David Baltimore, Ph.D., Chair
Scientific Co-Founder and Chair of PACT Scientific Advisory Board
Robert A. Millikan Professor of Biology, California Institute of Technology.
Dr. Baltimore is co-recipient of the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine for his discovery of reverse transcriptase. He is currently the Robert A. Millikan Professor of Biology at the California Institute of Technology, where he was the president from 1997 to 2006, and the president of the American Association for the Advancement of Science. While at MIT, Baltimore was founding director of the Whitehead Institute. He has had profound influence on national policy concerning recombinant DNA research and the AIDS epidemic. Dr. Baltimore is a member of the Board of Directors of Amgen, Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists Board of Sponsors, Encyclopædia Britannica editorial board, NIH AIDS vaccine task force, and numerous other organizations and their boards. He received a B.A. from Swarthmore College and Ph.D. from The Rockefeller University. He is a member of the National Academy of Sciences and the Institute of Medicine.
Antoni Ribas M.D., Ph.D.
Scientific Co-Founder and PACT Board member
Professor of Medicine, Professor of Surgery, and Professor of Molecular and Medical Pharmacology at the University of California Los Angeles (UCLA); Director, Tumor Immunology Program at the Jonsson Comprehensive Cancer Center (JCCC); Director, Parker Institute for Cancer Immunotherapy (PICI) Center at UCLA; and Chair, Melanoma Committee at SWOG.
Dr. Ribas is a physician-scientist who conducts laboratory and clinical research in malignant melanoma, focusing on gene engineered T cells, PD-1 blockade and BRAF targeted therapies. His National Cancer Institute (NCI), State of California and private foundation-supported research laboratory develops models of disease to test new therapeutic options, studies mechanism of action of treatments in patients and the molecular mechanisms of therapy resistance. He is an elected member of the American Society of Clinical Investigation (ASCI), the recipient of a AACR Richard and Hinda Rosenthal Award and a NCI Outstanding Investigator Award.
James R. Heath, Ph.D.
Scientific Co-Founder and PACT Board member
Gilloon Professor and Professor of Chemistry at the California Institute of Technology; President-elect, Institute of Systems Biology, Seattle.
Dr. Heath is a Fellow of the American Physical Society, and his awards include Jules Springer Award in Applied Physics (2000); the Feynman Prize (2000); the Sackler Prize in the Physical Sciences (2001), and the Spiers Medal from the Royal Society (2005). Dr. Heath directs the National Cancer Institute-funded NanoSystems Biology Cancer Center, and has been a founder of a number of startup companies, including MTI (acquired by Siemens in 2005), NanoSys, Inc., Integrated Diagnostics, Indi Molecular and Momentum Biosciences, which is a biotech incubator currently operating in Los Angeles. In 2009 Heath was named by Forbes as one of the top 7 innovators in the world.
Dr. Heath has founded or co-founded several companies, including NanoSys, MTI, Sofie Biosciences, and Indi Dx, and has served on the board of a number of organizations including the Board of Scientific Advisors of the National Cancer Institute. Jim graduated with a degree in Chemistry from Baylor University in Texas. He completed his Ph.D. in Physics and Chemistry from Rice University. He was awarded the 2000 Feynman Prize in Nanotechnology. He became a fellow of the American Physical Society in 1999 and in 2009 he was named one of the seven most powerful innovators of the world by Forbes magazine.
Alex Marson, MD Ph.D.
Assistant Professor, UCSF, Microbiology and Immunology, Department of Medicine, and UCSF Diabetes Center.
Dr. Marson’s research focuses on genetic and epigenetic programs that control human T cell function. His laboratory integrates systems-scale investigations of human CD4+ T cell genetics with functional perturbation studies. Dr. Marson and colleagues have developed new tools to accomplish efficient genome engineering in primary human T cells with CRISPR-Cas9 ribonucleoproteins (RNPs).
Dr. Marson completed his MD/PhD training at Harvard/MIT, Internal Medicine residency at Brigham and Women’s and Infectious Diseases fellowship at UCSF. Alex was a UCSF Sandler Faculty Fellow from 2013-2016. Dr. Marson has been recognized with the American Society of Clinical Investigation (ASCI) Young Physician-Scientist Award, the Burroughs Wellcome Foundation Career Award for Medical Scientists, and the NIDA/NIH Avenir New Innovator Award. He was recently named one of the inaugural Chan Zuckerberg Biohub Investigators.
Elaine Mardis, Ph.D.
Co-Executive Director, Institute for Genomic Medicine at Nationwide Children’s Hospital, Columbus, Ohio, and Professor of Pediatrics, Ohio State University.
Dr. Mardis’ research interests focus on the application of next-generation sequencing to characterize cancer genomes and transcriptomes, and to support therapeutic decision-making. Her translational research efforts devise sequencing-based diagnostics, decision-support tools and databases, and the use of genomics to evaluate immunity-related aspects of cancers.
In September 2016, Dr. Mardis was named the co-Executive Director of the Institute for Genomic Medicine at Nationwide Children’s Hospital in Columbus, Ohio, where she also joined the faculty of the Ohio State University as Professor of Pediatrics. Prior to that, Dr. Mardis joined the faculty of Washington University School of Medicine in 1993 and has served as Co-director of the McDonnell Genome Institute since 2002. In 2014, Dr. Mardis was named the Robert E. and Louise F. Dunn Distinguished Professor of Medicine. Prior to that, she was a senior research scientist for four years at BioRad Laboratories. Elaine graduated from the University of Oklahoma with a B.S. in Zoology and completed her Ph.D. in Chemistry and Biochemistry in 1989, also at Oklahoma.
