The work of E. Antonio Chiocca, MD, PhD, is focused on developing novel genetic therapies for malignant brain tumors by engineering viruses that can kill tumor cells without affecting normal brain cells. Dr. Chiocca’s laboratory is combining this research with novel pharmacological and immunotherapeutic approaches for brain cancer. 

Currently, Dr. Chiocca is enrolling patients in a clinical trial using an oncolytic herpes simplex virus type 1 from which scientists have removed or modified pieces to stop it from replicating in normal cells, but not in tumor cells. Dr. Chiocca’s lab is also studying gene, viral and immunotherapy of brain tumors, how to circumvent the host responses that limit the efficacy of novel engineered viruses that target gliomas, as well as how to stimulate the antitumor immune response. 

Recently Dr. Chiocca identified a potential setback to the use of this treatment. He found that natural killer cells (NK cells), a type of white blood cell that targets viruses and sometimes tumors within the body, attack the virus-infected cells, making the treatment much less effective. Dr. Chiocca has identified the specific receptors that allow the NK cells to impede the virotherapy and is looking for ways to prevent this so the treatment can work to its full potential and be the most effective. 

Dr. Chiocca completed medical school at The University of Texas Houston and his residency in neurological surgery at Massachusetts General Hospital. In 2007, Dr. Chiocca received an ACGT Clinical Translation Award. 

Mitchell (Mitch) Finer, PhD, is the chief scientific officer of ElevateBio and president of ElevateBio BaseCamp. He has been instrumental in founding, building and leading a number of MPM Capital portfolio companies. He founded and is the former CEO of Oncorus, focused on the development of oncolytic herpes viruses for the treatment of solid tumors. He is also a founder and the former CEO of CODA Biotherapeutics, focused on developing a chemogenetic neuromodulation platform for the treatment of severe neurological disorders. Dr. Finer serves on several MPM Capital portfolio company boards, including CODA, Oncorus, Semma Therapeutics and TCR2 Therapeutics. 

For three decades, Dr. Finer has focused on drug development, utilizing the novel platforms of cell and gene therapy, cancer immunotherapy and regenerative medicine, and he has held several senior leadership roles in companies developing these therapies.  

Prior to joining MPM Capital, Dr. Finer was the CSO of bluebird bio. He also served as CEO of Intracel Corporation and Genteric, vice president research for Cell Genesys and the Gencell division of Aventis Pharma (now Sanofi) and senior vice president of development at Novacell (now Viacyte). He also successfully co-founded the retinal disease gene therapy company Avalanche Biotechnologies (now Adverum Biotechnologies) where he serves as a member of the board of directors. 

Dr. Finer has been named inventor on 15 issued U.S. patents. He received his PhD in biochemistry and molecular biology from Harvard University and a BS in biochemistry and microbiology from the University of California, Berkeley. He completed a post-doctoral fellowship at the Whitehead Institute for Biomedical Research at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. 

Joseph C. Glorioso, III, PhD, is emeritus chair of the University of Pittsburgh Medical School Department of Microbiology and Molecular Genetics, having served as chair for 20 years.  

He is the founding editor for Gene Therapy and served in that position for 20 years. He also is a founding member and former president of the American Society of Gene and Cell Therapy and former president of the Department Chairs of the US Medical School Microbiology and Immunology Departments. He is a fellow of the American Society for Microbiology (ASM) and the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS). He has had an active NIH-supported research program for 40 years and has been an active NIH Study Section member for several decades. Dr. Glorioso also co-founded and is chair of the Scientific Advisory Boards of Oncorus Inc. Cambridge, MA; and Coda Biotherapeutics, San Francisco, CA.  

Dr. Glorioso’s contributions to science include defining antiviral immune responses to herpes simplex virus (HSV) infection, the genetics of HSV pathogenesis and latency, and mechanisms of HSV infection. He has pioneered the design and application of HSV gene vectors for the treatment of nervous system diseases such as peripheral neuropathies, chronic pain, and brain tumors. He continues to be a worldwide leader in the HSV gene vector field through the creation of innovative gene delivery technologies and the development of manufacturing methods for application of HSV vectors in human clinical trials. 

At the University of Pennsylvania, Carl H. June, MD, is the Richard W. Vague Professor in Immunotherapy in the Department of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine; director of the Center for Cellular Immunotherapies at the Perelman School of Medicine; and director of the Parker Institute for Cancer Immunotherapy. He also directs a research laboratory that studies various mechanisms of lymphocyte activation that relate to immune tolerance and adoptive immunotherapy for cancer and chronic infection. 

