Scientific Advisory Panel


The Scientific Advisory Panel advises the MRA leadership team on scientific matters and policies of MRA including research needs and opportunities that may be targeted for funding and planning scientific symposia.


Suzanne Topalian, M.D., Chair

Professor, Surgery and Oncology, Johns Hopkins Medicine
Director, Melanoma Program, Kimmel Cancer Center
Associate Director, Bloomberg~Kimmel Inst. for Cancer Immunotherapy

Dr. Topalian received her medical degree from the Tufts University School of Medicine and completed a general surgery residency at the Thomas Jefferson University Hospital in Philadelphia.  She was a research fellow and subsequently a Senior Investigator in the National Cancer Institute, NIH.  She joined the Johns Hopkins faculty in 2006 to direct the Melanoma Program in the Kimmel Cancer Center.  

Dr. Topalian is a physician-scientist whose studies of human anti-tumor immunity have provided a foundation for the translational development of cancer vaccines, adoptive T cell transfer, and immunomodulatory monoclonal antibodies.  Her current research focuses on manipulating immune checkpoints such as PD-1 in cancer therapy, and discovering biomarkers predicting clinical outcomes.  Dr. Topalian was named one of Nature’s 10 in 2014, and received the Karnofsky Award from the American Society of Clinical Oncology in 2015.  Her work has opened new avenues of scientific investigation in cancer immunology and immunotherapy, and has established this modality as a treatment approach in oncology.  

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James P. Allison, Ph.D.

Professor and Chair of Immunology
University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center

James Allison received his Ph.D. (1973) from The University of Texas at Austin. After a postdoctoral fellowship at Scripps Clinic and Research Foundation he joined the faculty of The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center Science Park in Smithville, Texas, in 1974 as Assistant Biochemist. He moved to the University of California, Berkeley in 1984 as Professor of Immunology. At Berkeley he served as Director of the Cancer Research Laboratory, Head of the Division of Immunology in the Department of Molecular and Cell Biology, and Co-chair of the Department of Molecular and Cell Biology. In 2004 he moved to the Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in New York City, where he was Professor of Immunology, Chair of Immunology and Director of the Ludwig Center for Cancer Immunotherapy. In 2012 he moved to The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center, where he is Professor of Immunology, Chair of the Department of Immunology, and Executive Director of the Immunotherapy Platform.

Allison’s fundamental discoveries include the definition of the structure of the T cell antigen receptor, demonstration that the T cell molecule CD28 provides costimulatory signals necessary for full T cells activation, and identification of the inhibitory checkpoint molecule CTLA-4, which inhibits activated T cells. He proposed that immune checkpoint blockade might be a powerful strategy for therapy of many cancer types, and conducted preclinical experiments showing its potential. He was involved in the development of Ipilimumab, which was approved by the FDA for treatment of metastatic melanoma in 2011. In 2014, the FDA approved two antibodies to PD-1, a related immune checkpoint, for the treatment of melanoma. In 2015 the FDA approved five additional CTLA-4 and PD-1 antibodies and combinations of both for the treatment of a variety of additional indications, including melanoma, lung, and kidney cancer. Allison’s development of immune checkpoint blockade transformed cancer therapy and has been responsible for saving the lives of thousands of cancer patients.

Dr. Allison is a member of the National Academy of Sciences and the Institute of Medicine. In 1997 he was appointed as an Investigator of the Howard Hughes Medical Institute, a position that he held until his move to MD Anderson. He has received numerous national and international awards, including the Lifetime Achievement Award from the American Association of Immunologists, the Lloyd J. Old Award from the American Association for Cancer Research, the Novartis Award for Clinical Immunology, the Economist Magazine Innovation Prize for Biomedicine, the Breakthrough Prize in Bioscience, the Szent-Gyorgyi Prize for Progress in Cancer Research, the first Tang Prize for Biopharmaceutical Science, the Canada Gairdner International Award, the Louisa Gross Horwitz Prize, the Giants of Cancer Care Award in Scientific Advances, the Harvey Prize in Human Health, the AACR/Pezcoller International Award for Cancer Research, and the ASCO Science of Oncology Award. In 2015 he received the Lasker-DeBakey Clinical Medical Research Award.

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Boris Bastian, M.D.

