John Celebi has over 23 years of experience building innovative entrepreneurial biotechnology companies. Previously, Mr. Celebi served as the Chief Operating Officer of X4 Pharmaceuticals where he established and oversaw the company’s oncology business strategy. He also served as Chief Business Officer of Igenica Biotherapeutics, Inc., an immunotherapy company formed by The Column Group, 5AM Ventures, Orbimed and Third Rock Ventures, where he established key academic and industry relationships, including with MedImmune. He has extensive transactional and alliance management experience. Previously, he served as Vice President of Business Development, New Product Planning and Alliance Management at ArQule, Inc., where he played a central role in the formation of alliances with Roche, Daiichi-Sankyo, and Kyowa Hakko Kirin. Mr. Celebi was one of the early employees at Tularik, Inc., where he conducted drug discovery and basic research for an anti-viral drug program. Mr. Celebi received an M.B.A. from Carnegie Mellon University and a B.S. in Biophysics from the University of California, San Diego.
Dr. Pierce has more than two decades of scientific leadership and experience managing large teams dedicated to translation medicine platforms in academia and industry, particularly in immuno-oncology. Prior to Sensei, he was the Scientific Director of the Immunopathology Lab in the Clinical Research Division at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center. Dr. Pierce is a board-certified Anatomic Pathologist with a strong academic and industry background in immuno-oncology. He was previously the Chief Scientific Officer of OncoSec Medical. His research is focused on the mechanisms of tumor-induced immune tolerance and has longstanding expertise in the development of biomarkers to predict responses to immuno-oncology treatments. While at Merck, Dr. Pierce led a team focused on the development of tissue-based biomarkers for Merck’s anti-PD- 1 therapeutic antibody (pembrolizumab; KEYTRUDA®) and was the medical lead responsible for kicking-off the clinical trials of pembrolizumab in Merkel cell carcinoma (MCC) and cutaneous T cell lymphoma (CTCL). Dr. Pierce received his B.A in philosophy from Yale College, MD from Brown University and Anatomic Residency training at the University of Washington.
Erin Colgan has twenty years of experience in the both the accounting and finance fields. Erin joins Sensei Bio from Intarcia Therapeutics where she was the Vice President of FP+A and Commercial Planning, running the annual budgeting process as well as helping the company to prepare for a potential launch of their Type II diabetes product. Prior to Intarcia, Erin held various accounting and finance roles of increasing responsibility over a nine-year career at Vertex Pharmaceuticals, including time spent in the UK supporting the launch of their global CF franchise, overseeing the company-wide annual budgeting process, and several years leading the global commercial planning process. Erin began her career in public accounting at PwC where she worked in both audit and business development. Erin holds a Bachelor’s degree in Accounting from the University of Massachusetts, Amherst
Michael Boychyn is the Senior Vice President of Technical Operations and Maryland site head. Dr. Boychyn brings experience working in Process Development and Manufacturing Sciences on a variety of product types ranging across AAVs, adjuvanted vaccines, mabs, and proteins. Prior to joining Sensei Bio, he was the Vice President of Process Development at REGENXBIO Inc., where he was accountable for the development, characterization, scale-up and validation of drug substance and product AAV manufacturing processes (cell line, vector core, upstream, downstream, formulation, device, CMC project management) from preclinical to commercial. Previously, he worked at biotechnology companies including Novavax, Novartis, Amgen, Abbott and Eli Lilly. Dr. Boychyn holds a M.Sc. and Ph.D. in Biochemical Engineering from University College London, and a Bachelor of Chemical and Materials Engineering from the Royal Military College of Canada.
Dr. Jean Campbell has over 20 years of experience in research and development of oncology therapeutics. She joins Sensei from the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle, WA, where she directed the immunopathology laboratory in the department of immunology. In previous roles, she led the Discovery Research program at OncoSec Medical, and was principal investigator of an NIH-funded research laboratory the University of Washington, department of pathology. She has a long-standing interest in cancer biology with a focus on understanding the contribution of the tumor microenvironment and targeting the TME to improve immuno-oncology treatments. Dr. Campbell joined the laboratory of Dr. Edwin Krebs (co-recipient of the Nobel Prize in Medicine or Physiology in 1992) at the University of Washington for her post-doctoral training. She earned her Ph.D. from the University Wisconsin in Madison, WI and completed her undergraduate studies in Chemistry at the College of Wooster in Ohio. She is the co-author of over one hundred peer-reviewed journal and review articles and book chapters.