In 2011, Dr. June and his research team published findings detailing a new therapy in which patients with refractory and relapsed chronic lymphocytic leukemia were treated with genetically engineered versions of their own T cells. The treatment has now also been used with promising results to treat children with refractory acute lymphoblastic leukemia.  

Dr. June has published more than 350 manuscripts and is the recipient of numerous prizes and honors, including election to the Institute of Medicine in 2012 and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 2014, William B. Coley Award, Richard V. Smalley Memorial Award from the Society for Immunotherapy of Cancer, AACR-CRI Lloyd J. Old Award in Cancer Immunology, Philadelphia Award in 2012, Taubman Prize for Excellence in Translational Medical Science in 2014 (shared with S. Grupp, B. Levine and D. Porter), Paul Ehrlich and Ludwig Darmstaedter Prize (shared with J. Allison), Novartis Prize in Immunology (shared with Z. Eshaar and S. Rosenberg), Karl Landsteiner Memorial Award, Debrecen Award and a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society. Dr. June received the Alliance for Cancer Gene Therapy’s Edward Netter Leadership Award in 2019. In 2022, Dr. June received the Keio Medical Science Prize, which is awarded by Japan’s oldest private university, Keio University.

Dr. June is a graduate of the Naval Academy in Annapolis and Baylor College of Medicine in Houston. He had graduate training in Immunology and malaria with Dr. Paul-Henri Lambert at the World Health Organization in Geneva, Switzerland, from 1978 to 1979 and post-doctoral training in transplantation biology with E. Donnell Thomas and John Hansen at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle from 1983 to 1986. Dr. June is board certified in Internal Medicine and Medical Oncology. 

Noriyuki Kasahara, MD, PhD, is Chief Scientific Officer at 4D Molecular Therapeutics (4DMT)  and adjunct Professor at UCSF in the Departments of Neurological Surgery and Radiation Oncology.

Previously Dr. Kasahara was a professor of cell biology and pathology at the University of Miami and served as co-Leader of the Viral Oncology Program at the Sylvester Comprehensive Cancer Center. Other past positions include professor of medicine and molecular pharmacology at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) where he was director of the UCLA Vector Core and Shared Resource facility at the Jonsson Comprehensive Cancer Center for more than a decade. He also established and directed vector core facilities as a faculty member at the University of Southern California.  

Dr. Kasahara has more than 30 years of experience and has authored more than 140 peer-reviewed articles in the fields of gene therapy and genetic engineering. He pioneered the development of tumor-selective retroviral replicating vectors (RRV) for gene therapy of cancer, including first-in-human multi-center clinical trials sponsored by Tocagen Inc. 

Dr. Kasahara serves on the Board of Directors of the Japan Society of Gene & Cell Therapy (JSGCT), and the Global Outreach Committee for the American Society of Gene & Cell Therapy (ASGCT) and is a past president of the International Society for Cell and Gene Therapy of Cancer.  

He is a member of the Scientific Advisory Boards of Tocagen Inc., POC Medical Systems Inc., the Mendez National Institute of Transplantation Foundation, GenVivo Inc., GeneMedicine Inc., and Klotho Therapeutics Inc.  

Dr. Kasahara trained with Professor Y. W. Kan at UCSF, a pioneer in the field of genetic diagnostics and recipient of the Lasker Award. 

Crystal L. Mackall, MD, is the Ernest and Amelia Gallo Family Professor of Pediatrics and Internal Medicine at Stanford University. She serves as founding director of the Stanford Center for Cancer Cell Therapy, associate director of Stanford Cancer Institute, leader of the Cancer Immunology and Immunotherapy Program and director of the Parker Institute for Cancer Immunotherapy at Stanford.  

During a 27-year tenure culminating as chief of the Pediatric Oncology Branch, NCI and now through the Mackall Lab at Stanford, she has led an internationally recognized translational research program focused on immunooncology. She has conducted numerous early phase and first-in-human and first-in-child clinical trials spanning dendritic cell vaccines, cytokines and adoptive immunotherapy using NK cells and genetically modified T cells.  

Dr. Mackall’s work is credited with identifying an essential role for the thymus in human T cell regeneration and discovering IL-7 as the master regulator of T cell homeostasis. Her group was among the first to demonstrate impressive activity of CD19-CAR in pediatric leukemia, developed a novel CD22-CAR with impressive activity in leukemia and lymphoma refractory to CD19 targeting, and is leading exciting work focusing on CAR T cell therapy for brain tumors. Her group has identified T cell exhaustion as a major feature limiting the activity of CAR T cells. Recently, Dr. Mackall’s group has developed novel approaches to prevent and reverse human T cell exhaustion. Her clinical trials are notable for incorporation of deep biologic endpoints that further our understanding of the basis for success and failure of novel immunotherapeutics.  