Clinical Professor, Department of Dermatology
University of California, San Francisco

Boris Bastian is a dermatologist and dermatopathologist with expertise in diagnosing and treating patients with cutaneous neoplasms. Dr. Bastian has an expertise in molecular cancer genetics and molecular pathology. He received his M.D. from the University of Munich in Germany and completed his dermatology residency at the University of Wurzburg. He completed his postdoctoral fellowship in cancer genetics at the University of California, San Francisco. Currently, he directs the Clinical Cancer Genomics Laboratory at University of California, San Francisco (UCSF), which performs genomic analyses of tumor samples of patients seen at the UCSF Helen Diller Family Comprehensive Cancer Center and has additional clinical responsibilities in the Dermatopathology Section of the Departments of Dermatology and Pathology. As an investigator at the Helen Diller Family Comprehensive Cancer Center, his research focuses on the molecular genetics of cutaneous neoplasms, with a particular emphasis on the discovery of genetic alterations useful for diagnosis, classification, and therapy of melanocytic neoplasms.

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Gideon Bollag, Ph.D.

Chief Executive Officer, Plexxikon, Inc.

Dr. Bollag has served as chief executive officer since May 2013, and has more than 23 years of biotechnology drug discovery experience. More recently, he was the senior vice president of research since June 2008. Prior, he served as vice president of discovery biology since November 2004. He joined Plexxikon as senior director of drug discovery in June 2002. Dr. Bollag was instrumental in the discovery and development of Zelboraf®, Plexxikon’s first oncology drug now approved in the U.S. and many other countries, along with its companion diagnostic. Prior to Plexxikon, he helped build drug discovery capabilities at Syrrx, Inc., where he was director of cellular pharmacology. Before Syrrx, he held escalating positions at Onyx Pharmaceuticals, initially as one of the founding scientists and eventually senior director of small molecule therapeutics. While there, Dr. Bollag was involved in the Onyx collaboration with Bayer to discover BAY 43-9006 (Nexavar), now an approved cancer treatment. Prior to Onyx, Dr. Bollag held various scientific positions at Cetus, Inc. Dr. Bollag earned his Ph.D. in biochemistry from the University of California, Berkeley. 

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Lynda Chin, M.D.

Associate Vice Chancellor for Health and Transformation and Chief Innovation Officer
University of Texas System

Lynda Chin, M.D., is The University of Texas System’s associate vice chancellor for health transformation and chief innovation officer for health affairs. Chin leads the UT System’s Institute for Health Transformation, which leverages, develops and deploys innovative, technology-enabled solutions to improve access and affordability of quality health care in Texas and beyond.

Prior to joining the UT System in 2015, Chin was the founding chair of Genomic Medicine and scientific director of the Institute for Applied Cancer Science at UT MD Anderson Cancer Center. Chin has made multiple scientific discoveries spanning the fields of transcription, telomere biology, and mouse models of human cancer and cancer genomics. She has won numerous distinguished honors for her contributions, including election to the prestigious Institute of Medicine (IOM) of the National Academies in 2012.

Chin received her M.D. from the Albert Einstein College of Medicine, followed by clinical and scientific training at Columbia Presbyterian Medical Center and the Albert Einstein College of Medicine, where she was chief resident of dermatology.

For 14 years prior to joining MD Anderson, Chin was a member of the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute and Harvard Medical School community in Boston. She was professor of Dermatology at Harvard Medical School, member of the Department of Medical Oncology at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, and senior associate member of the Broad Institute, where she was principal investigator of the Genome Data Analysis Center in The Cancer Genome Atlas (TCGA). Chin also served as scientific director of the Belfer Institute for Applied Cancer Science and co-leader of Dana-Farber/Harvard Cancer Center’s Melanoma Program and the Specialized Programs of Research Excellence (SPORE) grant for skin research. She serves on the scientific steering committee of the International Cancer Genome Consortium.

Chin co-founded AVEO Pharmaceuticals in 2002, a cancer biotechnology company that emphasizes cancer biology and genetics to identify new targets with tumor maintenance roles. Most recently, she founded Metamark Genetics, a cancer diagnostic company that will develop function-based prognostic determinants that can guide customized care of cancer patients who have early-stage disease, including melanoma and prostate cancer.
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Glenn Dranoff, M.D.

Director, Human Gene Transfer Laboratory Core
Dana-Farber Cancer Institute

Dr. Dranoff is the Leader of the Dana-Farber/Harvard Cancer Center Program in Immunology and Co-Leader of the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute Cancer (DFCI) Vaccine Center. His research focuses on understanding the molecular and cellular mechanisms underlying the stimulation of anti-tumor immunity, and on the development of cancer vaccines. He was elected to the Academy of Cancer Immunology, the American Society of Clinical Investigation, and the Leukemia/Lymphoma Society Stohlman Scholar. He is Director of the Human Gene Transfer Laboratory and a Staff Member of the departments of medical oncology and hematologic neoplasia at Dana-Farber, and is an Associate Professor of Medicine at Harvard Medical School. Dr. Dranoff received his B.S. from Duke University and his M.D. from Duke University School of Medicine in 1985. He completed an internship and residency in internal medicine from Massachusetts General Hospital and a clinical fellowship in medical oncology at DFCI. He received post-doctoral training at the Whitehead Institute. 

