As we have embarked on our expanded mission into immuno-oncology development and commercialization, our immuno-oncology scientific advisory board (SAB) provides strategic guidance and direction for our immuno-oncology R&D programs. The SAB includes scientific and clinical advisors who have made significant contributions to advancing the field of immuno-oncology.
Chief Development Officer, Coherus BioSciences
Dr. Theresa LaVallee is Chief Development Officer of Coherus BioSciences. She brings more than 25 years of drug discovery and development experience. Most recently, Dr. LaVallee was Vice President, Translational Medicine and Regulatory Affairs at the Parker Institute for Cancer Immunotherapy where she provided scientific leadership for clinical strategy for development of novel immuno-oncology therapies and helped establish the institute’s clinical, translational and regulatory organization. Previously, she held executive roles at Kolltan Pharma and Celldex Therapeutics. From 2008 – 2013, she was a member of the immuno-oncology team at AstraZeneca (MedImmune) developing checkpoint inhibitors and related diagnostics. She earned her Ph.D. from the University of California, Los Angeles and her bachelor’s degree from the University of California, Santa Barbara.
Physician Scientist and Senior Biotech Executive
Dr. Csiki is a physician scientist and senior biotech executive with over 20 years of experience in cancer research and drug development. Previously, Dr. Csiki most recently served as the chief commercial research and development (R&D) officer at City of Hope, an NCI-designated leading cancer center, where she led the development of a translational biotech-like R&D arm and oversaw the research business development and the office of transfer and licensing functions. Prior to that, Dr. Csiki served as the Chief Medical Officer at Sensei Biotherapeutics, where she was responsible for the clinical strategy for the discovery and development of cancer immunotherapies. Prior to Sensei, Dr. Csiki served as Vice of President of Immuno-Oncology Clinical Development at Inovio Pharmaceuticals where she led the advancement of Inovio’s DNA-based cancer immunotherapies. She also held clinical development lead roles at Merck responsible for pembrolizumab (Keytruda®) development in multiple indications as well as at GSK focused on multiple assets for various cancer programs. Dr. Csiki began her post-graduate career at the University of Pennsylvania, Perelman School of Medicine as a tenure-track physician scientist in the Department of Radiation Oncology. She earned an M.D. and Ph.D. in cancer biology from the Vanderbilt University School of Medicine. Her postdoctoral training included an internship in Internal Medicine and residency in radiation oncology at Vanderbilt and subsequently, a Holman Pathway Research Fellowship. She is also a General Management Program graduate from the Wharton Business School with focus in strategic innovation and entrepreneurship.
Professor, Molecular and Medical Pharmacology, Director, UCLA Metabolomics Center
Dr. Graeber takes an interdisciplinary ‘systems biology’ approach that merges biology, chemistry, mathematics and computation/bioinformatics to understand how cancer cells communicate with their environments, process nutrients and evade therapies. Dr. Graeber gathers multiple types of large data sets from patient tumor samples and then applies computational approaches to find trends, such as how tumor cells metabolize nutrients differently from other cells. The ultimate goal of this work is to identify new ways to diagnose and treat cancer on a cellular, patient-specific level.
Dr. Graeber aims to make advances in understudied cancers with few or no available targeted therapies. Rather than focusing on how cancer affects one specific organ, such as the prostate or lungs, he looks for commonalities among different cancer types in order to identify vulnerabilities that can be targeted by new drugs or cellular therapies. He is currently collaborating with clinician scientists to identify the common genetic activities that enable aggressive, treatment-resistant cancers from different tissues to metastasize.
Another area of focus in Dr. Graeber’s lab is determining how cancer cells de-differentiate, or revert to an earlier stage of development. De-differentiation can also be linked to cancer stem cells, which are able to self-renew and give rise to all cell types found in a tumor. De-differentiated cells can evade common treatments such as chemotherapy and radiation and cause recurrence of the disease. He discovered that melanomas – cancers that arise from the cells that produce pigments – can be divided into four distinct subtypes according to their stages of differentiation or maturity. He then found that less-mature melanoma cells showed sensitivity to a self-inflicted cell death called ferroptosis. This led to the finding that certain subtypes of melanoma could be targeted by a combination of existing cancer therapies and ferroptosis-inducing drugs.
Previously Senior Executive at Amgen and Merck
Dr. Gresser received his Ph.D. in Biochemistry in 1976 from Brandeis University, where his thesis research was done under the supervision of W.P. Jencks on the mechanism of ester aminolysis. He did postdoctoral studies at the Molecular Biology Institute at UCLA on the mitochondrial and chloroplast proton translocating ATP synthases, under the supervision of Paul D. Boyer.
In 1980, Dr. Gresser joined the Department of Chemistry at Simon Fraser University in Burnaby, British Columbia where he eventually became Professor of Chemistry. While there, Mike received the Excellence in Teaching Award, and did research on the biochemistry of Vanadium V, and on the mitochondrial proton-translocating ATPase.
In 1988, Dr. Gresser joined the Merck Frosst Center for Therapeutic Research in Kirkland, Quebec as Director of Biochemistry, and later became Executive Director of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology. Mike’s team worked on a variety of small molecule drug discovery programs, resulting in the introduction of numerous molecules into clinical trials. Three of these molecules, Singulair, Vioxx, and Arcoxia became products.
