management, and culture. Her earlier career included global human resources leadership positions at Baxalta (acquired by Shire), Partners HealthCare, a non-profit healthcare system, and TA Associates, a global private equity firm.

 

Ms. Forest holds an M.S. in Human Resources Management and a B.S. in Business from Emmanuel College and serves as member of several human resources organizations.

William LaRochelle, PhD
Chief Scientific Officer
William LaRochelle, PhD
Chief Scientific Officer

Bill LaRochelle has over 30 years of experience in translational research and drug development in the biotechnology/pharmaceutical industry and federal government, with experience building multiple successful drug discovery and development programs, as well as implementing R&D strategies for novel drug products. He had a 16-year tenure at Roche, including as Clinical Sciences Director at Roche Diagnostics, focusing on integrating next-generation sequencing and digital PCR platforms in the development of precision medicines. Also at Roche, he served as Scientific Director and Head of Healthcare Business Development, and the Head of Key Opinion Leader Relationships. Prior to this, Bill spent 8 years at CuraGen Corporation, where he directed the Translational Oncology Program, and he was responsible for initiating, conducting and managing translational oncology research activities resulting in four INDs for novel cancer drugs. Prior to joining CuraGen, Bill was a principal investigator at the National Cancer Institute at the National Institutes of Health where his research focused on oncogene/growth factor signal transduction and monoclonal antibodies in cancer and inflammation. He is an author of over 80 peer-reviewed publications, numerous patents, and the editor of the Oncogenomics Handbook. He received an American Cancer Society postdoctoral fellowship to study at the National Cancer Institute, earned a Ph.D. in biochemistry at Dartmouth Medical School, and a B.S. in biochemistry from Manhattan College.

Melinda Merchant, MD, PhD
Chief Medical Officer
Melinda Merchant, MD, PhD
Chief Medical Officer

Melinda Merchant is a physician scientist with two decades of experience in clinical oncology research. Melinda brings a patient-first mentality to the Normunity team, with a drive to collaboratively translate scientific findings to address unmet needs in the clinic. As a board-certified Pediatric Hematologist & Oncologist, Melinda held faculty/staff positions at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center and the National Cancer Institute, with a focus on sarcomas and immuno-oncology. She was a lead investigator on multiple pediatric immunotherapy clinical trials, including ipilimumab, nivolumab, and novel cell therapies. Since her move to industry in 2015, Melinda has been highly active in clinical development at the interface of laboratory to early phase clinical trials, directing clinical development of multiple first-in-human studies at AstraZeneca, and late-stage development experience as head of Translational Medicine and clinical lead of the phase 3 confirmatory study in sarcoma supporting approval of Tazverik® (tazmetostat). As a leader in pharma and biotech, Melinda has successfully grown teams of scientists and physician scientists to collaboratively meet the challenges of drug development. Melinda received her MD and Ph.D. at the University of Miami School of Medicine and Department of Immunology & Microbiology, trained in pediatrics at Children’s National Medical Center, and completed fellowship at the National Cancer Institute in a combined program with Johns Hopkins Hospital.

Stephane Marzabal, PhD
Head of Program Leadership
Stephane Marzabal, PhD
Head of Program Leadership

Stephane Marzabal brings more than 20 years of experience in drug discovery, translational research, clinical development, commercialization, and global program leadership in biotech and pharma companies, primarily focused on oncology. He also has extensive leadership experience in implementing operating models and change management to support high-performance in R&D organizations.
In his previous roles, Stephane worked at Baxalta to lead the co-development, product approvals, and global launch of ONIVYDE® in pancreatic cancer in partnership with Merrimack Pharmaceuticals. At Merck KGaA, Stephane was the lead for evofosfomide, a Phase 3 candidate developed in partnership with Threshold Pharmaceutical for soft tissue sarcoma, pancreatic cancer, and NSCLC. At Merck Serono, he was Global Program Team Leader for Rebif® in multiple sclerosis leading worldwide approvals and global launch, and later he led an oncology team across multiple phase 1 and phase 2 compounds advancing in clinical development. In 2017, Stephane co-founded SYNOV Solutions, a boutique consulting group that partners with biopharmaceutical companies to create high performing drug development teams and organizations. He earned a PhD in Molecular Biology from Paris VI and a BS in Biostatistics applied to Clinical Trials.

