Julio Aguirre-Ghiso, Ph.D.

Julio A. Aguirre-Ghiso, PhD, is an Endowed Professor of Cell Biology and founding Director of the Cancer Dormancy and Tumor Microenvironment Institute at the Albert Einstein Cancer Center in New York City, where he co-directs the Gruss-Lipper Biophotonics Center and co-leads the Tumor Microenvironment and Metastasis Program also at the Cancer Center. He is also a member of the Stem Cell Institute and Aging Research Institute at Einstein. Previously, he was an Endowed Mount Sinai Chair of Cancer Biology in the Departments of Medicine (Hematology and Medical Oncology), Otolaryngology, and Oncological Sciences and Co-Leader of the Cancer Mechanisms Program at The Tisch Cancer Institute at Icahn School of Medicine School of Medicine in New York City, where he retains and Adjunct Professor position. He is also President of the Metastasis Research Society and has served at several leadership levels at AACR. He received his PhD from the University of Buenos Aires, Argentina in 1997 and completed his post-doctoral training as a Charles H. Revson Fellow at Mount Sinai School of Medicine in 2003. He became an Assistant Professor at SUNY-Albany the same year and since 2008 he was at ISMMS where he joined as Associate Professor and reached the rank of Professor in 2014 and of Endowed Chair in 2020. His work focuses on understanding the biology of residual cancer cells that persist in a dormant state after initial therapy. His research team led, along with others, a paradigm shift, revealing novel cancer biology that diverges from the notion that cancer is perpetually proliferating. His work has been published in top tier journals such as Nature, Nature Cell Biology, JEM, Nature Cancer, Science and Cancer Cell among others. His team discovered that reciprocal crosstalk between disseminated tumor cells and the microenvironment regulates the inter-conversion between dormancy and proliferation of metastasis. His lab has also provided mechanistic advances to the understanding of the process of early dissemination in breast cancer and how it contributes to dormancy and metastatic progression. His work also has mechanistically explored how adaptive pathways such as the unfolded protein response allow cancer cells to persist while quiescent. This knowledge enables targeting residual cancer before it becomes clinically detectable and thus preventing recurrences. His research, which has been applied in clinical studies, is revealing ways to maintain residual cancer dormancy, kill dormant cancer cells, and utilize markers to determine the dormant or active state of disseminated cancer cells.

Gregory L. Beatty, M.D., Ph.D.

Dr. Beatty is an Associate Professor, Medicine, in the Division of Hematology/Oncology at the University of Pennsylvania Perelman School of Medicine. Dr. Beatty directs the Clinical and Translational Research Program in the Abramson Cancer Center Pancreas Program. Dr. Beatty’s clinical expertise is in the area of early clinical trials for the treatment of gastrointestinal malignancies including pancreas, esophageal and colon carcinomas. He has led the first clinical study of CD40 immunotherapy for pancreas cancer, the first in-human study of a novel inhibitor of indoleamine 2,3 deoxygenase, and first-in-human studies of chimeric antigen receptor (CAR) T cells for the treatment of pancreas cancer.

In addition to the translation of immunotherapeutic strategies for the treatment of gastrointestinal malignancies, Dr. Beatty’s clinical research is focused on translating novel imaging strategies to the clinic to understand therapeutic responses to immunotherapy. A priority of his research program is to develop and translate novel treatment strategies for pancreatic cancer, esophageal cancer, colon cancer, and glioblastoma.

Based on early clinical findings supporting a role for immunotherapy in pancreatic carcinoma, Dr. Beatty’s laboratory is using preclinical models of cancer to advance our understanding of the role of the immune system in regulating tumor biology with the primary goal to inform the development of novel immunotherapeutics for translation to the clinical setting.

Lisa M. Coussens, Ph.D.

Dr. Coussens is chairwoman of the department of cell, developmental & cancer biology, associate director for basic research in the Knight Cancer Institute at Oregon Health & Sciences University and holds the Hildegard Lamfrom Endowed Chair in Basic Science.

Dr. Coussens’ research focuses on dissecting the roles of normal immune cells in regulating various facets of solid tumor development, identifying leukocyte activities that are co-opted by early tumors to support ongoing cancer development, and in understanding the role leukocytes play in regulating responses to cytotoxic, targeted and immune-based therapies. Utilizing mouse models of mesothelioma, cutaneous, head and neck, pancreas and mammary carcinoma, her research identified critical immune-regulated pathways for therapeutic targeting that are being clinically translated in combination with chemotherapy in women with metastatic triple negative breast cancer, pancreas cancer, and head & neck squamous cancer.

In recognition of her research contributions for revealing underlying mechanisms of cancer development, Dr. Coussens’ has been acknowledged with multiple awards in recognition of her scientific contributions including the American Association for Cancer Research (AACR) Gertrude B. Elion Award (2001), the AACR-Women in Cancer Research Charlotte Friend Memorial Lectureship (2012), the 13th Rosalind E. Franklin Award from the National Cancer Institute (2015), a Doctor in Medicine (honoris causa) from the University of Buenos Aires in Argentina (2018), the 12th AACR-Princess Takamatsu Memorial Lectureship (2018), a Career Award from the European Academy of Tumor Immunology (2018), the 2018 Susan G. Komen Brinker Award for Scientific Distinction in Basic Science, and recently elected as Fellow of the American Association for Advancement of Science (AAAS; 2018) and Fellow of the AACR Academy (2019).