Dr. Mackall is the recipient of numerous awards and is a member of the American Society of Clinical Investigation, the National Academy of Medicine, and the American Academy of Physicians. She serves in numerous national leadership positions, including co-PI on the NCI Pediatric Cancer Immunotherapy Network (U54), leader of the NCI Pediatric Cancer Immunotherapy Trials Network, and co-leader of the St. Baldrick’s-StandUp2Cancer Pediatric Dream Team. She is board certified in pediatrics, pediatric hematology-oncology and internal medicine. In 2022, Dr. Mackall received the Sarcoma Foundation of America’s Nobility in Science Award.

Pamela Ohashi, PhD, is co-director of the Campbell Family Institute for Breast Cancer Research, senior scientist at the Princess Margaret Cancer Centre, and professor in the Departments of Medical Biophysics and Immunology at the University of Toronto. She is also the director of the Tumor Immunotherapy Program at the Princess Margaret Cancer Centre.  

Dr. Ohashi’s research interests involve understanding T cell tolerance, strategies to promote tissue specific immune responses and translating these findings in clinical trials.  

Dr. Ohashi received her PhD from the University of Toronto with Dr. Tak Mak and completed her post-doctoral training at the University of Zurich with the Nobel Laureate Dr. Rolf Zinkernagel and Dr. Hans Hengartner.  

Dr. Ohashi has received many prestigious awards and honors, including the American Association of Immunologists (AAI) Pharmingen Investigator Award, National Cancer Institute of Canada’s William E. Rawls Award, The Canadian Society of Immunology’s Investigator Award as well as a Tier 1 Canada Research Chair.  

She previously served as the chair of the Cancer Immunotherapy Steering Committee of the American Association for Cancer Research (AACR) and she served on the Board of Directors of the Society for Immunotherapy of Cancer (SITC). She is an elected member of the Royal Society of Canada.  

Shari Pilon-Thomas, PhD, is a Senior Member of the Immunology Department at Moffitt Cancer Center in Tampa, FL. She is currently the Co-Director of the Center for Immunization and Infection Research in Cancer.

She received her PhD in Immunology/Microbiology from Wayne State University in Detroit, MI, and completed her postdoctoral fellowship in the Department of Surgery, Tumor Immunology, Immunotherapy from the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor. Her research focuses on the advancement of immunotherapy, specifically vaccine-based approaches and adoptive T-cell therapy for a wide variety of solid tumors.   
 
Dr. Pilon-Thomas’ research program is one of the leading efforts in bridging the space between basic science and clinical immunotherapy trials for patients with solid tumors. She has spearheaded the optimization of tumor-infiltrating lymphocyte (TIL) expansion protocols and translation of TIL therapy at Moffitt Cancer Center. She develops immunotherapeutic treatment strategies in murine models and collaborates with clinicians to develop clinical trial protocols based on her laboratory research. Her collaborations have resulted in TIL-based trials for patients with melanoma, sarcoma, bladder cancer, H&N squamous cell carcinoma, and cervical cancer. Her lab leads the immune monitoring effort on these trials for the measurement of suppressive factors and tumor-specific immune responses, results of which inform subsequent trial design. 

Katy Rezvani, MD, PhD, is a professor at the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center, where she is the Sally Cooper Murray Endowed Chair in Cancer Research, a professor of medicine, the Chief of the Section of Cellular Therapy in the Department of Stem Cell Transplant and Cellular Therapy, Executive Director of the Adoptive Cell Therapy Platform, and Director of Translational Research and Medical Director of the MD Anderson GMP and Cell Therapy Laboratory.

Her lab studies the role of natural-killer (NK) cells in mediating immunity against glioblastoma as well as other solid tumors and seeks to understand the mechanisms of tumor-induced NK cell dysfunction. The goal of her research is to develop strategies for genetically engineering NK cells to enhance their in-vivo anti-tumor activity and persistence.

Her laboratory has extensive experience in multi-parameter flow cytometry, CyTOF, xenogenic NSG mouse models of human cancer, and various molecular biology techniques. She leads the NK immunotherapy program at MD Anderson and translates multiple innovative strategies from bench to bedside, including a first-in-human trial of CAR NK cells in patients with lymphoid malignancies.