Kristin Robbins, RN, MBA
VP, Program & Portfolio Management
Kristin Robbins, RN, MBA
VP, Program & Portfolio Management

Kristin Robbins has over 20 years of experience in clinical drug and medical device development. Prior to Normunity, Kristin was the Head of Program Management and Program Manager for the lead program at Kaleido Biosciences in Urea Cycle Disorder which submitted an IND for KB195 and executed a subsequent Ph2 trial. Before Kaleido, she had a 10-year tenure at Hologic, Inc., a Women’s Health company, including as Director of Program & Portfolio Management in the Surgical and Breast Health Divisions, focusing on variety of technologies including the NovaSure Endometrial Ablation Device and the Brevera Breast Biopsy System among others. Earlier in her career, Kristin spent 3 years as a Program Manager at Boston Scientific in two different divisions, the Oncology division, working on implantable ports for the administration of fluids and drugs for oncology patients and the Endovations division, which was a unique “startup type” division within a large company concept to build a single use colonoscope. Kristin’s early work in medical devices was with Abbott Laboratories. Kristin started her career as a registered nurse at Highland Hospital in Rochester, NY. She received a B.S. in Nursing at the University of Rochester and her MBA from Northeastern University and has a Project Management Professional (PMP) Certification.

Elizabeth Yamashita, BS, RAC
Head of Regulatory Affairs
Elizabeth Yamashita, BS, RAC
Head of Regulatory Affairs

Liz Yamashita has over 35 years of experience in the Biopharmaceutical Industry with 25 years focused in the global regulatory affairs function. Liz has wide exposure to areas of the pharmaceutical business in small molecule and biotechnology CMC, clinical and nonclinical development, as well as marketing, and business development. Liz has held executive regulatory positions at Oncobiologics, Inc., and Savient Pharmaceuticals, Inc. In these roles, she managed all aspects of the regulatory function, strategy and operational work from initial FDA, EMA and other health authority interactions through marketing application approvals. She was a Principal Fellow at ImClone Systems (now Eli Lilly) providing regulatory expertise across the ImClone and Lilly biotech pipelines. As Vice President at ImClone Systems, she was responsible for Regulatory CMC strategy and Operations for development and commercial monoclonal antibody projects. Liz began her career at Bristol-Myers Squibb Company holding several positions of increasing leadership responsibility. While experienced in multiple therapeutic areas, her main regulatory focus and interest have been with Oncology and Immunology encompassing both small and large molecules. Liz received her B.S. degree in Chemistry from the University of Rochester and is US certified by the Regulatory Affairs Professionals Society.

Suzanne Wilson
Head of Clinical Operations
Suzanne Wilson
Head of Clinical Operations

Suzanne Wilson has over 30 years of experience in clinical research, most of which is in oncology. She has practical experience in clinical operations from day-to-day clinical project management for individual programs to ensure timelines and budgets are maintained, through to managing teams of project managers and overseeing US, European, Aisa and worldwide clinical programs. She has a proven track record in a number of roles, in managing multidisciplinary teams and working in challenging and high-pressure environments for successful submissions to the health authorities. Opportunities have included establishing clinical operations in small virtual companies (GenSpera), managing large global programs in a multi-national pharma company (Cephalon, now Teva, and Baxalta), working for a large and small CRO (PRA and Nexus). Her experience enables her to contribute to the strategy and successful implementation of clinical programs. Suzanne has a degree in Pharmacology (B.Sc.) from Portsmouth University, UK.

