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.
Please note: All organizational affiliations and titles are listed for identification purposes only. All individuals serve in their personal capacity and not as a representative of their employer.
- Suzanne Topalian, M.D. - Chair
- James Allison, Ph.D.
- Boris Bastian, M.D.
- Gideon Bollag, Ph.D.
- Glenn Dranoff, M.D.
- Greg Friberg, M.D.
- Gina Fusaro, Ph.D.
- Levi Garraway, M.D., Ph.D.
- Allan Halpern, M.D.
- Nageatte Ibrahim, M.D.
- Howard Kaufman, M.D.
- Jeffrey Legos, Ph.D.
- Richard Marais, Ph.D., FMedSci
- Grant McArthur, Ph.D., FRACP
- Ira Mellman, Ph.D.
- Caroline Robert, M.D., Ph.D.
- Neal Rosen, M.D., Ph.D.
- David Solit, M.D.
- Tara Withington
Chair, Department of Immunology, Division of Basic Science Research
Vivian L. Smith Distinguished Chair in Immunology, Department of Immunology
Executive Director, Immunotherapy Platform
Deputy Director, David H. Koch Center for Applied Research of Genitourinary Cancers
Director, Parker Institute for Cancer Immunotherapy (PICI)
The University of Texas, MD Anderson Cancer Center
James Allison has spent a distinguished career studying the regulation of T cell responses and developing strategies for cancer immunotherapy. Among his most notable discoveries are the determination of the T cell receptor structure and that CD28 is the major costimulatory molecule that allows full activation of naïve T cells and prevents anergy in T cell clones. His lab resolved a major controversy by demonstrating that CTLA-4 inhibits T-cell activation by opposing CD28-mediated costimulation and that blockade of CTLA-4 could enhance T cell responses, leading to tumor rejection in animal models. This finding paved the wave for the emerging field of immune checkpoint blockade therapy for cancer. Work in his lab led to the development of ipilimumab, an antibody to human CTLA-4 and the first immune checkpoint blockade therapy approved by the FDA. Dr. Allison is one of the world’s most renowned scientists. Among many honors, he is a member of the National Academies of Science and Medicine, received the Lasker-Debakey Clinical Medical Research award in 2015, and in 2018 received the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine. His current work seeks to improve immune checkpoint blockade therapies currently used by our clinicians and identify new targets to unleash the immune system in order to eradicate cancer..
Professor, Dermatology and Pathology
Gerson and Barbara Bass Bakar Distinguished Professor, Cancer Research
Leader, Cutaneous Oncology
University of California, San Francisco
Boris Bastian is a a dermatologist and dermatopathologistwith expertise in diagnosing and treating patients with cutaneous neoplasms. He has expertise in molecular cancer genetics and molecular pathology and leads a research laboratory at the Helen Diller Family Comprehensive Cancer Center at the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF). Since 1997 Dr. Bastian's research has focused on the molecular pathogenesis of melanoma and revealed the existence of distinct disease subtypes that differ in their underlying genetic alterations, epidemiology, anatomic distribution, clinical and microscopic appearance, evolution from precursor lesions, role of UV radiation, and cell of origin. The Bastian Lab also has contributed to the discovery of oncogenic alterations such as mutations in KIT, GNAQ, GNA11, HRAS, and a whole panel of oncogenic fusion genes of various receptor tyrosine and threonine kinases in various melanocytic neoplasms. He has developed clinical tests to assist pathologists with the diagnosis of histologically ambiguous lesions, which have been adopted word-wide. He has proposed a two-dimensional taxonomy of melanocytic neoplasia that have been adopted as the framework for the revised WHO Classification of Skin Tumors. He founded and directs the Clinical Cancer Genomics Laboratory at 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 in the Dermatopathology Section of the Departments of Dermatology and Pathology.
Chief Executive Officer
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.