From 2000 to 2006 he was VP Research and Head of Inflammation Research at Amgen. His teams at Amgen worked on many molecular targets, introducing numerous small molecules, human antibodies, and other proteins into development.
Dr. Gresser has been advisor/SAB/Board member of several biotech companies, including Trillium, Oxford Biotherapeutics, and Zymeworks. From 2009 to 2014 he served as Chief Scientific Officer for the Myelin Repair Foundation, and from 2014 through 2018 served as Chief Scientific Officer for ImmunGene. Dr. Gresser has a faculty appointment as Adjunct Assistant Professor in the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry at the University of California, Los Angeles, and in 2019 co-founded Aksivi Therapeutics, where he serves as Chief Scientific Officer.
Biomedical Scholar Professor, Georgetown University
Dr. Khleif, M.D. is an immunologist and immune therapist. His research program is ”translational tumor immunology” focused on understanding mechanisms through which the immune system and cancer cells interact and how to overcome tumor tolerance in developing therapeutic approaches. Specifically, his research interests include developing novel immune therapeutics, cancer vaccines and delineating the mechanisms of resistance to immunotherapy.
Prior to transferring his research program to Georgetown University in 2017, Dr. Khleif served as the Director of Georgia Cancer Center, Augusta University. As Director of the Georgia Cancer Center, Dr. Khleif oversaw the development of a large integrated program of basic scientists and clinicians merging the Cancer Center strength in immunology, inflammation and tolerance basic science and immune therapy. Dr. Khleif was an intramural NIH scientist for about 20 years. While at NCI, he also served as a leader of the Cancer Vaccine Section, leading a nationally active Immune Therapy Program. His laboratory has conducted some of the earliest clinical trials in antigen vaccines and was the first to conduct vaccines against mutant oncogenes. In addition, in the past few years some of the discoveries made in his laboratory has been translated into first- in-human immune therapy clinical trials.
Dr. Khleif has published several studies on the mechanisms of tumor-induced suppression in animal models and have overcome such inhibition by developing strategies that have been translated into clinical trials. His laboratory has developed models to understand how different kinds of immune therapies can be combined to work synergistically and translated into clinical trials.
Chief, Division of Hematology/Oncology, the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center (UPMC) Hillman Cancer Center
Taofeek K. Owonikoko, MD, PhD, is the Chief of the Division of Hematology/Oncology at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center (UPMC) Hillman Cancer Center and in the Department of Medicine. Dr. Owonikoko also serves as Associate Director for Translational Research and Co-Leader of the Cancer Therapeutics Program at Hillman. He also holds the Stanley M. Marks – OHA Endowed Chair in Hematology/Oncology Leadership. Dr. Owonikoko also currently serves as Professor and Vice Chair for Faculty Development in the Department of Hematology and Oncology, leader of the Thoracic Oncology Program and co-leader of the Discovery and Developmental Therapeutics Research Program at the Winship Cancer Institute of Emory University. He previously held the position of the Medical Director of the Phase I Clinical Trials Program at Winship where he saw to the growth of the early phase clinical trials through the design and execution of innovative investigator-initiated trials and first-in-human trials in collaboration with pharmaceutical sponsors.
Dr. Owonikoko received his MBChB (MD equivalent) from Obafemi Awolowo University in Nigeria and his PhD from Heinrich Heine University in Germany. He completed a postdoctoral fellowship at Johns Hopkins University followed by residency in internal medicine at Drexel University. He also holds an M.S. in clinical research from Emory University. Dr. Owonikoko completed his hematology/oncology fellowship training at UPMC. Dr. Owonikoko has co-authored over 220 publications and serves on the editorial boards of several organizations. He has received numerous awards, including the Michaele C. Christian Oncology Development Lectureship and Award from the National Cancer Institute in 2020, the Heine Hansen Award for Small Cell Lung Cancer research from the International Association for the Study of Lung Cancer (IASLC), and the Leadership Development Program award from the American Society of Clinical Oncologists (ASCO). He began a four-year term on the ASCO Board of Directors in June 2021.
Director, Sanford-Burnham Medical Research Institute
Dr. Ware is a Director and Professor at the Infectious and Inflammatory Disease Center at the Sanford Burnham Prebys Medical Discovery Institute in La Jolla California. He is a leading immunologist and virologist, internationally recognized for his scientific discoveries and advances in the study of the immune system, leading to new therapeutics for autoimmune and viral diseases and cancer.
Dr. Ware received his doctorate in 1979 in Molecular Biology and Biochemistry at the University of California, Irvine, where he began his scientific research career by studying tumor destroying cytokines with Professor Gale A. Granger. Dr. Ware’s postdoctoral training included research with Dr. Jack Strominger and Dr. Tim Springer at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, Harvard Medical School. Dr. Ware established his own research laboratory in 1982 in the Biomedical Sciences Program at the University of California, Riverside, advancing to full professor in 1993. In 1996, he joined the La Jolla Institute for Allergy and Immunology as head of the Division of Molecular Immunology.
In 2010, he was recruited to the Sanford Burnham Prebys Medical Discovery Institute as Center Director, and also holds a joint appointment in the Department of Biology at the University of California, San Diego.