Pauline Callinan joined Sensei in 2018 and oversees Sensei’s strategic planning and business operations. She previously served as Sensei’s head of business development and has over a dozen years of experience forming partnerships between biotechnology companies, sources of venture capital and academic groups. Prior to joining Sensei, Dr. Callinan served in MedImmune’s Partnering and Strategy Group within the oncology therapeutic area, where she engaged in business development activities covering licensing of innovative assets, technologies, and strategic partnerships. Prior to MedImmune, Dr. Callinan held various positions at Johns Hopkins Technology Transfer, most recently as Portfolio Director, Life Sciences, where she managed the Life Sciences Intellectual Property portfolio with a team of Technology Transfer Associates. Dr. Callinan completed a post-doc at the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine where she studied the epigenetics of human disease. Dr. Callinan holds a PhD degree in Biochemistry from the Louisiana State University, and a BSc Human Biology (with honors) from Loughborough University, U.K. She has published a book chapter, review articles and first authored publications in peer reviewed journals.
Elisabeth Colunio is a strategic global human resources (HR) professional with 20 years’ experience aligning employee performance with business strategy. She has a proven ability to quickly build strong partnerships with diverse leadership styles across a broad range of industries and has demonstrated capability to work both strategically and operationally, in parallel. Prior to Sensei Bio, Elisabeth served as VP of Human Resources at Quanterix where she oversaw the function as the organization scaled quickly following an IPO and the acquisition of two organizations. She has deep experience supporting R&D as well as global commercial HR functions within biotech startups and large pharmaceutical organizations. Elisabeth holds a bachelor’s degree in art history from Simmons University.
Alice Drumheller has over twenty years experience in the clinical operations area with the focus on executing clinical trials. Prior to joining the Sensei Bio, Alice was Senior Director of Clinical Operations at MacroGenics where she executed the company’s clinical strategy. Before MacroGenics, Alice was part of the team at Amgen/Micomet where she contributed to the approval of BLINCYTO®. Alice has held positions of increasing responsibility at large pharmaceutical companies, start-up companies and clinical research organizations, including Nabi Biopharmaceuticals, Bristol-Myers Squibb, Kendle (now Syneos), British Biotech and Henri Beaufour Institute (a subsidiary of Ipsen). Alice holds a BS in Public and Community Health from Southern Connecticut State University in New Haven, CT.
Bao Le joined Sensei Bio in June 2021 with 20 years in biopharmaceutical industry. She has hands-on regulatory strategy experience at various stages of drug development from new investigational drug applications through drug marketing approvals. Bao’s regulatory expertise consists of biologics, gene therapy, and small molecules across multiple therapeutic areas. Most recently, Bao served as Vice President and Head of Global Regulatory Affairs at enGene, where she was responsible for the global regulatory strategy and operations of the company’s gene therapy programs. Prior to enGene, she held various regulatory positions with increasing responsibility in several biotech and pharmaceutical companies including Sanofi Genzyme, Shire, ARIAD and Genzyme Corporation.
Edward van der Horst is a molecular pharmacologist with a strong focus on antibody drug development across diverse target classes in oncology. He has 20 years of research and development experience from Zenith Epigenetics Ltd, Igenica Biotherapeutics Inc., OncoMed Pharmaceuticals, Tularik, Inc. (now Amgen) and U3 Pharma GmbH (now Daiichi-Sankyo). Edward’s contributions and discoveries have led to the clinical evaluation of several novel drug candidates at Igenica Biotherapeutics and OncoMed Pharmaceuticals, as well as to the first clinical stage anti-HER3 antibody at U3 Pharma GmbH. He received his postdoctoral training at Tularik, Inc. Edward earned his Ph.D. in biochemistry from the Max-Planck Institute of Biochemistry and conducted his master’s thesis at Max-Planck Institute of Neurobiology. He graduated with a master’s degree of chemistry from the Ludwig Maximilian University of Munich.