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Allan Halpern, M.D.

Chief, Dermatology Service
Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center

Dr. Halpern is the Chief of the Dermatology Service and Co-Leader of the Melanoma Disease Management Team at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center. Dr. Halpern's research has focused on melanoma prevention and early detection. His work has included studies of barriers and facilitators of skin cancer screening and skin self examination, the utilization of whole-body digital imaging for melanoma surveillance in high-risk individuals, the development of novel imaging modalities for early detection of skin cancer, and studies of the evolution of nevi (moles) in adolescence. Dr. Halpern has been active in public health efforts in skin cancer prevention and early detection. He has held leadership positions in the skin cancer prevention efforts of many organizations including the Skin Cancer Foundation, American Academy of Dermatology, and American Cancer Society. Dr. Halpern is co-Chairman of the National Council for Skin Cancer Prevention. Dr. Halpern is a Board Certified Internist and Dermatologist with a masters of science degree in clinical epidemiology.

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Reid M. Huber, Ph.D.

Executive Vice President, Chief Scientific Officer
Incyte Corporation

 Dr. Huber joined Incyte as a member of the founding scientific team in January 2002 when the company’s drug discovery activities were initiated. During his tenure at Incyte, Dr. Huber has held roles of increasing responsibility at across multiple therapeutic areas in both Drug Discovery and Clinical Development. As Chief Scientific Officer, Dr. Huber has organizational and leadership responsibility for the company’s discovery research and translational science efforts. This team has brought forward 25 small and large molecules into clinical development over the past 14 years, including the JAK inhibitors ruxolitinib (Jakafi; approved for the treatment of patients with myelofibrosis or polycythemia vera) and baracitinib (under global regulatory review for the treatment of patients with rheumatoid arthritis), capmatinib (in pivotal trials for patients with c-MET activating mutations), and epacadostat (a first-in-class inhibitor of IDO1 in pivotal trials with pembrolizumab for the treatment of first-line metastatic melanoma). 

Before joining Incyte, Dr. Huber held scientific research positions at DuPont and Bristol-Myers Squibb Company from 1997 to 2002. Dr. Huber received his PhD in molecular genetics from the Washington University School of Medicine and held predoctoral and postdoctoral fellowships at the National Institutes of Health.  

Dr. Huber also serves on the Board of Directors of Bellicum, a clinical-stage company focusing on the development of novel cellular immunotherapies for cancer and orphan inherited blood disorders.

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Nageatte Ibrahim, MD 

Executive Director
Merck Research Laboratories, Oncology
Melanoma Program Development Team Chair

Nageatte Ibrahim, M.D., is a medical oncologist with a melanoma specialty focus and she is the melanoma program development team chair at Merck for Keytruda®.  She oversees the clinical development program for Keytruda® in melanoma in the adjuvant and metastatic setting, which includes monotherapy as well as novel combinations with Keytruda®. At Merck, she was also the medical director for KEYNOTE-006, the pivotal phase III study of pembrolizumab vs. ipilimumab in ipilimumab-naïve metastatic melanoma patients, and lead the filing for the expanded indication for pembrolizumab in the first-line setting.  Prior to Merck, Nageatte was a medical director at GSK in the melanoma program for dabrafenib and trametinib and worked on a pivotal phase III study to support the approval of both drugs in melanoma and she was actively involved in the phase I program working on combination therapies.  Prior to her industry ventures, Nageatte was on the medical oncology faculty at the Harvard Cancer Center/Dana-Farber Cancer Institute/Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston and practiced as a medical oncologist specializing in melanoma.  She was also an active investigator on several clinical trials with immunotherapies and targeted therapies in melanoma.  Her interest in melanoma began in fellowship at Tufts Medical Center in Boston, MA and she completed a post-doctoral fellowship at Massachusetts General Hospital prior to her academic faculty appointment.  Her post-doctoral research work focused on the understanding of the role of BRAF mutations in melanoma genesis as well as the role of p73/p63 in platinum-resistant ovarian and breast cancers.  Nageatte brings to Merck her clinical expertise in the field of melanoma as well as her deep understanding of the critical pathways that lead to melanoma and an enthusiasm to develop more effective and tolerable treatments for cancer patients.