Eric Tran, PhD
Assistant Member, Earle A. Chiles Research Institute, Providence Cancer Center, Portland, OR.
Dr. Tran focuses on the development of more effective T-cell transfer immunotherapies to treat patients with metastatic epithelial cancers, which account for about 90 % of cancer-related deaths in the US. His research includes identifying antigens specifically expressed by cancer cells, such as mutated neoantigens, that can be targeted by T cells. He also studies the immunobiology of human T cells and tumor cells with the goal of better understanding how some tumors evade the T-cell response. Understanding the mechanisms employed by tumors to evade the anti-tumor T-cell response will lead to the rational development of future immunotherapies.
Eric carried out his postdoctoral research fellowship in Bethesda MD, at the National Cancer Institute of the National Institutes of Health, mentored by Dr. Steven A. Rosenberg, a pioneer and leader in human cancer immunotherapy. Here, Tran and Rosenberg directly demonstrated the promise of directly targeting mutated neoantigens with T-cell transfer immunotherapy in patients with metastatic gastrointestinal cancers. Eric received his PhD from the University of Victoria in British Columbia, Canada, while working with Dr. Brad Nelson in the Deeley Research Center at the British Columbia Cancer Agency.
Kenneth Cornetta, MD
Professor of Medicine, Microbiology/Immunology, and Medical and Molecular Genetics, Indiana University
Dr. Cornetta’s research focuses on viral based gene transfer to introduce genetic sequences that will correct mutations and ameliorate disease. Ken’s lab is developing novel vector pseudotypes for transduction of hematopoietic cells, with the goal to serve as a national resource for gene therapy work. In addition, his team is evaluating novel non-integrating vectors for use in cell re-programming plus high-throughput sequencing technology for evaluating lentiviral and retroviral integration sites analysis in collaboration with the Center for Genomic and Bioinformatics in Bloomington, IN. His lab includes the Indiana University Vector Production Facility, which has certified over 30 products for Phase I/II trials; the NIH/NCRR National Gene Vector Biorepository for the NCRR; and the lentiviral production site for the NIH/NHLBI Gene Therapy Resources Program.
Dr. Cornetta earned his MD from Albany Medical College in NY, and did his residency and becoming Chief Resident at Indiana University. He also trained as an NRSA Fellow at NIH with Dr. W. French Anderson and was a hematology Fellow at U. Wisconsin before joining the faculty at Indiana University. In recognition of his pioneering work in gene therapy, Dr. Cornetta was elected in 2009-2010 as President of the American Society of Gene Therapy.
Mark Davis, Ph.D.
Avery Family Professor of Immunology in the Department of Microbiology and Immunology; Director of the Stanford Institute for Immunity, Transplantation, and Infection at Stanford University School of Medicine.
Dr. Davis is an Investigator of the Howard Hughes Medical Institute. Dr. Davis is the author or co-author of more than 300 peer-reviewed articles and books, is a member of the National Academy of Sciences, and is the recipient of numerous awards and distinctions. Dr. Davis received his BA degree in molecular biology from Johns Hopkins University and his PhD degree in molecular biology from the California Institute of Technology. He was a postdoctoral fellow at the Laboratory of Immunology at the National Institutes of Health prior to joining Stanford.
One of the world’s leading authorities on T-cell recognition, both basic and applied, Dr. Davis and his colleagues recently developed the widely used “tetramer” reagents as tools with which to directly visualize and analyze T-cells which are responding to specific pathogens or markers on cancerous cells. He is the recipient of numerous honors and awards, including membership in the National Academy of Science and the Alfred D. Sloane Prize of the General Motors Cancer Research Foundation. He is also Chairman of the Microbiology & Immunology Department at Stanford Medical School.
Rafi Ahmed, Ph.D.
Director, Emory Vaccine Center; Professor of Microbiology and Immunology, Emory University School of Medicine.
Dr. Ahmed studies immunological memory – the ability of the immune system to “remember” a particular antigen and respond accordingly. He and his colleagues have made significant discoveries about how immune memory cells are created and how long they survive; understanding these mechanisms is crucial to the development of vaccines for HIV and other infectious agents. He is an internationally recognized expert on viral persistence and the immune response to viruses. In addition to contributing vitally to vaccine science, Dr. Ahmed’s fundamental findings on T cell exhaustion and its association with the PD-1 inhibitory pathway are being applied to research into therapies for the treatment of cancer and the prevention of organ rejection.
Dr. Ahmed received his PhD in microbiology from Harvard University. Before coming to Emory, he was a Professor at the University of California, Los Angeles School of Medicine.
Wolfgang Uckert, Ph.D.
Group leader, Molecular Cell Biology and Gene Therapy at the Biological Institute at the Humboldt University Berlin and at the Max Delbruck Center for Molecular Medicine Berlin-Buch.
Dr. Uckert is a pioneer in the generation of TCR gene-modified T cells with new antigen specificity and high functional avidity for TCR gene therapy. His group also evaluates safety aspects of TCR gene-modified T cells with respect to on- and off-target effects, including development of preclinical mouse models for the application of TCR gene therapy in humans, towards the development of new viral and non-viral vector systems to increase the efficiency and safety of TCR gene therapy.
Dr. Uckert received his PhD in Chemistry from the Humboldt University with postdoctoral training at the Max Delbruck Center prior to assuming his faculty appointment at the Humboldt University.