Board of Directors
Samuel Broder, M.D.
Dr. Broder is the former Director of the National Cancer Institute (NCI), the largest and most important Agency for cancer research, where he was appointed by President Ronald Reagan in 1989. While at the NCI, he oversaw the development of numerous anti-cancer therapeutic agents, helped launch a number of large-scale clinical trials related to the prevention, diagnosis, and treatment of cancer and inaugurated the highly successful SPORE Program. Most recently, he served as Senior Vice President and Health Sector Head at Intrexon Corporation. Dr. Broder spent his entire career in translational medicine and his laboratory interests have included antiretroviral therapy, the relationship between immunodeficiency disorders and cancer, the human genome, and the proteomics of cancer cells. In the mid-1980s, in response to the AIDS pandemic, he focused his attention on HIV-1/AIDS. His laboratory played a major role in developing the first 3 agents approved by FDA specifically to treat the AIDS virus, Retrovir® (AZT), Videx® (ddI), and HIVID® (ddC). After serving as the Director of the NCI from 1989-1995, Dr. Broder served as Senior Vice President, Research and Development and Chief Scientific Officer at IVAX Corporation. He then joined the Celera Corporation, as the Executive Vice President for Medical Affairs and Chief Medical Officer, and helped advance the human genome project, the elucidation of the 3 billion letters of code that make up human DNA. He has received numerous scientific awards related to his research in cancer and AIDS. He was elected to the Institute of Medicine of the National Academy of Sciences in 1993.
John K. Celebi, M.B.A.
John Celebi has over 20 years of experience building innovative entrepreneurial biotechnology companies. Previously, Mr. Celebi served as the Chief Operating Officer of X4 Pharmaceuticals where he established and oversaw the company’s oncology business strategy. He also served as Chief Business Officer of Igenica Biotherapeutics, Inc., an immunotherapy company formed by The Column Group, 5AM Ventures, Orbimed and Third Rock Ventures, where he established key academic and industry relationships, including with MedImmune. He has extensive transactional and alliance management experience. Previously, he served as Vice President of Business Development, New Product Planning and Alliance Management at ArQule, Inc., where he played a central role in the formation of alliances with Roche, Daiichi-Sankyo, and Kyowa Hakko Kirin. Mr. Celebi was one of the early employees at Tularik, Inc., where he conducted drug discovery and basic research for an anti-viral drug program. Mr. Celebi received an M.B.A. from Carnegie Mellon University and a B.S. in Biophysics from the University of California, San Diego.
Jessie English, Ph.D.
Jessie English, Ph.D. joined our Board of Directors in 2021 and currently serves as Chief Scientific Officer of Bakx Therapeutics, a biotechnology company developing novel cancer therapeutics targeting apoptosis. Dr. English was most recently the Chief Scientific Officer of Tilos Therapeutics, a company focused on developing therapeutic antibodies targeting LAP as a novel approach to targeting TGF-beta and acquired by Merck in 2019. Prior to Tilos, she was Vice President and Head of Discovery Research Immuno-Oncology Translational Innovation Platform at EMD Serono/ Merck KGaA. Her previous positions include Head of Research at the Belfer Center for Applied Cancer Science at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, VP of Kinase Biology at ArQule, Oncology Site Lead for External Discovery at Merck and Head of Pfizer’s Kinase Center of Emphasis. Dr. English began her industry career in oncology drug discovery at Schering-Plough Research Institute. Her industry experiences include serving on the leadership counsel of AACR Women in Cancer Research and as its Chairperson from 2014-2015. Dr. English earned her B.S. with honors in biochemistry from Kansas State University and her Ph.D. in neurobiology from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. She was a postdoctoral fellow at UT Southwestern Medical Center, in Dr. Melanie Cobb’s laboratory where she discovered the WNK family of protein kinases and the MEK5 MAPK pathway.
