EpiVax  hosted an exciting JP Morgan Healthcare Conference Event: a panel discussion by expert alumni and friends of the University of Chicago, on new immune therapies (checkpoint inhibitors and personalized cancer vaccines). This event featured a panel with: Moderator: Alexander Johns (College 83, Booth ’87) and Panelists: Anne De Groot (Pritzker ’83, EpiVax), of Robert Ang, (Neon Therapeutics), Kees (Cornelis) Melief, (Isa Pharmaceuticals) and Jim Breitmeyer, (Bavarian Nordic) on the topic of cancer and autoimmune disease immunotherapy. Are we ready for the revolution? 

Moderator: Alexander Johns (College 83, Booth ’87) brings over two decades of bio-pharma strategy consulting experience from industry leaders, including many of the most successful launches, to start-up companies. Alexander earned his MBA from the University of Chicago in 1987 and joined Frank Lynn & Associates where he began bio-pharma strategy consulting in 1990. Alexander continued to expand his biotech clientele as Founder & Principal at Quality Directions 1991-1995 and then as Founder & Chairman of bioStrategies Group 1995-2011. Alexander now leads Areté Strategies as Founder & Chairman. Alexander and his colleagues provide a unique combination of experience and analysis-based strategic advice to address product development, marketing, business development, pipeline management and corporate strategy decisions.
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Panelist: Anne De Groot (Pritzker ’83), the founder and president of Providence-based vaccine company EpiVax, has been at the forefront of the ‘vaccines-on-demand’ movement for the past decade. Her company uses special computer driven tools to speed the process of vaccine development, and EpiVax scientists have already created several such vaccines- up to the pre-clinical phase of development – for the Department of Defense. She is now partnering with several oncology focused companies (and academic partners) to bring personalized cancer vaccines to the clinic.

What are Personalized vaccines? for more information:

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Panelist: Kees (Cornelis) Melief, Ph.D., Chief Scientific Officer Isa Pharmaceuticals
Cornelis Melief has made significant contributions to the field of immunology, in particular cancer immunology. In 1991, he became professor at the LUMC and since then his group has been working intensively to devise new cancer therapies based on the activation of the patient’s own immune system. Before, he headed the immunology department at the Netherlands Cancer Institute (NKI). Cornelis is member of the Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences. He is author of more than 450 peer-reviewed publications and inventor on more than 30 patents and patent applications.
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Panelist: Jim Breitmeyer, M.D., Ph.D., a Board certified Medical Oncologist,  has over 25 years of experience in the pharmaceutical industry, most recently as President of Bavarian Nordic, Inc. and Executive Vice President of Bavarian Nordic A/S (OMX:BAVA, OTC:BVNRY) where he was responsible for a $975M licensing agreement for an immuno-oncology asset to Bristol-Myers Squibb.  He held executive leadership positions at Zogenix (Nasdaq:ZGNX) where he remains a Director, Cadence Pharmaceuticals (acquired by Mallinkrodt, NYSE:MNK, 3/2014), Applied Molecular Evolution (acquired by Eli Lilly and Company, NYSE:LLY, 2/2004), Serono Laboratories (acquired by Merck KGaA 9/2006), and was the founding President and CEO of the Harvard Clinical Research Institute.  He received his MD and PhD in Immunology from Washington University in St Louis, and fellowship training at Washington University and Harvard Medical School. He has led efforts resulting in eight FDA and/or international product approvals including Zohydro, Ofirmev, Rebif, Saizen, Geref, Serostim, Fertinex, and Gonal-F.
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Panelist: Robert Ang, M.D., MBA, is chief business officer of Neon Therapeutics, a privately-held company focused on using neoantigen biology to generate immunotherapeutics including vaccines and T cell therapies. Prior to Neon, Robert served as the senior vice president of business development at Bavarian Nordic, an international biotechnology company developing and manufacturing novel cancer immunotherapies and vaccines for infectious diseases. In this role, Robert was primarily responsible for conducting the transaction between Bavarian Nordic and Bristol-Myers Squibb for PROSTVAC, a Phase 3 immuno-oncology asset, in a landmark $975M deal in March 2015.

Prior to joining Bavarian Nordic, Robert served as head of business development for Cadence Pharmaceuticals, where he executed a license transaction with Terumo Corporation. He also served as vice president of medical affairs, where he was responsible for medical information (including the call center, standard responses and product Dossier), the medical science liaison group, publications, grants, Phase 4 clinical studies and pharmacoeconomics, managing a team of 19 FTEs.

Prior to Cadence, Robert worked at Frazier Healthcare Ventures, a leading healthcare venture capital firm. At Frazier, he led two investment rounds in Cadence Pharmaceuticals alongside other investments in pharmaceuticals and biotechnology, including Incline Therapeutics (now The Medicines Company), Alnara Pharmaceuticals (now Eli Lilly) and Collegium Pharmaceuticals (which spun out PreCision Dermatology, now Valeant Pharmaceuticals). Prior to this, he founded Cure Therapeutics, a venture-funded early-stage pharmaceutical company, and served as its chief operating officer, primarily responsible for CMC, regulatory and intellectual property matters. Robert also has experience in management consulting with the Boston Consulting Group and general surgical residency training.

Robert holds an M.D. from the University of Western Australia and an MBA with honors from Columbia Business School.

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Panelist: Tony Bower, Ph.D., has held commercial and global market access leadership positions on the East Coast, California, and in Europe, at Synageva, Amgen, ALZA and SmithKline Beecham.  Most recently he was Vice President (Head) of Global Pricing, Reimbursement and Health Economics at Synageva BioPharma, which was purchased in 2015 by Alexion for $8.4B plus cash. In this capacity, he was the lead executive responsible for payer relationships globally.  In addition to over a dozen years of experience in industry and several years in consulting, he spent a decade at RAND, where he held the position of Senior Economist and published on health economics and technology assessments, as well as on the diffusion of information technology in health care. Tony earned his doctorate in Economics from the Stanford Graduate School of Business.  He lives with his wife and daughter in Pasadena, CA.