Global Head, Exploratory Immuno-Oncology
Novartis Institutes for Biomedical Research
Dr. Dranoff has been instrumental in the development of several immunotherapies, most notably the vaccine G-VAX, which helps stimulate the immune system against tumors using irradiated cancer cells. In recognition of these and other accomplishments, Dr. Dranoff received the 2015 William B. Coley Award for Distinguished Research in Tumor Immunology, the Eli Lilly Biochemistry Award in Gene Therapy, and was inducted into the American Association of Physicians. Now, his work focuses on developing effective combinations of immunotherapies, including vaccines and checkpoint inhibitors, and advancing the most promising strategies into clinical trials to benefit patients.
Dr. Dranoff also serves as an associate director of CRI’s Scientific Advisory Council, a member of the Cancer Immunotherapy Consortium (CIC) Steering Committee and was the founding editor-in-chief of the CRI/AACR journal Cancer Immunology Research.
Vice President & Therapeutic Area Head
Hematology/Oncology, Global Development
Greg received his A.B. degree in biochemistry from Middlebury College and M.D. from New York Medical College. He completed his residency training in Internal Medicine at Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center and his fellowship training in Hematology and Oncology at The University of Chicago Hospitals. As part of his training, he graduated from the University of Chicago Health Sciences Department Clinical Research Training Program specializing in clinical trial design and analysis. He joined the faculty of the University of Chicago thereafter joining the Phase I, Gastrointestinal, and Gynecologic oncology teams where he served as the PI for multiple early phase clinical studies. He published multiple research papers and reviews, and he was an active member of ASCO, the CALGB, and the GOG.
Greg joined Amgen in 2006 as an Associate Medical Director in Oncology Early Development. He served as the team lead for multiple early and mid-stage programs, shepherding molecules though IND filings, into initial human studies, and onto later development. Greg took over as group leader in 2011 and served for 3 years as Therapeutic Area Head, Oncology Early Development and later for 4 months as Early Development Head overseeing (Oncology, Inflammation, Neuroscience, and General Medicine/Bone). Starting in 2014, Greg served as the interim co-TA head for the Hematology / Oncology TA , overseeing XGEVA,™ trebananib, blinatumomab and talimogene laherpare pvec (TVEC). In 2016 he served as the Global Product General Manager (GPGM) for blinatumomab and the early hematology BiTE portfolio.
In 2017 Greg assumed the role of vice president and Therapeutic Area Head, Hematology / Oncology Global Development, overseeing XGEVA™, Kyprolis™, IMLYGIC®, BLINCYTO®, Nplate®, Neupogen® / Neulasta®, Aranesp®.
Vice President, Development Program Lead
Oncology Clinical Development
Bristol Myers Squibb
Gina Fusaro is Vice President, Development Program Lead in Oncology Clinical Development at Bristol Myers Squibb. She joined BMS in 2020 as the Development Program Lead for nivolumab and ipilimumab in melanoma. She has since taken on additional roles and responsibilities for nivolumab and ipilimumab development and was appointed the Disease Area Lead for Melanoma in 2022. Prior to BMS, Gina was a Project Leader at Celgene starting in 2016 with oversight of the development of multiple assets across early, mid, and late stage pipeline development in hematology and oncology. Prior to her roles in development, Gina worked in medical affairs for thirteen years with roles of increasing responsibility in medical communications, strategy and publications. Gina earned a PhD in molecular biology from Columbia University and conducted research on the molecular mechanisms of cell cycle regulation and apoptosis mediated by E2F, RB and the tumor suppressor prohibitin. She earned a Bachelor's of Science degree in biochemistry from Brown University.