Bob Holmen, J.D.
Mr. Holmen has over 25 years’ experience working in and advising technology, healthcare and financial services companies. He has engaged at every phase of corporate development, from formation to financing to operations to exiting, and has served in diverse roles from electrical engineer (Hughes Aircraft) to an associate at major law firms (Latham &Watkins, Morrison & Foerster) to general counsel for a series of technology and financial services companies to co-founder and managing director for a family of venture funds (Miramar Venture Partners). Currently, Mr. Holmen provides legal services to investors through his boutique law firm Investor Counsel, focused on the venture capital and private equity markets. His work encompasses fund formation, financing and operations, structuring and negotiating investments, mergers and acquisition, and purchaser representation. In addition, he continues to serve as a Managing Director for the legacy (fully invested) Miramar Venture Partners funds. Mr. Holmen also has served as an adjunct professor, teaching “Venture Capital Law” at the UC, Irvine Law School and “Investing in New Ventures” at USC’s Marshall School of Business, in addition to writing about venture and M&A matters. He received his B.S. in Electrical Engineering from Stanford University and his J.D. from UC Berkeley School of Law (Boalt Hall).
Kristian Humer, M.B.A.
Kristian Humer was appointed as an independent director to our board of directors in August 2021. Mr. Humer spent 20 years on Wall Street, including 14 years as a life science-focused investment banker. He joined Viridian Therapeutics (NASDAQ: VRDN) in July 2021 where he serves as Chief Financial Officer and Chief Business Officer. Previously, he spent 11 years with Citigroup, Inc., most recently as Managing Director, where he helped lead the firm’s investment banking engagements for small and mid-sized biopharma and select large cap pharmaceutical companies. Prior to joining Citigroup, Inc., Mr. Humer served as Vice President of the Investment Banking Division for the Global Healthcare Group team at Lehman Brothers, Inc. Mr. Humer started his career serving positions of increasing responsibility in the investment banking and private banking divisions of UBS AG and Merrill Lynch (a Bank of America company). He received an MBA from the Fuqua School of Business at Duke University, and a B.A. (Hons) in Accounting & Economics from the University of Reading, United Kingdom.
James Peyer, Ph.D., Board Chair
James Peyer, Ph.D. joined our Board of Directors in 2020 and serves as Chair of the Board. He is the CEO and Founder of Cambrian Biopharma, a Distributed Drug Discovery company developing therapeutics targeting the biology of aging (‘geroscience’). The New York-based company builds, finances, and manages biotech companies. Dr. Peyer founded Cambrian to translate laboratory breakthroughs in the extension of healthy lifespan into the clinic, predicting that the world is entering a revolution in biomedical research by targeting the root causes of aging and age-related disease. Dr. Peyer has spoken on the topic of longevity biotech and investing for The Economist, TEDx, Longevity Leaders, ETH Zurich, and the Max Planck Institute on the Biology of Aging to advance the mission of achieving widespread availability of longevity therapeutics this decade. Before his current role, James was Founder and Managing Partner at Apollo Ventures, one of the major longevity-focused venture capital firms. Apollo has deployed over $20M and raised over $50M in the first three years of operations. He led investments in Cleara Biotech, Aeovian Pharmaceuticals, and Samsara Therapeutics and served on the Board and/or in executive roles for all three companies. Prior to Apollo, James was a consultant at McKinsey & Company, earned his PhD in stem cell biology at UTSW as a National Science Foundation fellow, and received his B.A. with special honors from the University of Chicago.
Tom Ricks, M.B.A.