Ruggero De Maria, M.D.

Professor Ruggero De Maria obtained his M.D. at the University of Catania (1989) and completed his residence training in endocrinology at the University of Palermo (1994). During his postdoc at the Department of Experimental Medicine, University of Rome, Professor De Maria produced several key contributions to the understanding of cell death signaling in normal and cancer cells with the intent to define the mechanisms responsible for cell depletion or accumulation. In 1998, he established his research group and identified the differential impact of T helper cytokines on cells targeted by the immune response or chemotherapy. During these years, he started a strong collaboration with the Department of Hematology, Oncology and Molecular Medicine at the Italian National Institute of Health (NIH), becoming Research Director in 2000 and Chairman in 2008. At the Italian NIH, he began to study stem cell differentiation and the homeostatic regulation of hematopoiesis. He demonstrated the existence of a key physiological and pathological mechanisms of erythropoiesis regulation by caspase-mediated cleavage of erythroid transcription factors. Moreover, he discovered that chemotherapy-induced anemia is due to the selective destruction of early erythroblasts, while chemotherapy-induced thrombocytopenia from destruction of megakaryocytic progenitors. The most groundbreaking discovery of Professor De Maria concerns the identification of cancer stem cells in colorectal and lung cancers, which have revolutionized both our conceptual understanding of cancer biology and the possibility to develop effective therapeutics.

At the end of 2011, he became Director of the Regina Elena National Cancer Institute in Rome, one of the major comprehensive cancer centers in Italy. This allowed Ruggero to devote all of his research activities toward translational cancer research. Since 2013, Professor De Maria has served as the President of Alliance Against Cancer, the Italian network of comprehensive cancer centers. Under his supervision, the network is actively working to launch several precision medicine programs across Italy with a singular goal of bringing the most impactful innovations into the clinical practice. Moreover, since 2016 Professor De Maria has been the Director of the Institute of General Pathology at the Catholic University of Rome and President of the Italian Institute for Genomic Medicine in Turin, Italy.

José Iglesias, M.D.

José Iglesias, M.D., is consultant chief medical officer at HiberCell. He has more than 30 years of experience in oncology. Prior to working with HiberCell, José was vice president and head of translational medicine at Boston Biomedical Inc., where he was responsible for the clinical development of seven early pipeline compounds in immuno-oncology, solid tumor oncology and hematologic malignancies.

Previously, José was chief medical officer at Biothera where he was responsible for the clinical development program of Imprime-PGG. Prior to that, he was the chief medical officer for Bionomics where he was responsible for the clinical development of its oncology pipeline, including antivascular agents, monoclonal antibodies and small molecule kinase inhibitors. Before that, he served as vice president, clinical development, at Celgene Corporation, where he was responsible for the Phase III development of Abraxane in pancreatic cancer, lung cancer and metastatic breast cancer.

José is author or co-author of more than 60 publications in the area of Oncology, with over 6,000 citations. He received his M.D. in oncology and cancer biology from the Universidad de Montevideo, Uruguay.

Christoph Klein, M.D.

Dr. Christoph A. Klein obtained his medical degree from the Ludwig-Maximilans-University (LMU) of Munich in 1995. He performed his M.D. thesis research within the laboratories of G. Riethmüller (Institute of Immunology, University of Munich) and T.W. Mak (Ontario Cancer Institute) where he commenced his formative studies on single cell technologies for the analysis of single disseminated cancer cells in the mid 1990’s.

Following his postdoctoral training at the Institute of Immunology, LMU Munich, he was awarded with the BioFuture Award from the German Ministry of Science to establish an independent research group in 2001. The BioFuture award, which recognizes early scientific excellence and achievements, was amongst the most prestigious awards presented to junior group leaders in Germany. In 2004, Christoph became member of the Bavarian Genome Research Network and in 2006 was promoted to Professor for Oncogenomics within this same group. Since 2010 he has served as Chair of Experimental Medicine and Therapy Research at the University of Regensburg. Christoph was also appointed as the Head of the Fraunhofer Project Group entitled “Personalized Tumor Therapy”, which is a division of the Fraunhofer Institute of Toxicology and Experimental Medicine (ITEM) in 2010. The Fraunhofer ITEM-Regensburg group is a not-for-profit that is focused on translating basic science into the clinic in partnership with industry collaborators.

Christoph and his group have continued to focus on how solitary cancer cells derived from solid cancers disseminate from the primary tumor, survive at ectopic sites and interact with the tumor microenvironment. This focus provided foundational insights within the metastasis field that include an observation that cancer cells disseminate very early during tumorigenesis, that cancer cells continue to evolve outside the primary tumor via the acquisition of important driver alterations and that cancer cells alter their phenotype dramatically in response to microenvironmental cues and interactions before they eventually form their own “tumor microenvironment.” Collectively, these findings have resulted in several novel concepts of metastatic disease progression, including the “parallel progression model” and the “framework model” (cancer dormancy). Christoph and his group continue to build on these models with a goal of improving systemic therapy prediction, monitoring systemic cancer evolution and developing rational stage-specific therapies.