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Jeffrey Legos, Ph.D.

Senior Vice President, Global Program Head
Novartis Pharmaceuticals Corporation

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Richard Marais, Ph.D.

Cancer Research UK Manchester Institute

Dr. Marais received his BSc in Genetics and Microbiology at the University College, London and did his postdoctoral study in Comparative Studies on Protein Kinase C Isotypes at the Ludwig Institute for Cancer Research. Dr. Marais is internationally known for his work on Raf protein regulation, which includes demonstrating that the B-Raf gene is mutated in approximately 70% of melanomas and at a lower frequency in many other cancers. His laboratory is coupling this to development of novel signal transduction inhibitors for use in treating human cancer. He also has a longstanding collaboration with Dr. Caroline Springer of the Institute of Cancer Research on gene therapy approaches to treat cancer.

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Ira Mellman, Ph.D.

Vice President of Research Oncology, Genentech

Ira Mellman came to Genentech in the Spring of 2007 as Vice President of Research Oncology, after more than 20 years as a faculty member at the Yale University School of Medicine, where he was chair of his department (Cell Biology), a member of the Ludwig Institute for Cancer Research, scientific director of the Yale Cancer Center, and Sterling Professor of Cell Biology and Immunobiology. Dr. Mellman has a BA from Oberlin College & Conservatory and a PhD in Genetics from Yale. He was a Postdoctoral Fellow at the Rockefeller University with Ralph Steinman. His laboratory is known not only for advances in fundamental cell biology particularly in the area of membrane traffic (including the discovery of endosomes) but also for applying these insights to understanding the cellular basis of the immune response. Ira ran all of oncology research at Genentech until the end of 2013 when he decided to concentrate his efforts on the rapidly developing area of cancer immunotherapy and became Vice President of Cancer Immunology. He remains a frustrated composer and songwriter, and has recorded two CDs of the little-known genre of “bio-rock."

Ira is a member of the National Academy of Sciences, American Academy of Arts & Sciences, the European Molecular Biology Organization, and the former Editor in Chief of the Journal of Cell Biology. He has also served on the editorial boards of Cell, the Journal of Experimental Medicine, EMBO Journal, OncoImmunology among others, and is the recipient of many named lectureships, honorary professorships, and awards, most recently Yale University’s Wilbur Lucius Cross medal. He also serves on the boards of the Society for the Immunotherapy of Cancer, President Obama’s Cancer Moonshot Blue Ribbon Panel, the Parker Institute for Cancer Immunotherapy, the American Society for Cell Biology, the Melanoma Research Foundation, and the Cancer Research Institute. 

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Fouad Namouni, M.D.

Senior Vice President and Head of Oncology Development 
Bristol-Myers Squibb

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David Reese, M.D.

Senior Vice President, Translational Science, Amgen, Inc. 

Dr. David Reese is senior vice president, Translational Sciences, responsible for Medical Sciences, Comparative Biology and Safety Sciences, and Pharmacokinetics and Drug Metabolism. Prior to assuming this role, Reese was vice president of Translational Sciences and therapeutic area head for Oncology Global Development. Reese joined Amgen in 2005 and served in various roles in Global Development and Medical Sciences.
Prior to joining Amgen, Reese was director of Clinical Research for the Breast Cancer International Research Group (BCIRG) and a co-founder, president and chief medical officer of Translational Oncology Research International (TORI), a not-for-profit academic clinical research organization. Reese is a graduate of Harvard College and the University of Cincinnati College of Medicine. He completed training in Internal Medicine and Hematology/Oncology at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) School of Medicine, and subsequently served on the faculty at UCLA and the University of California, San Francisco.

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Neal Rosen, M.D.

Enid A. Haupt Chair in Medical Oncology
Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center

Dr. Rosen is a Member of the Department of Medicine and the Program in Molecular Pharmacology and Chemistry at the Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center, where he serves as the Head of Developmental Therapeutics. He is also a Professor of Pharmacology, Cell Biology and Medicine at the Cornell University Medical School.

Dr. Rosen received his undergraduate degree in Chemistry from Columbia College and an M.D., Ph.D. in Molecular Biology from the Albert Einstein College of Medicine. He completed a residency in Internal Medicine at the Brigham and Women's Hospital and post-doctoral training and a fellowship in Medical Oncology at the National Cancer Institute. He was on the senior staff of the Medicine Branch at the U.S. National Cancer Institute prior to joining the faculty of Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center.
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Steven Rosenberg, M.D.