Chief Medical Officer
Chief, Dermatology Service
Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center
Dr. Allan C. Halpern is Chief of the Dermatology Service and co-Leader of the Melanoma Disease Management Team at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in New York, USA. Dr. Halpern is an internationally recognized expert in melanoma and pigmented lesions. Dr. Halpern is among the pioneers of the application of total body photography for melanoma surveillance in high risk individuals and of the application of novel technologies, including dermoscopy and reflectance confocal microscopy, to aid melanoma detection and diagnosis. His group has implemented a computerized 3dimensional digital imaging system at Memorial Sloan Kettering to monitor moles in patients who have dysplastic nevi or a personal history of melanoma. The system creates a baseline digital photographic record of the patient’s moles. When the patient returns for follow-up appointments, new and changing moles can be identified by comparison to the baseline images, enabling subtle melanomas to be recognized at a stage when they are easily cured. Dr. Halpern has held many leadership positions and is currently president of the International Society for Digital Imaging of the Skin, Vice President of the Skin Cancer Foundation, and a member of the executive board of the International Dermoscopy Society. Dr. Halpern initiated and leads the International Skin Imaging Collaboration (ISIC), an exciting effort to create standards and resources (including the ISIC Archive) that will help leverage computer science and medical informatics as aids to melanoma diagnosis. ISIC has conducted multiple ‘Grand Challenges’ for the computer science and dermatology communities that have demonstrated the rapid progress of artificial intelligence for the diagnosis of skin cancer.
Nageatte Ibrahim, M.D.
Executive Director, Melanoma Program
Merck Research Laboratories
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.
Head of Research and Development, Immuneering
Lecturer, Surgery, Harvard Medical School, Massachusetts General Hospital
Dr. Kaufman is a leading authority on tumor immunotherapy with a distinguished career in academia and industry. His major accomplishments include pioneering work to develop the first oncolytic virus approved for the treatment of advanced melanoma, and a novel programmed cell death ligand 1 (PD-L1) inhibitor as the first drug ever approved for the treatment of patients with Merkel cell carcinoma. Dr. Kaufman has published over 500 peer-reviewed abstracts, scientific and clinical manuscripts, and book chapters. He is an editor of the leading textbook in the field, Cancer Immunotherapy: Principles and Practice, and he is on the editorial board of the Journal for Immunotherapy of Cancer. His industry leadership roles have included scientific and advisory boards at Amgen, Bristol-Myers Squibb, EMD Serono/Merck KGaA, Merck, Sanofi and Turnstone Biologics, and he was chief medical officer at Compass Therapeutics and Replimune, Inc. His academic leadership includes service as Director of the Rush University Cancer Center, and he was Chief of the Division of Surgical Oncology and Associate Cancer Center Director at Columbia University, as well as the Rutgers Cancer Institute of New Jersey. He held the Weiskopf endowed associate professorship at Columbia University and was tenured full professor at Rush Medical School and Rutgers University. Dr. Kaufman joined Immuneering Corp. as Head of Research and development in 2020. He is board certified and maintains a small clinical practice at the Massachusetts General Hospital. He also has a faculty appointment at the Harvard Medical School.
Senior Vice President, Global Program Head
Novartis Pharmaceuticals Corporation
Jeffrey Legos, PhD, MBA, is Senior Vice President of Oncology Global Development and Medical Affairs at Novartis Pharmaceutical Corporation. He leads large multinational teams across all functions of drug development overseeing clinical trials and translational research, including novel combinations and companion diagnostics. Prior to his current role, Dr Legos was the Vice President and Global Medicines Development Leader in Oncology at GlaxoSmithKline. Dr Legos holds a PhD in Physiology from Temple University School of Medicine and trained in Pharmaceutical Medicine in the Department of Neurosurgery at Temple University Hospital. He also holds an MBA in Finance from the Villanova University School of Business.
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.
Head, Molecular Oncology Laboratory, Consultant
Medical Oncologist, Senior Principal Research
Fellow (NHMRC), Group Leader, Senior Faculty
Peter MacCallum Cancer Center
Vice President, Research Oncology
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.