Tom Ricks has been a member of the Board of Directors since 2015. Mr. Ricks is the former Chief Investment Officer of H&S Ventures LLC, a private investment firm. Prior to taking this position with H&S Ventures, he was Chief Executive Officer of The University of Texas Investment Management Company. Mr. Ricks also served as Vice Chancellor for Asset Management for The University of Texas System and as Executive Director of Finance and Private Investments. He has been a director of Newfield Exploration Company (NYSE:NFX) since 1992 and is Chairman of its Audit Committee. He is a former director of BDM International, DTM Corporation, LifeCell Corporation and Argus Pharmaceuticals. Mr. Ricks also previously served on the Investment Committee of the University of California Foundation, Irvine and previously served on the board of the Ocean Institute. Mr. Ricks holds a B.A. in Economics from Trinity College, an M.B.A. from the University of Chicago.
Deneen Vojta, M.D.
Dr. Vojta brings over 25 years of experience as an entrepreneur, and strategic leader in the healthcare industry. She has a successful track record of accelerating the design, execution and scaling of disruptive programs, products and services and has built multiple businesses with successful exits. Dr. Vojta joined UnitedHealth Group in 2006 after the company acquired MYnetico, a digital disease management company that she founded and served as CEO. Dr. Vojta began her career at The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP) where she was a resident in Pediatrics and a fellow in Hematology & Oncology. Subsequently, she launched a CHOP’s pediatric hospitalist program. Currently, Dr. Vojta serves on the governance board of Childrens’ Minnesota and the advisory board of The Center for Health Incentives & Behavioral Economics at Penn Medicine. In 2014, she was an Emmy ® Award winner and in 2013, a CES® Innovation Design and Engineering Innovation Honoree. Dr. Vojta holds a M.D. from Temple University School of Medicine, and a B.S. in Behavorial Neuroscience from University of Pittsburgh.
Immuno-Oncology Advisory Board
Alain Algazi, M.D.
Alain Algazi, M.D., is an oncologist and Associate Professor at The University of California San Francisco Helen Diller Family Comprehensive Cancer Center. Dr. Algazi conducts clinical trials on personalized medical therapies for patients with head and neck and high-risk skin cancers, in addition to serving as the leader of the head and neck medical oncology research program at UCSF. Dr. Algazi has served as the national study chair for several pivotal trials in oncology and is a member of the American Society of Clinical Oncology, the Society for Immunotherapy of Cancer, and the American Association for Cancer Research. He also served previously as a member of The National Comprehensive Cancer Network Melanoma Panel.
Stephen Dewhurst, Ph.D.
Stephen Dewhurst, Ph.D., is Vice Dean for Research, and Chair and Professor of Microbiology and Immunology at the University of Rochester School of Medicine & Dentistry (Rochester, NY). He has over 30 years’ experience in molecular virology. His laboratory’s research interests include the development of: (1) novel small molecule therapeutics for viral pathogens (including both DNA and RNA viruses); and (2) novel vaccine approaches (with emphasis on influenza virus and HIV-1). His laboratory has previously shown that recombinant bacteriophage vectors can efficiently deliver encoded exogenous genes to human cells, and that they can elicit robust adaptive immune responses to such gene inserts in mice. He is an NIH study section member (HIV Immunopathogenesis and Vaccine Development [HIVD]), the past President of a vaccine startup company, and the current Executive Director of the University of Rochester’s Cell Therapy Manufacturing Facility, which produces cell-based products under cGMP regulations for early-phase human clinical trials.
Maura Gillison, M.D., Ph.D.
Dr. Maura Gillison, M.D., Ph.D., widely known as an expert in head and neck cancers, molecular epidemiology and virology, is a Professor of Medicine in the Department of Thoracic/Head and Neck Medical Oncology, Division of Cancer Medicine at the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center. Included in more than 200 scientific publications, her research expertise has led to developments related to the causation of head and neck cancers from human papillomavirus (HPV) infection and groundbreaking shifts in concepts for risk, diagnosis and therapeutic approaches to treat those cancers. She is a member of the National Academy of Medicine and also a CPRIT scholar.
Sara Pai, M.D., Ph.D.