David Andrew, PhD
Senior Director, Immunology
David Andrew, PhD
Senior Director, Immunology

David Andrew is a Cellular Immunologist with over 2 decades of experience in Antibody Development, in Biotech at Amgen/Millenium/GSK/PDL and Astellas, having been a program leader  for several programs that went to IND and clinical trials. His research led to the identification of key mechanisms in Autoimmune Disease such as the role of alpha4/B7 in lymphocyte trafficking in IBD and of CCR4/CCR9 in autoimmune /inflammatory disease lymphocyte trafficking. He has taken part in the development of several approved clinical monoclonals such as elotuzumab for multiple myeloma, etrolizumab for Crohns and CDP571 for rheumatoid arthritis while more recently working on alternative mAb formats such as ADC/CAR T cell and bi-specifics which are  outlicensed for AML and NSLC. He is an author of over 60 peer-reviewed publications and  numerous patents. He received an American Heart Association fellowship to study lymphocyte trafficking at Stanford and received his PhD from University College London in the lab of Prof Avrion Mitchison.

Suzanne Bauer
Associate Director, Administration and Operations
Suzanne Bauer
Associate Director, Administration and Operations

Suzanne Bauer brings eight years of experience in executive administration and operational support. Prior to joining Normunity, she was Chief of Staff at Ixcela, supporting the organization through its launch and leading HR and customer support operations. Suzanne received her BA in English Language and Literature from Gordon College and spent a year as a Visiting Student at Oxford University.

Jeff Colbert, PhD
Associate Director, Immuno-Oncology
Jeff Colbert, PhD
Associate Director, Immuno-Oncology

For over 20 years, Jeff Colbert has been an academic and industry leader with expertise in immunology and oncology. He currently leads preclinical programs at Normunity and leads the development of Normunity’s biomarker strategy. Prior to joining Normunity, Jeff was a Program Leader at Immunitas Therapeutics where he led multidisciplinary teams in Drug Discovery and Translational and Biomarker Research. As a faculty member at the University of Massachusetts Medical School, Jeff applied forward genetic screening techniques to identify novel regulators of immunity to infectious disease and cancer. These efforts led to the identification of novel cancer targets, resulting in clinical and pharmaceutical partnerships. His academic career involved a move to Europe where his research focused on the regulation of cysteine proteases in infection and immunity. At National Jewish Health and at the University of Colorado Health Sciences Center, Jeff studied TNF receptor signal transduction in pulmonary fibrosis and the inflammatory responses mediated by adenoviral gene therapy vectors. Jeff has published over 20 peer-reviewed publications and has been invited to present his research both nationally and internationally. He received his PhD in Immunology from the University of Colorado Health Sciences Center and holds a BS in Molecular Biology and Microbiology from Kansas State University.

Lucas Galster
Senior Research Associate
Lucas Galster
Senior Research Associate

Lucas Galster has over 4 years of experience in a diverse background of clinical laboratories, academic and industry research. His expertise spans across various areas such as medical devices, automation, material science, assay development and immunology. During his undergraduate studies, Lucas developed a keen interest in next generation tools emerging in biotechnology, which ultimately led him to pursue a career to research in precision medicine. Lucas received a B.S. in Biology from Southern Connecticut State University and has since been working in the New Haven area. His commitment to advancing immune normalizers is evidenced by his unwavering dedication to the field.

Vivian Gu, PhD
Scientist I
Vivian Gu, PhD
Scientist I

Vivian has extensive experience investigating the cellular processes and molecular pathways critical to cancer pathogenesis. In the past, she has conducted multiple research investigations from drug discovery and assay development to companion diagnostic testing and clinical trials. Prior to joining Normunity, Vivian was a postdoctoral fellow at the Yale School of Medicine, and she earned her Ph.D. in Molecular Physiology and Biophysics from the University of Iowa. Her passion for innovative drug discoveries and meaningful advances led her to Normunity.

