Tizona is applying novel scientific insights to change the course of cancer progression and relapse
We believe success comes from a team of cross-functional experts focused on a common vision. For us, it is improving treatment outcomes for people with cancer. Our employees, leadership, Board of Directors, advisors, partners and investors live it. We hope one day, so will patients.
Chief Executive Officer
Christine O’Brien is the Chief Executive Officer for Tizona and a member of the Board of Directors. O’Brien joined Tizona in 2015 and served most recently as the Chief Operating Officer. During her time at Tizona, she has led the cross-functional execution of the company’s portfolio and operating plan during a time when the organization advanced two, first-in-class immunotherapies into the clinic. Additionally, O’Brien provided leadership for clinical stage project teams, working successfully with external partners to shape strategy and development plans.
Prior to joining Tizona, Christine held the dual roles of Senior Director of Strategic Operations and Chief of Staff to the President, and Product Team Leader for Kyprolis® at Onyx Pharmaceuticals, an Amgen subsidiary. From 2003-2015, Christine held positions of increasing responsibility at Amgen, where she was accountable for large, complex cross-functional initiatives to improve Amgen’s drug development process and pipeline planning and execution. Christine also served as the Program Manager at Amgen for the cross-functional transition teams and delivery of effective change and engagement strategy following Amgen’s acquisition of Onyx Pharmaceuticals, Inc.
Christine has a Master’s of Science in Management and Leadership from Pepperdine University and a Bachelor’s of Science in Labor and Industrial Relations and Psychology from The Pennsylvania State University.
Courtney Beers, PhD
Chief Scientific Officer
Courtney is the Chief Scientific Officer at Tizona Therapeutics, bringing to the role 30 years of experience in immunology and cancer research, drug development, as well as scientific strategy and leadership. She joined Tizona in 2015 to build the pipeline and research team needed to advance work critical to the Company’s strategy. During Dr. Beers’ tenure, the company has advanced two Tizona–generated, first-in-class therapeutics into the clinic while also building an innovative portfolio of programs with the goal of positively impacting the lives of cancer patients.
Prior to joining Tizona, Dr. Beers was the Head of Cancer Immunotherapy at Oncothyreon, where she spearheaded several novel immune-modulatory biologic programs. In addition, she held roles of increasing responsibility at Amgen and Immunex in the Therapeutic Innovation Unit, as well as the Oncology Discovery Research. Her immuno-oncology research resulted in multiple discovery programs and contributed to Amgen immunotherapy strategy and product pipeline. Dr. Beers was the Global Research Lead for Imlygic® (talimogene laherparepvec), the first oncolytic viral immunotherapy to win FDA approval. She also led Amgen’s AMG 228 program from inception to phase 1 clinical trials.
Courtney earned her Ph.D. in Immunology from the University of Washington mentored by Dr. Alexander Rudensky.
Swami Murugappan, MD, PhD
Chief Medical Officer
Swami Murugappan is an executive consultant serving the role of Chief Medical Officer at Tizona Therapeutics. He will be responsible for developing and executing clinical development strategies for the Tizona Therapeutics pipeline. He is the founder and owner of Trident Bio Consulting Inc, which provides clinical development services to life sciences organizations focused on Hematology and Oncology drug development. Previously, he was the Vice President at Nutcracker Therapeutics, a mRNA platform company, where he led both non-clinical and clinical functions and was responsible for driving programs from preclinical to IND, execution of clinical studies, and managing regulatory filing activities. Prior to Nutcracker, Swami was the Executive Director and global product lead for a CD19 CAR-T (Tecartus™) at Kite Pharma, where he led a successful US and EU filing and subsequent FDA approval of Tecartus™ for relapsed and refractory mantle cell lymphoma. Before Kite, Swami worked at Amgen in early and late phase oncology programs within clinical development and supported global filings and approvals of Vectibix™ and ImLygic™ (first in class Oncolytic virus).
Swami is a ABIM board-certified Hematologist and Oncologist. He completed his fellowship training at the University of Washington/Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center after his Internal Medicine training at Drexel University. He graduated from Temple University with his PhD in Physiology and received his MD degree from Chennai Medical College, India.