Chief, Surgery Branch
* National Cancer Institute

Dr. Rosenberg is Chief of Surgery at the National Cancer Institute in Bethesda, Maryland and a Professor of Surgery at the Uniformed Services University of Health Sciences and at the George Washington University School of Medicine and Health Sciences in Washington, DC. Dr. Rosenberg received his B.A. and M.D. degrees at The Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, Maryland and a Ph.D. in Biophysics at Harvard University. After completing his residency training in surgery in 1974 at the Peter Bent Brigham Hospital in Boston, Massachusetts, Dr. Rosenberg became the Chief of Surgery at the National Cancer Institute, a position he has held to the present time.

Dr. Rosenberg has pioneered the development of immunotherapy that resulted in the first effective immunotherapies for selected patients with advanced cancer. He has also pioneered the development of gene therapy and was the first to successfully insert foreign genes into humans as treatment for cancer. He has been the recipient of numerous awards, is author of over 820 scientific articles.
* Dr. Rosenberg serves on the MRA Scientific Advisory Panel in his personal capacity.
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Ellen Sigal, Ph.D

Chairperson and Founder, Friends of Cancer Research

Ellen V. Sigal, PhD, is Chairperson and Founder of Friends of Cancer Research(Friends), a cancer research think tank and advocacy organization based in Washington, DC.

Friends is a leader in developing partnerships and advocating for policies that will get treatments and therapies to patients in the safest and quickest way possible. Friends works with federal health agencies, Congressional leadership, academic research centers, and private sector industry producing real results.

Dr. Sigal is Vice Chair of the inaugural board of directors of the Reagan-Udall Foundation, a partnership designed to modernize medical product development, accelerate innovation, and enhance product safety in collaboration with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.  She serves on the Board of the Foundation for the National Institutes of Health where she chairs its Public-Private Partnerships Committee.

In 2010, Dr. Sigal was appointed to a six year term on the Board of Governors of the Patient Centered Outcomes Research Institute (PCORI) as a representative of patients and health consumers. She also holds leadership positions with a broad range of cancer advocacy, public policy organizations, and academic health centers including: the American Association for Cancer Research Foundation Board; Research!America Board; MD Anderson Cancer Center External Advisory Board, the Duke University Cancer Center Board of Overseers, and The Sidney Kimmel Comprehensive Cancer Center Advisory Council.

During her more than twenty year commitment to cancer research, Dr. Sigal has served in a number of critical public positions.  She served on the National Cancer Institute Board of Scientific Advisors from 2003-2009, and the National Institutes of Health Director’s Council of Public Representatives from 2003-2006.  She was a Presidential Appointee to the National Cancer Advisory Board from 1992-1998, where she chaired the Budget and Planning Committee that oversees the federal cancer budget.  In 1998, Dr. Sigal was named Vice Chairman of the Board of The March, a national grassroots advocacy group that brought thousands of volunteers to Washington to liaise with Congress and to set a new advocacy agenda for cancer research and treatment.  She is a past member of the American Society of Clinical Oncology Foundation Board.  Dr. Sigal has also been instrumental in harnessing the energies of Hollywood on behalf of cancer research, serving as President of The Creative Community Task Force for Cancer Research.

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Michael Weber, Ph.D.

Director, Cancer Center, Weaver Professor of Oncology
University of Virginia

Dr. Michael J. Weber is the director emeritus of the University of Virginia Cancer Center, and professor of microbiology and the Weaver professor of oncology at the University of Virginia. He received his Ph.D. from the University of California San Diego in 1968, and was a postdoctoral fellow and American Cancer Society fellow at the University of California, Berkeley. He was on the faculty at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign from 1971-1984, when he moved to the University of Virginia. He helped the University of Virginia obtain its first NCI-designated Cancer Center and co-founded the Cancer Cell Signaling Program, which has been the foundation for many subsequent investigations on cancer cell regulation and the discovery of therapeutic targets. Dr. Weber has been a major contributor to the discovery and analysis of the MAP Kinase pathway, which is a key driver of many malignancies, among the most prominent of which is melanoma. His research has focused over the past 10 years on understanding how signal transduction networks can best be used as a target for cancer therapy, with a focus on rational construction of combinatorial therapies. Dr. Weber has been among the top 1 percent most-cited authors in the areas of molecular biology and genetics; biology and biochemistry (Thomson Reuters). He has served on numerous NIH and foundation grant review panels and advisory boards, including the Prostate Cancer Foundation. Dr. Weber’s dedication to cancer research is not only professional, but personal: he is a member of a cancer family with BRCA2 mutations, and knows firsthand the importance of improving cancer outcomes by understanding basic cell and molecular biology and genetics.

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