Nancy Kirkiles-Smith, PhD
Senior Research Scientist
Nancy Kirkiles-Smith, PhD
Senior Research Scientist

Nancy Kirkiles-Smith brings more than 25 years of research experience in immunology and vascular biology. Her work has focused on the development of humanized mice as preclinical small animal models for the validation of therapeutic targets.  Prior to Normunity, Nancy managed a large academic lab at Yale focusing on Transplant Immunology.  There she established allograft transplant models in both HuPBL and HuCD34+ HSC immunodeficient mouse models.  From academia she went to the antibody development company Abcam as an Immunohistochemistry scientist in the Characterization group to validate antibodies for use in IHC coming through their pipeline as part of their Rabmab project.  Nancy received her B.S. in Cell Biology and PhD in Nutritional Biochemistry from the University of Connecticut and did her postdoctoral work in the lab of Dr. Jordan Pober in the Department of Immunobiology at the Yale University School of Medicine.

Rebecca J. Newth, MSc
Senior Research Associate
Rebecca J. Newth, MSc
Senior Research Associate

Rebecca Newth is a budding immunologist with more than 8 years of research experience. She has a strong background in immunology, T cell biology, and cellular and molecular biology. She received her Master of Science in Molecular Microbiology and Immunology at the University of Missouri-Columbia. Her academic experience led her to a career in assay development for therapeutic drug validation. She aspires to bring novel discoveries in basic research closer to the clinic and is excited to be involved in the strategy and implementation of translational medicine here at Normunity.

Board of Directors.

Tim Shannon, MD, Chairman of the Board
General Partner, Canaan
Tim Shannon, MD, Chairman of the Board
General Partner, Canaan

Over the past 30 years, Dr. Timothy Shannon has been an entrepreneur, executive, researcher, professor, and practicing physician. He is Executive Chair and member of the Board of Halda Therapeutics and a General Partner at Canaan Partners. He also serves or has served on the boards of several Canaan portfolio companies, including Arvinas, CytomX, IDEAYA Biosciences, NextCure, RallyBio, Halda Therapeutics, Novira Therapeutics, Civitas Therapeutics, Vivace Therapeutics, and AER Therapeutics.

Previously, Dr. Shannon was President and Chief Executive Officer of CuraGen, a biopharmaceutical company focused on oncology, after serving as Executive Vice President of R&D and Chief Medical Officer. He also held positions of increasing responsibility for Bayer’s Pharmaceutical Business Group, including Senior Vice President of Global Medical Development. Prior to his career in industry, he was an Assistant Professor in the Pulmonary and Critical Care Division at Yale University School of Medicine.

Dr. Shannon received his B.A. in Chemistry from Amherst College, his medical degree from the University of Connecticut, and completed his postgraduate medical training at the Beth Israel Hospital of Harvard Medical School and Boston University.

Sakae Asanuma, CFA, MBA
President & CEO, Taiho Ventures
Sakae Asanuma, CFA, MBA
President & CEO, Taiho Ventures

Mr. Sakae Asanuma established Taiho Ventures as the founding President in 2016. Prior to joining Taiho, he was President and CEO at Astellas Venture Management and US Head of Astellas Innovation Management in 2011-2015. Prior to Astellas, he worked for Yasuda Enterprise, a Japan/US-based VC firm in 2000-2011. He has invested in more than 50 biotech companies since 2000 and majority of his portfolios achieved IPOs or M&AS. During his tenure at Taiho and Astellas, he led to executed dozens of research collaboration deals with academia and biotech ventures, including several build-to-buys or spinouts.