Erin Johnson, PhD
Vice President, Program Leadership and Alliance Management
Erin Johnson joined Tizona in 2020 as the Vice President of Program Leadership and Alliance Management. She brings more than 15 years of experience to her current role leading program, project, and alliance management, as well as the therapeutic development of Tizona’s lead clinical stage asset, TTX-080. Additionally, she manages the company’s strategic alliance with Gilead Sciences.
Prior to Tizona, Erin was the Program Team Leader for the GRANITE program at Gritstone Oncology, where she led the cross-functional strategic development of this novel personalized cancer vaccine. In addition, she worked successfully with external partners to manage the complex manufacturing and supply requirements for this individualized therapeutic candidate. Previously, she held several leadership positions at BioMarin Pharmaceutical, including serving as the Palynziq® (pegvaliase) team lead during BLA submission and review. Erin also served as the development advisor for pre-clinical assets at BioMarin.
Erin earned her Doctorate in Chemical Engineering and her Masters of Science in Chemical Engineering Practice at Massachusetts Institute of Technology, as well as her Bachelors of Science in Chemical Engineering at the University of California, Davis.
Pankaj Bhargava, MD
Executive Partner, MPM Capital
Dr. Pankaj Bhargava is active in supporting MPM’s investment collaboration with Dana-Farber Cancer Institute (DFCI), after having previously served as an Attending Physician at DFCI for over a decade. In addition, Pankaj supports MPM’s relationships with its key strategic pharmaceutical partners and is currently acting Chief Medical Officer (CMO) at MPM portfolio company Aktis Oncology.
Prior to joining MPM, Pankaj served as Vice President and Head of the Oncology Therapeutic Area at Gilead Sciences where he was responsible for driving oncology strategy and execution across programs spanning preclinical development to post-marketing commitments. In this role, Pankaj was instrumental in building the Gilead oncology portfolio with key partnerships and transactions including the acquisition of Forty Seven, Inc. and immuno-oncology partnerships with Arcus Biosciences, Agenus, Tizona and Pionyr Therapeutics.
Pankaj has been involved in drug development over two decades, during which he oversaw several functions, including clinical research, clinical operations, pharmacovigilance, regulatory affairs and medical affairs. He previously served as Chief Medical Officer at Dicerna Pharmaceuticals where he focused on RNA therapeutics in oncology, rare diseases and liver diseases, and held roles with increasing responsibilities at Tioma Therapeutics (now ARCH oncology), Sanofi Oncology and AVEO Pharmaceuticals. Pankaj has filed multiple INDs and led global registration programs and regulatory filings leading to drug approvals in US, EU and other regions.
Pankaj earned his M.D. from the University of Delhi and completed his training in medical oncology and developmental therapeutics at Georgetown University and Lombardi Cancer Center. He also completed a post-doctoral fellowship in clinical pharmacology at Georgetown University and NIH, during which he was a visiting fellow at FDA. Pankaj previously served as an Assistant Professor at Harvard Medical School and Dana-Farber Cancer Institute (2004-2017), and currently serves as a Clinical Assistant Professor at University of California, San Francisco.
Kurt von Emster
Managing Partner, Abingworth
Kurt joined Abingworth in January 2015 bringing over 25 years of experience in life science investment. He began his career as a biotechnology and healthcare analyst in 1990, and then was promoted to Vice President and Portfolio Manager at Franklin Templeton. Kurt then became a General Partner at MPM Capital in 2000. In 2009, he co-founded venBio, a US healthcare investment firm and most recently was a Partner in the San Francisco office. He holds board positions at CymaBay, Jasper Therapeutics, Orbus Therapeutics, SFJ Pharmaceuticals, Tizona Therapeutics, Trishula Therapeutics, Vaxcyte and Vera Therapeutics. He was formerly on boards at Aurinia, CRISPR Therapeutics, Cytos, Kesios, Facet and Somaxon. Kurt holds a Bachelor of Science in Business and Economics and is a Chartered Financial Analyst.
General Partner, Canaan Partners
Nina Kjellson joined Cannan’s healthcare team from InterWest Partners where she has been investing in healthcare start-ups since 2002. She focuses primarily on investments in biopharmaceuticals and digital health. Nina is co-founder and co-chair of ConsumerMed.org, a forum to address the convergence of health care and consumer innovation and serves as a mentor to Blueprint Health, a digital health incubator and Springboard Life Sciences, an accelerator for healthcare companies driven by women entrepreneurs. Investment themes include innovative therapeutics for serious and underserved conditions, IT-enabled transformation of healthcare delivery and patient/consumer engagement.