She serves as the leader of the Stem Cell Transplantation and Cellular Therapy Program of the MD Anderson Cancer Center Support Grant. She has served as co-PI for the Cancer Medicine Fellowship T32 program at MD Anderson Cancer Center since 2018 and as a CPRIT TRIUMPH faculty mentor since 2019. She has had 19 trainees in her laboratory. Thirteen of her former trainees hold faculty positions at academic institutions. She has also served on the mentoring committees of multiple junior faculty members and the thesis committees of numerous PhD students. 

Stephen J. Russell, MD, PhD is a world-renowned researcher in the field of gene and virus therapy.  He combines more than three decades of leadership as a clinician and researcher with extensive experience in all aspects of drug discovery and development. 

A board-certified hematologist, Dr. Russell is a co-founder of Vyriad, the Richard O. Jacobson Professor of Molecular Medicine at Mayo Clinic and immediate past President of the American Society of Gene and Cell Therapy. 

Early in his career, Dr. Russell pioneered novel methods for engineering viral cancer immunotherapies.  He was a founder of Cambridge Genetics, a biotechnology company, and the European Society of Gene Therapy.  At the Mayo Clinic, Dr. Russell founded the Department of Molecular Medicine and built a comprehensive oncolytic virotherapy program.  He has authored more than 400 peer-reviewed research papers and is a frequent speaker at scientific and medical conferences. 

Dr. Russell graduated in medicine from Edinburgh University, Scotland, with distinctions in microbiology and surgery. He later earned his PhD at the University of London after researching the retroviral/parvoviral transfer of interleukin genes to cancer cells as a novel approach to immunotherapy, which led to a clinical gene therapy trial at Marsden Hospital, England. Dr. Russell held appointments at hospitals throughout England and Scotland before moving to the United States to join the Mayo Clinic.  

“Many genetically engineered viruses have been shown to destroy tumors in mice,” says Dr. Russell. “There is therefore no question that they will eventually prove to be useful in the treatment of human cancer. Our current challenge is to understand the barriers to success that are absent in tumor-bearing mice but present in cancer patients, and to devise new treatment strategies to address them.” 

Michel Sadelain, MD, PhD, is the Stephen and Barbara Friedman chair and the founding director of the Center for Cell Engineering at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center. He previously served on the board of directors of the American Society of Gene Therapy (2004-2007) and currently serves on the editorial boards of the peer-reviewed scientific journals Molecular Therapy, Human Gene Therapy and Gene Therapy

Dr. Sadelain’s research focuses on novel approaches to enhance T cell co-stimulation and function. His clinical program focuses on B cell malignancies, including on-going studies with CD19-targeted T cells in chronic lymphocytic leukemia and upcoming studies in acute leukemia and lymphoma, as well as solid tumors, including upcoming studies in metastatic prostate cancer. 

George D. Yancopoulos, MD, PhD, is co-founder, president and chief scientific officer of Regeneron Pharmaceuticals. He has led Regeneron alongside co-founder and CEO Len Schleifer, MD, PhD, since 1989 and served as a principal inventor and developer of Regeneron’s six FDA-approved drugs and foundational technologies, including the Trap technology VelociGene® and VelocImmune®

Dr. Yancopoulos has been driven by science his entire life. He began his education at the Bronx High School of Science, received his MD and PhD from Columbia University and went on to become the 11th most highly cited scientist in the world in the 1990s.  

In 2004, Dr. Yancopoulos was elected to be a member of the National Academy of Sciences.   

Savio L.C. Woo, PhD, dedicated his career to the pursuit of fundamental science and technology development in gene and cell therapy, and to the translation of laboratory advances into direct patient benefits. 

Dr. Woo is an internationally recognized expert in molecular human genetics and gene therapy. He received his PhD in biochemistry from the University of Washington, Seattle, in 1971 and completed a post-doctoral fellowship at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver, Canada. He joined the faculty at Baylor College of Medicine in Houston, becoming professor of cell biology (1984-1996) and founding director of its Center for Gene Therapy (1991-1995). He joined the faculty at the Mount Sinai School of Medicine in 1996. 

Dr. Woo has held many prominent leadership positions in the field, including chairman of an NIH Study Section on Gene Therapy Vector Development and as president of the American Society for Gene & Cell Therapy (1999-2000). He has published more than 350 articles, reviews and book chapters. 

Named for the 1965 hit song by the Beach Boys, Barbara Ann Lavery has a passion for creativity. Whether she’s transforming the landscapes of Ireland, Iceland and California into large-scale abstract paintings or finding and funding life-changing opportunities to cure cancer, Ms. Lavery is guided by an inspired sense of appreciation for innovation. 