Paulina Hill, PhD
Partner, Sanofi Ventures
Paulina Hill, PhD
Partner, Sanofi Ventures

Dr. Paulina Hill joined Sanofi Ventures in 2022 with a background in early-stage biotech investing and company building. Prior to joining Sanofi, Paulina was a Principal on the investment team at Omega Funds where she served as the board director or observer for Scorpion Therapeutics, Arrakis Therapeutics, IFM, and additionally led or co-led Omega’s investments in Theseus (NASDAQ: THRX), Ikena (NASDAQ: IKNA), Synthekine and Vanqua Bio.

Prior to joining Omega Funds, Dr. Hill began her career with Polaris Partners. She served on the boards of Kala Pharmaceuticals (NASDAQ: KALA), Neuronetics (NASDAQ: STIM) and Lyra Therapeutics (NASDAQ: LYRA), Microchips Biotech (acquired by Dare Biosciences), Arsenal Medical and CAMP4 Therapeutics, where she was the founding CEO.

Dr. Hill completed her postdoctoral fellowship in Professor Robert Langer’s lab in the Chemical Engineering department at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). During her time at MIT, she founded the MIT Postdoctoral Association and served as its President. Paulina also served on the MIT Intellectual Property Committee. Paulina completed her PhD in Molecular Medicine from the Wake Forest University School of Medicine. Paulina graduated magna cum laude from East Carolina University with a quadruple major in biochemistry, neuroscience, biology, and chemistry. Paulina attended East Carolina University on a full athletic scholarship and served as the captain of the women’s varsity tennis team.

Debanjan Ray, MBA
President and Chief Executive Officer of Synthekine
Debanjan Ray, MBA
President and Chief Executive Officer of Synthekine

Mr. Debanjan Ray has 20 years of experience in high-growth companies in the biopharma industry, including leadership expertise in corporate strategy, portfolio management and fundraising, partnering and M&A transactions. He has served as Synthekine’s President and Chief Executive Officer since the company’s formation in 2019 and over that time has led the growth of Synthekine from an early stage platform company to multi-modality, multi-asset clinical stage company.

Before joining Synthekine, he served as Chief Financial Officer and head of corporate development at CytomX Therapeutics, capping an eight-year tenure in roles of increasing responsibility. He helped advance CytomX from an early stage platform technology to multi-asset clinical stage company, led financing efforts and closed multiple collaborations with several leading pharmaceutical companies including Bristol Myers Squibb, AbbVie, and Amgen, that generated over $500 million in upfront payments and up to $5 billion in milestones. Prior to joining CytomX in 2011, Mr. Ray was VP of Business Development at Itero Biopharmaceuticals. Earlier in his career, Debanjan held positions in business development at Portola Pharmaceuticals, in the life sciences venture practice at J.P. Morgan Partners and as a business analyst in the healthcare practice at McKinsey & Company.

Debanjan received his MBA from The Wharton School, University of Pennsylvania, and his BS in chemical engineering and biology from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

Lynn Yang, MD, MBA
Partner, Sequoia Capital China
Lynn Yang, MD, MBA
Partner, Sequoia Capital China

Mrs. Lynn Yang is a partner at Sequoia Capital China focusing on investment in innovative healthcare companies. Prior to joining Sequoia Capital China in May of 2015, she worked at healthcare investment team of Legend Capital. Lynn has led and participated in investments across all areas of venture growth and in different fields within the healthcare industry, including Cstone (2616.HK), Grail, Burning Rock, JW Therapeutics, Hongkong Asia Medical, Qihan Bio (eGenesis counterpart in China), Hifibio, and others.

Prior to her years in investment and venture capital, Lynn worked as business development manager at Johnson & Johnson and product manager at GE Healthcare. Mrs. Yang holds an MBA from Duke University and Master of Clinical Science from Huazhong Technology University.

