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 for Tizona. She is leading discovery and development work on Tizona’s immuno-oncology and autoimmunity programs.
Most recently, Courtney was the Head of Cancer Immunotherapy at Oncothyreon, where she spearheaded several novel immune modulatory biologic programs. Prior to that, Courtney 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 that are key pillars in Amgen’s current immunotherapy strategy and product pipeline. During her tenure at Amgen, 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 under Dr. Alexander Rudensky, the world leader in understanding the development and immune suppressive functions of regulatory T cells.
John Corbin, PhD
Chief Technology Officer
John is the Chief Technology Officer for Tizona. In his role, he is responsible for antibody discovery and engineering.
Prior to joining Tizona, John was at Gilead Sciences, where he oversaw antibody discovery and engineering. In addition, John was a project team leader for several therapeutics antibody programs ranging from early stage through Investigational New Drug-enabling development. Previously, he held several positions of increasing responsibility at XOMA LLC. At XOMA, he was responsible for all aspects of biomolecular interaction analysis required for the discovery and development of therapeutic antibodies. He also led XOMA’s insulin receptor antagonist program (XOMA 358) from inception through lead selection.
John received his Ph.D. in Biology from University of California at Santa Cruz and completed his postdoctoral research at the University of Colorado at Boulder. John has been published in numerous peer-reviewed journals and has U.S. patent and U.S. applications relating to therapeutic antibodies.
Vinay Bhaskar, PhD
Partner, MPM Capital
Dr. Vinay (Vin) Bhaskar is a Partner at MPM Capital, where he is responsible for investment identification, due diligence and business development. Vin recently served as startup COO of Werewolf Therapeutics and is a board member of Amphivena Therapeutics.
Prior to joining MPM, Vin led external R&D for the oncology therapeutic area at Amgen, where he was instrumental in forging collaborations with companies such as Kite Pharma, Merck and Xencor. During this time, he also led internal immuno-oncology strategy discussions and served as executive sponsor and/or board observer for several Amgen Ventures investments, including Surface Oncology, Precision BioSciences and Tizona, which was founded by MPM. He joined Amgen through its acquisition of Onyx Pharmaceuticals, where he led preclinical search, evaluation and diligence for licensing and acquisition opportunities on the Asset Acquisition Team. Prior to joining Onyx, Vin held a variety of roles of increasing responsibility in discovery research at Portola Pharmaceuticals, XOMA, PDL Biopharma and Eos Biotechnology. In these roles, he initiated and led multiple preclinical project teams and functional groups focused on biologies that spanned oncology, inflammation and cardiometabolic disease. Through these endeavors, he has gained broad expertise across all phases of drug discovery, early development and process sciences.
Vin holds a Ph.D. in Biochemistry from the University of California, Los Angeles and a B.S. in Biochemistry from the University of California, Davis.
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.
Linda Slanec Higgins, PhD
SVP, Gilead Sciences
Linda Slanec Higgins, PH.D is currently Sr. Vice President Research, External Innovation at Gilead Sciences. She joined Gilead in 2010 and in her first nine years led Biology, significantly expanding the therapeutic area scope and capabilities of the department. She previously served as the President & CEO of InteKrin Therapeutics and as Head of Research at Scios, Inc., a Johnson & Johnson company, where she provided leadership for drug discovery, preclinical development, and translational medicine.
Dr. Higgins is passionate about biopharmaceutical discovery and development, and has been dedicated to excellence in applied scientific research since 1991. She has led projects and departments in multiple therapeutic areas including CNS, fibrosis, inflammation, cardiovascular, virology, and oncology. Dr. Higgins built many of these as new areas at Scios and Gilead.
Dr. Higgins earned an A.B. in Behavioral Physiology from Kenyon College, a Ph.D. in Neurosciences from the University of California, San Diego School of Medicine, and completed postdoctoral training in Molecular Genetics at the Howard Hughes Medical Institute at the University of California, Berkeley.
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.
Chris Takimoto, MD, PhD
SVP, Gilead Sciences
Chris has nearly three decades of experience in oncology and drug development and he is currently a Senior Vice President in Oncology at Gilead Sciences. Previously, he was the Chief Medical Officer of Forty Seven, Inc., a clinical stage, public biotechnology company that was acquired by Gilead, and he has also served as a Vice President for Oncology Experimental Medicine Early Development at Johnson & Johnson/Janssen R&D. He has held faculty positions at the University of Texas Health Science Center San Antonio, the National Cancer Institute, and the Uniformed Services University in Bethesda, MD. He has completed fellowships in Medical Oncology and Clinical Pharmacology and he is a graduate of the Yale University School of Medicine where he received an MD and PhD in pharmacology. He also holds an undergraduate degree in Chemistry from Stanford University.
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.
Charles G. Drake, MD, PhD
Co-Director Prostate Cancer Multi-Disciplinary Clinic, Professor, Oncology, Immunology and Urology, Johns Hopkins Sidney Kimmel Comprehensive Cancer Center. Scientific Co-Founder and Advisory Board Member of Tizona Therapeutics.
Dr. Drake has published extensively, has won numerous awards and honors for his research and scholarship, and holds several patents. He is a diplomate of Medical Oncology with the American Board of Medical Examiners and a member of the American Association of Immunology, the American Association for Cancer Research and the American Society of Clinical Oncology. His areas of expertise include immunotherapy and the diagnosis and treatment of cancers of the prostate, kidney, bladder and testes.
Dr. Drake graduated with a B.S. in electrical engineering and M.S. in biomedical engineering from Rutgers University in Piscataway, NJ. He then received a Ph.D. in immunology from the National Jewish Center for Immunology, and in 1997 completed an M.D. at the University of Colorado Health Sciences Center. He conducted an internal medicine residency on the Osler Service at Johns Hopkins, and in 2002 he completed a fellowship in medical oncology, also at Johns Hopkins. He joined the Johns Hopkins faculty as an assistant professor in 2002.
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.
Mark Smyth, PhD
Professor Mark Smyth is a Senior Scientist and Immunology Coordinator at QIMR Berghofer Medical Research Institute. He completed his PhD in 1988 and trained at the NCI (1988-1992), before commencing his independent research career in Australia. Over the last 20 years he rekindled world-wide interest in cancer immune surveillance, defined immune-mediated dormancy of cancer, and the role of the host in chemotherapy and targeted therapy responses in mice and humans.
More recently, he has provided new means of classifying natural killer cell (NK) subtypes and two new targets for cancer immunotherapy. He is a past winner of the Coley Medal and Brupbacher Foundation Prizes in Cancer Research. He is the highest cited immunologist in Australia and is a Senior Editor and Advisory Board Member for Cancer Research and Science, respectively.
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.
We are developing cancer treatments that have the potential to be first- and best-in-class treatments, and core components of immunotherapy combination regimens.
In August 2020, Tizona entered into a transformative alliance with Gilead Sciences whereby Gilead purchased a minority interest in Tizona and has the exclusive option to acquire the remainder of the company. This collaboration will fund Tizona’s first-in-class programs, such as TTX-080 and TZ-040, as well as other early pipeline programs.
Tizona remains dedicated to translating novel scientific insights into first-in-class immunotherapies and Gilead is a partner who shares our passion for science and delivering breakthrough innovation to patients with cancer.
Issuers of corporate securities are required to complete Internal Revenue Service Form 8937 to report organizational actions that affect the basis of the securities involved in the organizational action. The tax information contained herein is provided for informational purposes only and should not be construed as legal or tax advice. Tizona does not provide legal or tax advice. Please consult your personal tax advisor for assistance as to how this information will impact your specific tax situation.