Current investments include Cidara (CDTX), Eiger Biopharmaceuticals, Lycera, Ocera (OCRX), Paratek (PRTK), and WellTok.
Previous investments include Labrys Biologics (acquired by Teva), Alt12 (acquired by Honest Company), Trius Therapeutics (TSRX; acquired by Cubist), CNS Therapeutics (acquired by Covidien), NovaCardia (acquired by Merck), and Aspreva (ASPV; acquired by Galenica)
Prior to InterWest, Nina was an investment manager at Bay City Capital, a life sciences merchant bank, and a research associate at Oracle Partners, a health care-focused hedge fund. Nina began her career conducting health policy and survey research with the Kaiser Family Foundation.
Nina received a B.A. in human biology from Stanford University (1997).
She serves on the California Leadership Council for the Nature Conservancy and has been nominated to join the board of the California Family Health Council.
CEO, Tizona Therapeutics
Christine O’Brien is the Chief Executive Officer for Tizona and a member of the Board of Directors. O’Brien joined Tizona in 2015 and served most recently as the Chief Operating Officer. During her time at Tizona, she has led the cross-functional execution of the company’s portfolio and operating plan during a time when the organization advanced two, first-in-class immunotherapies into the clinic. Additionally, O’Brien provided leadership for clinical stage project teams, working successfully with external partners to shape strategy and development plans. Prior to joining Tizona, Christine held the dual roles of Senior Director of Strategic Operations and Chief of Staff to the President, and Product Team Leader for Kyprolis® at Onyx Pharmaceuticals, an Amgen subsidiary. From 2003-2015, Christine held positions of increasing responsibility at Amgen, where she was accountable for large, complex cross-functional initiatives to improve Amgen’s drug development process and pipeline planning and execution. Christine also served as the Program Manager at Amgen for the cross-functional transition teams and delivery of effective change and engagement strategy following Amgen’s acquisition of Onyx Pharmaceuticals, Inc.
Christine has a Master’s of Science in Management and Leadership from Pepperdine University and a Bachelor’s of Science in Labor and Industrial Relations and Psychology from The Pennsylvania State University.
VP, Corporate Development, Gilead Sciences
Siobhan Pomeroy joined Gilead Sciences Corporate Development team in June 2019 and has held roles of increasing responsibility, including oversight of the company’s oncology group. In her current role as Vice President, Corporate Development, Siobhan oversees a team responsible for executing transactions, including M&A and licensing, across Gilead’s core therapeutic areas. Since joining Gilead, Siobhan has been instrumental in executing a variety of transactions and partnerships, including the acquisitions of Immunomedics and Miro Bio and strategic collaborations with Arcus, Dragonfly and Tentarix.
Siobhan previously spent four years at AbbVie, where she focused primarily on oncology opportunities and led negotiations for several transactions, including novel early-stage collaborations with Pure MHC and Genomics Medicine Ireland. In 2015, Siobhan was involved in AbbVie’s acquisition of Pharmacyclics and later transitioned to California, as AbbVie built out its West Coast presence. Siobhan began her career in business development as an Associate in Smith & Nephew’s Strategy & Business Development group.
Siobhan received a B.S. in Chemistry from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and an MBA from the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania.
Chair, Tizona Therapeutics
Director, Myriad Genetics, Inc.
Former EVP & CFO, BioMarin Pharmaceutical Inc.
Mr. Spiegelman is currently the Board Chair at Tizona Therapeutics, Director of Myriad Genetics, Inc. and former Executive Vice President and Chief Financial Officer of BioMarin Pharmaceutical Inc.
Prior to joining BioMarin in May 2012, Mr. Spiegelman served as a strategic and financial consultant to a portfolio of public and private life science companies from May 2009 to May 2012. From 1998 to 2009, he served as Senior Vice President and Chief Financial Officer of CV Therapeutics where he was responsible for Finance, Accounting, Investor Relations, Business Development and MIS. From 1991 to 1998, Mr. Spiegelman served in various roles at Genentech, Inc., (now a member of the Roche Group) most recently as Treasurer. He received a Bachelor of Arts degree from Stanford University and an MBA from the Stanford Graduate School of Business.