“Cell and gene therapies embrace an entirely new paradigm,” says Ms. Lavery whose years of experiences with non-profit and for-profit organizations, government agencies, and academic institutions helped build her framework of knowledge in life sciences. “Since its inception, Alliance for Cancer Gene Therapy has led the way in recognizing and advancing revolutionary new ideas that really matter.” 

As chief program officer of Alliance for Cancer Gene Therapy, Ms. Lavery is responsible for programmatic initiatives, including leadership of the Academic Research Program and the Biotechnology Investment Program.

“This is my dream job,” says Ms. Lavery. “It combines science and research with business development and venture philanthropy in a forward-thinking, non-profit environment that’s dedicated to brilliant people who are finding creative new solutions to some of cancer’s toughest challenges. I love it!” 

Keri Eisenberg joined Alliance for Cancer Gene Therapy (ACGT) at the beginning of 2023 as the chief philanthropy officer. Her near-20 years of fundraising and stewardship experience includes: a nonprofit organization for people with Parkinson’s disease; and one of the top university-affiliated medical institutions in the world.

As ACGT’s  chief philanthropy officer, Ms. Eisenberg is responsible for strategically developing ACGT’s fundraising initiatives and fostering philanthropic alliances with individual donors, corporations, medical institutions, nonprofit partner organizations and other stakeholders committed to advancing cell and gene therapy for cancer.

“My role is to serve as a bridge between passionate donors whose dream is to have a lasting impact and the scientists and researchers who are making transformative discoveries in the new frontier of cancer treatment,” says Ms. Eisenberg, who has a personal reason to help drive the progress of new cancer therapies.

When a loved one was diagnosed with stage 4 melanoma, Ms. Eisenberg put faith in the physicians and researchers at the comprehensive cancer center where her loved one received treatment, including immunotherapy. Despite the discouraging prognosis, her trust was rewarded – and this experience inspires her to give hope to others experiencing the same fight with cancer.

“He has now been in remission for a year and untethered by his diagnosis while he enjoys life with his wife and children. His story is one of hope and optimism, but like many, I have been devastated by the loss of loved ones and friends to cancer,” says Ms. Eisenberg, who combined her passion for fundraising with the medical field in 2013 when she became the Senior Director of Development for UCLA Health Sciences. “I am honored to join ACGT where our acute focus is on realizing a cancer-free future following promising ideas from bench to bedside. I cannot think of greater reward than helping people fulfill their dreams, foster hope and deliver new therapeutics to patients faster.”

Sharon DaCosta, who joined Alliance for Cancer Gene Therapy in November 2021 as the Foundation Administrator, has more than 15 years of administrative experience.

Ms. DaCosta served as administrative assistant or executive assistant in various industries, including finance and hospitality. She has an emotional connection for the work done at nonprofit organizations like Alliance for Cancer Gene Therapy, which is dedicated to researching new avenues to create a cancer-free future.

“It’s meaningful to me because I’ve lost family members to cancer,” says Ms. DaCosta, “and I really feel working for a non-profit is more meaningful than working for a large corporation. I feel more purposeful in what I do on a daily basis.”

She handles administrative duties for Alliance for Cancer Gene Therapy, including but not limited to management of the donor database, prepare donor communications, oversight of grant requests and payment timelines, assistance with external communication efforts, such as email newsletters and donor correspondence, and help with event planning and management.

Nearly three years before Devin Golden joined Alliance for Cancer Gene Therapy, he began his first job in the field of cancer. He worked for more than two years as a content specialist for a mesothelioma patient advocacy organization, where he grew a deep passion for helping people affected by all types of cancer. This led him to join Alliance for Cancer Gene Therapy as Content Manager in November 2021.

“I feel this vision – a cancer-free future – is my calling,” says Mr. Golden, who earned a journalism degree in 2010 and worked for various news publications for six years before transitioning to digital marketing. “Pretty quickly upon producing content related to cancer, I became invested in new therapies and treatment options. Immune checkpoint inhibitors, gene therapy and T-cell therapy are the next frontier in cancer treatment.”

Mr. Golden produces and maintains all external communication efforts to raise awareness of Alliance for Cancer Gene Therapy initiatives, including grant funding for research and clinical trials. His efforts, along with those of his colleagues, will hopefully usher in a cancer-free future for mankind.

“The work being done by organizations like Alliance for Cancer Gene Therapy is work I want to do to help people who have been told for years they have no options aside from surgery, chemotherapy and radiation,” says Mr. Golden.