Rachel Humphrey, MD
Founding Chief Executive Officer
Rachel Humphrey, MD
Founding Chief Executive Officer

Rachel Humphrey has over 25 years of experience in clinical drug development, particularly in the field of cancer treatments and immunotherapies. Highlights of her career include leading the development of multiple blockbuster cancer therapies: the CTLA-4 inhibiting immunotherapy Yervoy® (ipilimumab) at BMS, the PD-L1 inhibiting immunotherapy Imfinzi® (durvalumab) at AstraZeneca, and the kinase inhibitor cancer drug Nexavar® (sorafenib) at Bayer. After working at these big pharmaceutical companies, Rachel took her drug development expertise to emerging biotech companies, where she served in the role of Chief Medical Officer at Black Diamond Therapeutics, CytomX Therapeutics and Mirati Therapeutics, respectively. She previously served on the Board of Directors of CytomX Therapeutics and Xilio Therapeutics, respectively, and currently serves on the Board of Directors of Pyxis Therapeutics and Sporos Bioventures. Rachel started her career as an oncology fellow and staff physician at the National Cancer Institute. She received her training in internal medicine at The Johns Hopkins Hospital, her MD from Case Western Reserve Medical School, and her B.A. from Harvard University.

Scientific Advisory Board.

Roy Herbst, MD, PhD
Yale School of Medicine
Roy Herbst, MD, PhD
Yale School of Medicine

Dr. Herbst is the Ensign Professor of Medicine, Professor of Pharmacology, Chief of Medical Oncology, Director of the Yale SPORE in Lung Cancer, and Associate Director for Translational Research at Yale Cancer Center (YCC) and Yale School of Medicine. He has worked over several decades as a pioneer of personalized medicine and immunotherapy to identify biomarkers and bring novel targeted treatments and immunotherapies to patients, serving as principal investigator for numerous clinical trials testing these agents in advanced stage lung cancers. His research and clinical collaborations have led to the approval of several therapies (such as gefitinib, cetuximab, bevacizumab, axitinib, atezolizumab, and pembrolizumab), which have revolutionized the field and greatly enhanced patient survival. His work on “umbrella” trials has galvanized the field of targeted therapy and cancer drug approvals at the FDA. Nationally, he is at the forefront of personalized medicine and works closely with public-private partnerships to develop large clinical studies, such as Lung-MAP. The NCI Lung SPORE he leads has identified new mechanisms of sensitivity and resistance to immunotherapy.

Nils Lonberg, PhD
Canaan; previous SVP Oncology Discovery Biology at BMS
Nils Lonberg, PhD
Canaan; previous SVP Oncology Discovery Biology at BMS

Dr. Nils Lonberg has 30 years of operational experience in Biotech and Pharma, focusing on platform innovation, drug discovery, and drug development. Most recently, he was Senior Vice President, Oncology Discovery Biology, at Bristol-Myers Squibb, where he led drug discovery efforts for both targeted and immuno-oncology agents, including the checkpoint blockade therapies ipilimumab and nivolumab. Nils also has experience in startup and midsize biotech, serving as Scientific Director at GenPharm and Medarex. He received his PhD in Biochemistry and Molecular Biology from Harvard University and was elected to the National Academy of Engineering in 2015.

Mario Sznol, MD
Yale School of Medicine
Mario Sznol, MD
Yale School of Medicine

Dr. Mario Sznol is a Professor of Medicine (Medical Oncology) at Yale and Co-Director of the Cancer Immunology Program and Leader of the Melanoma/Renal Cancer Translational Research Team at Yale Cancer Center. Formerly with the National Cancer Institute (NCI), Dr. Sznol has an international reputation in cancer drug development. His expertise and experience are in cancer immunotherapy, drug development for cancer and treatment of patients with melanoma and renal cell carcinoma. He has contributed to the development of cytokines, cell therapies, co-stimulatory antibodies and immune checkpoint inhibitors, through the design, execution and analyses of clinical trials and clinical development plans as well as through direct patient care.

