Scientific Founders

Tmunity’s scientific founders are world leaders in cell and gene therapy, collectively representing an unparalleled track record of achievement with decades of demonstrated translational and manufacturing success in T cell medicine and related technologies. This assembly of luminaries is committed to the company's success and engaged through high-impact sponsored research agreements in the field.

 

Carl H. June, MD

Carl H. June, MD, is the Richard W. Vague Professor in Immunotherapy in the Department of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine. He is currently Director of the Center for Cellular Immunotherapies at the Perleman School of Medicine, and Director of the Parker Institute for Cancer Immunotherapy at the University of Pennsylvania. He maintains 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, 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. He 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, the William B. Coley award, the Richard V. Smalley Memorial Award from the Society for Immunotherapy of Cancer, the AACR-CRI Lloyd J. Old Award in Cancer Immunology, the Philadelphia Award in 2012, the Taubman Prize for Excellence in Translational Medical Science in 2014 (shared with S. Grupp, B. Levine and D. Porter), the Paul Ehrlich and Ludwig Darmstaedter Prize (shared with J. Allison), the Novartis Prize in Immunology (shared with Z. Eshaar and S. Rosenberg), the Karl Landsteiner Memorial Award, the Debrecen Award and a lifetime achievement award from the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society.

 

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, 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. He is board certified in Internal Medicine and Medical Oncology.

 

Bruce Levine, PhD

Bruce Levine, PhD, Barbara and Edward Netter Professor in Cancer Gene Therapy, is the Director of the Clinical Cell and Vaccine Production Facility (CVPF) in the Department of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine and the Abramson Cancer Center, Perelman School of Medicine, University of Pennsylvania. The CVPF develops and tests novel cell and gene therapies in single-center and multi-center clinical trials in patients with hematologic malignancies, solid tumors, HIV infection and genetic disease. Twenty clean rooms and Quality Control laboratories staffed by 60 clinical laboratory scientists and regulatory professionals support the mission. Several CVPF trials have been first-in-human trials, including the first use of a lentiviral vector, the first infusions of zinc finger nuclease genome-modified cells and the first use of lentivirally modified cells to treat cancer.

 

Dr. Levine has overseen the production, testing and release of 2,600 cellular products administered to more than 1,000 patients in clinical trials since 1996. Through these technologies, personalized and enhanced immunity has been engineered, T lymphocytes from HIV+ subjects have been rendered resistant to HIV infection and reinfused, and T lymphocytes from cancer patients have been redirected with chimeric antigen receptors to hunt and destroy their malignancies, in which this was an investigational therapy that received the first Breakthrough Designation from the FDA for an academic institution and is currently in commercial development. Dr. Levine is co-inventor on 17 issued US patents and co-author of more than 120 publications with a Google Scholar citation h-index of 66. He has been interviewed by The New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Forbes, BBC and other international media outlets. Dr. Levine received a BA in Biology from the University of Pennsylvania and a PhD in Immunology and Infectious Diseases from Johns Hopkins University.

 

Yangbing Zhao, MD, PhD

Yangbing Zhao, MD, PhD, is an Adjunct Associate Professor of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania (UPenn). He is also the Director of the T Cell Engineering Laboratory (TCEL), Center for Cellular Immunotherapies at the University.

 

His laboratory’s research and development work has led to multiple clinical trials for the treatment of solid tumors with genetically engineered T cells against mesothelioma, pancreatic cancer, breast cancer and glioblastoma. Prior to joining UPenn, he was a member of Dr. Steven Rosenberg’s group as a senior research fellow at the Surgery Branch of the National Cancer Institute, where his research work directly led to clinical trials of treating cancer patients with TCR- or CAR-engineered T cells against NY-ESO-1, Her2/Neu, CD19 or VEGFR. Two years prior, Dr. Zhao was a research associate at Duke University Medical Center, where he worked on RNA transfected dendritic cell vaccines against tumors. From 1996 to 2000, he was a visiting scientist at The Weizmann Institute of Science in Rehovot, Israel, where he studied tolerance induction through genetically engineered T cells for allogeneic bone marrow transplantation. Dr. Zhao received an MD and PhD in Immunology from the Third Medical University in Chongqing, China.