Sara Pai, M.D., Ph.D., is an Associate Professor of Surgery at Harvard Medical School and an Associate Surgeon and Director of Translational Research in Head and Neck Cancer at Massachusetts General Hospital. She leads several immunotherapy trials in head and neck cancer patients. Pai’s research interests focus on understanding mechanisms of immune evasion utilized by the human papillomavirus (HPV) and evaluates novel ways to reactive the host immune response against the virus as it relates to cancer cells. Dr. Pai is recognized both nationally and internationally as an expert in HPV-associated head and neck cancers and cancer immunotherapy, in addition she has a research laboratory that is supported by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) as well as industry.
Robert Schreiber, Ph.D.
Robert Schreiber, Ph.D., is an Andrew M. Bursky and Jane M. Bursky Distinguished Professor of Pathology and Immunology, Professor of Molecular Microbiology, co-leader of the tumor immunology program at the Siteman Comprehensive Cancer Center and founding Director of the Center for Human Immunology and Immunotherapy Programs at The Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis, Missouri. Schreiber is recognized globally as a pioneer in efforts to understand how the immune system may be useful in battling cancer. His research interests include the molecular and cellular basis of cancer immunoediting (a process that he discovered whereby the immune system protects against cancer development and shapes tumor immunogenicity), the biology and signaling of cytokines with special emphasis on IFN-gamma and TNF, as well as the role of IFN-gamma in tumor immunity. He has served in leadership roles for many international organizations. His has achieved multiple honors, including the 2017 Balzan Prize for Immunological Approaches in Cancer Therapy, membership in the National Academy of Sciences (US), the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, the Cancer Research Institute’s Coley Award for Distinguished Research in Basic Tumor Immunology and the AACR-CRI Lloyd J. Old Award in Cancer Immunology.
Richard Ulevitch, Ph.D.
Dr. Richard Ulevitch, Ph.D., Professor of Immunology and Chairman Emeritus of the Department of Immunology at The Scripps Research Institute brings experience in business development from his involvement in life science investment funds, as well as deep scientific knowledge related to innate immunity. Dr. Ulevitch is currently a Venture Partner Emeritus at 5AM Ventures, which he joined in 2002. Previously, he was affiliated with The Lombard Immunology Fund and Aravis Ventures. Dr. Ulevitch remains active in laboratory research at The Scripps Research Institute, with funding from the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID). His research spans over 200 academic publications in innate immunity that include seminal publications describing the discovery of p38 MAP Kinase, the discovery of Lipopolysaccharides (LPS) binding protein, and the biological function of CD14. Dr. Ulevitch’s team characterized CD14 as an upstream master regulator of immune response nearly 30 years ago. This discovery led to the development of IC-14, a product candidate being evaluated in the clinic to determine if treatment can decrease the time it takes for people with COVID-19 respiratory disease to recover without the need for long-term hospitalization. Previously, Dr. Ulevitch served as an advisor to the National Institutes of Health, the Food & Drug Administration (FDA), the American Heart Association and multiple biotechnology and pharmaceutical companies.
Dan Sterman, M.D.
Daniel H. Sterman, M.D., is the Thomas and Suzanne Murphy Professor of Pulmonary and Critical Care Medicine in the Departments of Medicine and Cardiothoracic Surgery at the New York University School of Medicine, and Director of the Division of Pulmonary, Critical Care, and Sleep Medicine and Director of the Multidisciplinary Pulmonary Oncology Program at NYU Langone Health in New York City. He was previously lead clinical investigator in the multidisciplinary Thoracic Oncology Research Group at the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania and the Principal Investigator of the Clinical Trials Project for the NCI. Sterman’s research interests are related to the treatment of thoracic malignancies, specifically as they apply to the synergy of molecular medicine, tumor immunotherapy and novel technologies in Interventional Pulmonology. Over the past 20 years, he has focused on the translation of laboratory discoveries from the bench to the bedside: conducting multiple human clinical trials of gene therapy and vaccine therapy for lung cancer, mesothelioma, and other pleural malignancies. More recently, as Director of the NYU PORT (Pulmonary Oncology Research Team), Dr. Sterman has expanded his research interests into assessment of the immune microenvironment of tumor-draining lymph nodes, as well as the development of local intra-tumoral and intra-nodal immunotherapies.