Ana Anderson, PhD
Assistant Professor of Neurology at Harvard Medical School, Associate Scientist at the Brigham and Women’s Hospital, Associate Member of the Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard, and core faculty member of the Evergrande Center for Immunologic Diseases. Scientific Advisory Board Member of Tizona Therapeutics.
She obtained her B.S. in Microbiology and Immunology in 1993 from the University of Miami, where she graduated summa cum laude. She obtained her Ph.D. in Immunology from Harvard University in 1999. During her Ph.D. she was awarded a fellowship from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute.
Dr. Anderson works in the field of cancer immunology, specifically on the role of co-inhibitory receptors in regulation of the anti-tumor T cell response. Her laboratory identified the inhibitory molecule Tim-3 as a key regulator of T cell dysfunction in cancer. Prior to working in the field of cancer immunology, Dr. Anderson worked in the field of autoimmunity.
Dr. Anderson has published over 44 original papers, 12 reviews, and 5 book chapters. Her work on T cell cross-reactivity in autoimmunity was selected by Nature Immunology as a ‘Classic Paper in Autoimmunity’. She has also had several papers selected as either ‘must-read’ or ‘recommended’ by the Faculty of 1000.
Dr. Anderson is on the editorial board for OncoImmunology, Cellular Immunology, and Journal for Immunotherapy of Cancer. She served on the scientific advisory board for CoStim Pharmaceuticals, Inc., which was acquired by Novartis and currently serves on the scientific advisory boards for Potenza Therapeutics, Idera Pharmaceuticals, and Tizona Therapeutics.
Vijay K. Kuchroo, DVM, PhD
Co-Director of the Center for Infection and Immunity, Samuel L. Wasserstrom Professor, Department of Neurology, Associate Member, Broad Institute; Director, Evergrande Center for Immunologic Diseases, Harvard Medical School. Scientific Co-Founder and Advisory Board Member of Tizona Therapeutics.
Dr. Kuchroo currently holds a title of Professor of Neurology at the Harvard Medical School and Associate Immunologist at the Brigham and Women’s Hospital, Boston. Dr. Kuchroo has published over 340 original papers and numerous review articles. Dr. Kuchroo’s major research interests are studying the autoimmune diseases, particularly the role of co-stimulation (Cell; 80: 707-18,1995), genetic basis of EAE and type 1 diabetes (Nature Genetics, 21: 158-161, 1999) and cell surface molecules and regulatory factors (Nature 2002. 415:536-41; Nature Immunol. 2003 4:1102-10. ) that contribute to susceptibility and resistance to autoimmune diseases. Dr. Kuchroo’s laboratory has made several transgenic mice that serve as animal models for human disease (Proceedings National Academy of Sciences USA, 97: 3412-3417, 2000; J Exp Med. 2003; 5;197:1073-81 ). Dr. Kuchroo is on the Editorial Boards of the journals: Journal of Experimental Medicine, International Immunology, Scandinavian Journal of Immunology, Cellular Immunology and an ad hoc reviewer for a number of Immunology related journals. He was a permanent member of the grants review board of the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation, New York and scientific review board of the National Multiple Sclerosis Society, New York. Dr. Kuchroo is also an ad hoc reviewer for the research grants for various study sections at the National Institutes of Health. Based on his contributions, Dr. Kuchroo was awarded the Javits Neuroscience Award by the National Institutes of Health in 2002 and Ranbaxy Prize, 2011. Dr. Kuchroo is the first incumbent of the Samuel L. Wasserstrom Chair in Neurology at Harvard Medical School. Dr. Kuchroo is an inventor on 25 patents and has been a founder of five different start-up biotech companies. Dr. Kuchroo is on the scientific advisory boards of Pfizer, Glaxo Smith Klein and Novartis.