After completing a fellowship in medical oncology at Mount Sinai College of Medicine in 1987, he joined the NCI as a Senior Investigator in the Investigational Drug Branch (IDB), Cancer Therapy Evaluation Program (CTEP). From 1994-1999, Dr. Sznol was head of the Biologics Evaluation Program, IDB, CTEP where he was responsible for clinical development of multiple biological and immune therapy agents. In 1999, he left NCI to become Vice President of Clinical Development for Vion Pharmaceuticals. He joined the Yale faculty in medical oncology in 2004.

Taha Merghoub, PhD
Weill Cornell Medicine
Taha Merghoub, PhD
Weill Cornell Medicine

Dr. Taha Merghoub is the deputy director of the Sandra and Edward Meyer Cancer Center at Weill Cornell Medicine. His research centers on discovering and improving immunotherapies that more effectively harness immune responses to improve outcomes in patients with cancer. He received his BA degree from University of Algiers, Algeria, and MS and PhD degrees with highest distinction from University of Paris, France. His thesis work focused on the study of genetic polymorphism in fetal hemoglobin genes in patients with sickle cell anemia and thalassemia. His findings provided insight to the correlation of genotypes and phenotypes in sickle cell anemia and thalassemia. After graduation, he pursued his postdoctoral research with Dr. Pier Paolo Pandolfi at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center. He characterized the transcriptional properties of the Pokemon gene and its role during development. He also played an active role in the generation of laboratory models for acute promyelocytic leukemia and furthered his knowledge and experience in genetics.

Drew M. Pardoll, MD, PhD
Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine
Drew M. Pardoll, MD, PhD
Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine

Dr. Pardoll is an Abeloff Professor of Oncology, Medicine, Pathology and Molecular Biology and Genetics at the Johns Hopkins University, School of Medicine.  He is the Director of the Bloomberg~Kimmel Institute for Cancer Immunotherapy and Director of the Cancer Immunology Program at the Sidney Kimmel Comprehensive Cancer Center at Johns Hopkins.  Dr. Pardoll attended Johns Hopkins University, where he earned his M.D., Ph.D., in 1982 and completed his Medical Residency and Oncology Fellowship in 1985. He then worked for three years at the National Institutes of Health as a Medical Staff Fellow.  Dr. Pardoll joined the departments of oncology and medicine in 1988. Dr. Pardoll has published over 300 papers as well as over 20 book chapters on the subject of T cell immunology and cancer vaccines.  He has served on the editorial board of the Journal of the National Cancer Institute and Cancer Cell, and has served as a member of  scientific advisory boards for the Cancer Research Institute, the University of Pennsylvania Human Gene Therapy Gene Institute, Biologic Resources Branch of the National Cancer Institute, Harvard-Dana Farber Cancer Center, Cerus Corporation, Global Medical Products Corporation, Genencor Corporation, CellGenesys Corporation, Mojave Therapeutics, the American Association of Clinical Oncology and the American Association of Cancer Research.  Dr. Pardoll has made a number of basic advances in Cellular Immunology, including the discovery of gamma – delta T cells, NKT cells and interferon-producing killer dendritic cells.  Over the past two decades, Dr. Pardoll has studied molecular aspects of dendritic cell biology and immune regulation, particularly related to mechanisms by which cancer cells evade elimination by the immune system. He is an inventor of a number of immunotherapies, including GVAX cancer vaccines and Listeria monocytogenes based cancer vaccines. Dr. Pardoll’s basic immunology discoveries include the identification of gd-T cells, NKT cells and IKDC. He elucidated the role of Stat3 signaling in tumor immune evasion and in Th17 development, leading to the discovery that Stat3-driven Th17 responses promote carcinogenesis. Dr. Pardoll discovered one of the two ligands for the PD-1 inhibitory receptor and leads the Hopkins cancer immunology program that developed PD-1 pathway-targeted antibodies, demonstrating their clinical activity in multiple cancer types. His more than 300 articles cover cancer vaccines, gene therapies, cancer prevention technologies, recombinant immune modulatory agents for specific pathways that regulate immunity to cancer and infectious diseases.

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