Dr. Klein continues to be internationally recognized for his innovative work in the metastasis field. Recognitions include the prestigious Dr. Josef Steiner Award in 2011, the German Cancer Award in 2014, the Gerhard-Domagk Award in 2017 and most recently, the I.J. “Josh” Fidler Innovation in Metastasis Research Award from the Metastasis Research Society in 2018.

Philip Rowlands, Ph.D.

As our consulting Head of Development, Philip Rowlands brings deep experience developing new classes of transformative medicines and technology platforms with a goal of improving outcomes for patients fighting cancer.  Phil has spent 32 years in large and mid-size pharmaceutical companies in roles spanning preclinical and clinical R&D.  Trained as a pharmacologist, toxicologist and embryologist, his career started in 1988 in developmental toxicology, first at Zeneca/ICI, and then at Sterling Drug in the UK. Through a series of roles of increasing responsibility in preclinical development, based in the UK, Europe, and then the US, he worked at Sterling, Sanofi, GD Searle and Pharmacia. In 2003, following acquisition, he transferred to Pfizer as an exploratory development director and has been focused exclusively on oncology drug development from that time. At Pfizer, Phil led multiple programs spanning small molecule and biologic modalities, and crossing multiple mechanistic classes including anti-angiogenesis, signal transduction, cell cycle inhibition, and immunotherapy.  Programs he oversaw through different phases of preclinical and clinical development that ultimately led to new medicines included: bosutinib, crizotinib, dacomitinib, exemestane, inotuzumab, palbociclib, and tremelimumab.

In 2011, Phil moved to Takeda/Millennium, initially, as lead portfolio management and program leadership, and later, among a small management group piloting the first version of a fully integrated Therapeutic Area group comprising program leadership, program and portfolio management, and clinical development into one unit responsible for oncology R&D strategy, oversight of execution against that strategy, and development portfolio goals and budget. From 2015-2020, Phil was Oncology Therapeutic Area Head.  In this time, working closely with discovery and commercial partners, he oversaw the critical pivot of the research strategy to development of next generation breakthrough immune-oncology programs, the acquisition of ARIAD, new indication delivery for Adcetris, Ninlaro and Iclusig, new medicines in brigatinib and mobocertinib, regional approvals for cabozantinib and niraparib, and advancement into the clinic of the next wave of immunotherapy approaches including a novel STING agonist, a sumoylation inhibitor, an attenuated cytokine, an armored oncolytic vaccine, and critical partnerships to bring in multiple next generation cell therapy and bispecific platforms.  Consistently a champion of the central role of the multifunctional project team as the core of strategic development and execution, Phil also played a key part in generating and leading key initiatives to advance the integration of scientific, medical, commercial and patient inputs into strategic development and the practice of asset strategy.

Ronald Wek, Ph.D.

Ronald Wek, Ph.D., is the Showalter Professor of Biochemistry and is internationally recognized for his research on eIF2 phosphorylation and translational control in cellular adaptation to stresses, including perturbations in the endoplasmic reticulum and nutritional deficiencies. Since 1992, Dr. Wek has led a research laboratory at Indiana University School of Medicine that focuses on cellular stress response pathways and gene expression and their roles in health and disease. Dr. Wek’s research group contributed to the discovery and characterization of the eIF2 kinases PERK (EIF2AK3) in the Unfolded Protein Response and GCN2 (EIF2AK4) during nutritional deficiency. Because multiple eIF2 kinases respond to different stress conditions, this pathway is referred to as the Integrated Stress Response. Dysregulation of the eIF2 kinases and their associated stress response pathways have far-reaching biomedical significance for understanding the etiology and treatment of cancers, diabetes and related metabolic disorders, neuropathologies and infectious diseases. Dr. Wek’s research defined many of these translational control mechanisms and contributed to the understanding of the regulation and function of key target genes downstream of PERK and GCN2, including the transcription factors, ATF4 and CHOP (DDIT3), and feedback regulator GADD34 (PP1R15A).

Dr. Wek’s research has involved extensive collaborations at Indiana University and many other laboratories nationally and internationally. Dr. Wek has published over 130 research articles, reviews and commentaries, with over 12,000 citations and a current h-index of 56. He is supported by numerous grants from National Institutes of Health (NIH) and other support agencies and has served on numerous and diverse review panels for the NIH and other granting agents. Dr. Wek is an Associate Editor of the Journal of Biological Chemistry and an active member of the American Society of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology (ASBMB).

Wek received his Ph.D. from University of California, Irvine where he trained in molecular genetics. He then did a postdoctoral fellowship at the NIH with Dr. Alan Hinnebusch. This early training provided the groundwork for Dr. Wek’s pioneering research in the roles that eIF2 phosphorylation plays in adaptation to external and internal stresses encountered by cells and tissues.