Dr. Vijay K. Kuchroo obtained a degree in Veterinary Medicine from the School of Veterinary Medicine, Hisar, India. He obtained a Ph.D. in Pathology from the department of veterinary pathology at the University of Queensland, Brisbane (Australia). Dr. Kuchroo received the Fred Z. Eager Research prize and medal for his Ph.D. research work at the University of Queensland. He served as Fogarty International Fellow at the National Institutes of Health, Bethesda for a year before joining the Department of Pathology, Harvard Medical School as a Research Fellow in the fall of 1986. Dr. Kuchroo joined the Center for Neurologic Diseases, Brigham and Women’s Hospital in 1992.
Drew Pardoll, MD, PhD
Abeloff Professor of Oncology, Medicine, Pathology and Molecular Biology and Genetics, Johns Hopkins University, School of Medicine; Director of the Cancer Immunology, Sidney Kimmel Comprehensive Cancer Center. Scientific Co-Founder and Advisory Board Member of Tizona Therapeutics.
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.
George Plitas, MD
Assistant Attending in the Department of Surgery at the Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center (MSKCC) and Assistant Professor at Weill Cornell Medical College. Scientific Advisory Board Member of Tizona Therapeutics.
Dr. Plitas holds the Jeanne A. Petrek Junior Faculty Chair and is a surgical oncologist specializing in the care of breast cancer patients, as well as pursuing translational tumor immunology research in the laboratory of Dr. Alexander Rudensky, Chair of the Sloan Kettering Institute’s Immunology Program. Dr. Plitas’ research focuses on the role of regulatory T cells in the development and progression of breast cancer.
He earned is M.D. degree from New York University in 2002, and completed a General Surgery residency in 2010. He completed a postdoctoral fellowship in Immunology and a Surgical Oncology Clinical fellowship at MSKCC.
Dario Vignali, PhD
Vice Chair and Professor of Immunology, Department of Immunology, University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine; Co-Leader of the Cancer Immunology Program, University of Pittsburgh Cancer Institute (UPCI), Hillman Cancer Center. Scientific Co-Founder and Advisory Board Member of Tizona Therapeutics.
Dr. Vignali’s labs focus on analysis of immune cell function in mouse model systems and disease models of cancer and autoimmune disease, and on inhibitory immune pathways in human cancers. Dr. Vignali’s research findings have been published in some of immunology’s leading journals, and he has been awarded five patents worldwide with several more awaiting approval. He also is a current member of the scientific advisory boards at two biopharmaceutical companies.
Since 1993, Dr. Vignali worked at St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital in Memphis, Tennessee, and served as vice-chair of its immunology department since 2008. He taught in the Department of Pathology at the University of Tennessee Medical Center since 1996.
He received his undergraduate education at North East London Polytechnic, now East London University, and completed his doctoral studies at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine at the University of London. Dr. Vignali completed two postdoctoral fellowships, one at the Institute for Immunology and Genetics at the German Cancer Research Center in Heidelberg, Germany, and the second in the Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology at Harvard University.
Jedd Wolchok, MD, PhD
Lloyd J. Old/Virginia and Daniel K. Ludwig Chair in Clinical Investigation, Chief, Melanoma & Immunotherapeutics Service, Associate Director, Ludwig Center for Cancer Immunotherapy, Associate Member, Ludwig Cancer Research, Professor of Medicine, Weill Medical College of Cornell University, Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center. Scientific Co-Founder and Advisory Board Member of Tizona Therapeutics.
Dr. Wolchok is Chief of the Melanoma and Immunotherapeutics Service and holds The Lloyd J. Old Chair in Clinical Investigation at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center (MSKCC) with an expertise in the treatment of metastatic melanoma. His additional appointments include: Head of the Swim Across America – Ludwig Collaborative Laboratory; Associate Director of the Ludwig Center for Cancer Immunotherapy (LCCI). He has helped establish MSKCC as a leader in the discovery and treatment of cancers with novel immunotherapies.
Dr. Wolchok was instrumental in the clinical development leading to the approval of ipilimumab for advanced melanoma. He is principal investigator of numerous ongoing clinical trials at MSKCC in the area of immunotherapy. He supervises an R01-funded basic science laboratory which is focused on investigating novel immunotherapeutic agents in pre-clinical mouse models. In 2011, he established the Immunotherapeutics Clinical Core, a specialized phase 1-2 outpatient unit at MSKCC that is focused on the conduct of novel immunotherapy trials, with a specific emphasis on pharmacodynamic biomarker identification. This group treats patients with a broad spectrum of malignancies.
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