 

Anne Chew, PhD

Anne Chew, PhD, is the Executive Deputy Director for the University of Pennsylvania (UPenn) Center for Cellular Immunotherapies (CCI) and one of the co-founders of Tmunity. She is responsible for overall strategic and operational leadership of all CCI-sponsored research programs and translational development initiatives in cell and gene therapy. Since 2006, she has served in senior regulatory, clinical operations, manufacturing operations and translational sciences roles at UPenn. Dr. Chew has more than 15 years of translational research and development experience in both industry and academic settings. Together with Novartis, Dr. Chew played a pivotal role in preparing the UPenn CTL019 submission to the FDA that was granted Breakthrough Designation, and served as Co-Chair on the UPenn-Novartis Global Program Team, which was responsible for CTL019 clinical development. Dr. Chew received her undergraduate degree from Barnard College–Columbia University and her PhD in Genetics from Yale University School of Medicine.

 

James L. Riley, PhD

James L. Riley, PhD, is an Associate Professor of Microbiology at the University of Pennsylvania. He is an expert on cell biology and therapeutic use of primary human T cells. For the past 17 years, his lab at UPenn has developed a number of T cell-based therapies to treat HIV, cancer and autoimmune diseases. He is currently leading a Beyond HAART initiative that, among other studies, proposes to infuse HIV-resistant CD4 T cells. Dr. Riley also co-leads a Martin Delaney Collaboratory (BEAT HIV) that is proposing combination immunotherapy to cure HIV. As an officer in the US Army, he received postdoctoral training in Dr. Carl June’s laboratory, where he developed an interested in T cell signaling pathways and therapeutic uses of primary human T cells.

 

Dr. Riley graduated from Vanderbilt University with a BS in Molecular Biology, studying Dictyostelium iscoideum, and subsequently earned his PhD from Emory University in Dr. Jeremy Boss’ laboratory, studying the gene regulation of MHC class II genes.

 

Bruce Blazar, MD

Bruce Blazar, MD, is a Regents' Professor, an Associate Vice President of the Academic Health Center, Vice Dean for Clinical Investigation and founding director of the University of Minnesota Clinical and Translational Science Institute (CTSI) and the Center for Translational Medicine as well as Chief, Pediatric Blood and Marrow Transplantation Program. Dr. Blazar has made seminal contributions, over more than 30 years, to understanding the mechanisms underlying graft-versus-host-disease (GVHD), a major complication of blood and marrow transplantation, and in developing new therapies to prevent and treat GVHD while preserving anti-tumor immunity. His studies have resulted in multiple pivotal trials, bringing novel pharmaceutical agents, proteins and cell therapies to the clinic.

 

Dr. Blazar is the recipient of an NIH MERIT Award, the American Society of Blood and Marrow Transplantation E. Donnell Thomas Lectureship and Prize, ASH Ernest Beutler Prize and Lectureship, the Till and McCullough Lecture Award, Canadian Blood and Marrow Transplant Group and the Pediatric Blood and Marrow Transplant Consortium Lifetime Achievement Award. He is an elected member of the American Society of Clinical Investigation, Association of American Physicians, American Association for the Advancement of Science and the National Academy of Medicine. He is a past full member of three NIH study sections (one as founding chair), FDA Cell and Gene Therapy Committee, Leukemia and Lymphoma Society Translational Research Grant Committee, NCI Board of Scientific Counselors for Clinical Sciences and Epidemiology, and Immune Tolerance Network. Dr. Blazar is also Co-Chair of annual meetings for the American Society of Blood and Marrow Transplantation and American Society of Hematology and Editorial Board Member for numerous journals (currently Journal of Clinical Investigation; Science Translational Medicine). He has published more than 650 published papers in the field of blood and marrow transplantation. Dr. Bruce Blazar received a BS degree from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute and an MD degree from Albany Medical College, following which he obtained clinical training in Pediatrics and Hematology/Oncology/Blood and Marrow Transplantation at the University of Minnesota.

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