Head, Dermatology Unit
Co-Director, Melanoma Research Unit
Institute Gustave Roussy
Caroline Robert is Head of the Dermatology Unit and Co-director of the Melanoma Translational Research Team INSERM U981 at Gustave-Roussy, Villejuif-Grand-Paris, France. Dr Robert gained her medical degree at the Cochin Port-Royal School of Medicine, Paris, in 1990, after which she was made a faculty member of the graduate school of biological sciences and received her French Board Certification in Dermatology in 1992. On gaining her certification, Dr Robert was appointed Assistant Professor in Dermatology at the St-Louis Hospital, Paris. She completed a research fellowship at Harvard, US and a PhD in cancer immunology and immunotherapy. In 2000, Dr Robert returned to Europe as Medical Director for Johnson & Johnson Consumer Europe. In 2001, she took a position at the Institut Gustave-Roussy as Assistant in Dermatology, before becoming Head of the Dermatology Unit in 2005 and co-director of the Melanoma Translational Research Team INSERM U981 in 2010. She is board member for the European Association of Onco-Dermatology (EADO), past-President of the Melanoma group of the European Organization for the Research and Treatment of Cancer (EORTC), a member of the ESMO, AACR and ASCO. Dr Robert is a scientist of international renown in the clinical and translational research of melanoma and the cutaneous side-effects of new targeted chemotherapies. She has authored more than 250 articles in peer-reviewed scientific journals, including a number of publications on new treatments for metastatic melanoma and been involved in numerous international clinical trials.
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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Director, Marie-Josee & Henry R. Kravis Center for Molecular Oncology
Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center
Dr. Solit is a medical oncologist and laboratory scientist specializing in the treatment of many cancers using chemotherapy, targeted therapies, immunotherapy, or combinations of these drugs. He is involved with clinical trials, particularly trials of targeted drugs known as kinase inhibitors that block pathways inside cancer cells that cause the cells to grow or spread. Dr. Solit directs the Center for Molecular Oncology at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center and leads a multidisciplinary team of clinicians, geneticists, bioinformaticians, and laboratory scientists.
Dr. Solit received his medical degree from the University of Pennsylvania, completed an internship and residency in internal medicine at Barnes Hospital and a fellowship in medical hematology/oncology at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center.
Professor, Surgery and Oncology
Director, Melanoma Program, Kimmel Cancer Center
Associate Director, Bloomberg~Kimmel Inst. for Cancer Immunotherapy
Johns Hopkins Medicine
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.
Society for Immunotherapy of Cancer
In 2001, Tara Withington joined the Society for Immunotherapy of Cancer (SITC) as the Executive Director and principle staff member. Ms. Withington has been instrumental in positioning the society as a universally respected organization known for its dedication to advancing the science and application of cancer immunotherapy both in the US and abroad. Through her efforts—and those of the SITC leadership—she has challenged the society to make bold steps forward to be the educational hub for accurate and unbiased information on cancer immunotherapy, expanded society efforts to have a more global appeal, and ensured that the society serves as the leading scientific voice in the field.
When Ms. Withington joined the society, it was by all accounts a fledgling organization of 100 members, 230 meeting attendees and dire financial outlook. Guided by her entrepreneurial spirit and unyielding dedication to the organization, Ms. Withington has successfully led SITC through substantial change and exponential growth during her tenure. This was not only to keep course with how the field was evolving, but also to help position the organization as the preeminent and dominant force supporting the efforts of the scientists and researchers developing this innovative and disruptive cancer treatment modality.
Ms. Withington holds a degree in Business Management as well as the Certified Association Executive (CAE) designation. Outside of her role at SITC, Tara served as a member of the Board of Directors for the AMC Institute and is a member in good standing in the American Society of Association Executives (ASAE), She currently serves as a member of the Foresight Advisory Task Force. She is also a member of the Wisconsin Society for Association Executives, who honored her in 2018 with the Association Leadership Award.
In addition to her role with SITC, Ms. Withington is also a principal and Vice President with Executive Director, Incorporated (EDI), a full-service association management firm. EDI specializes in the management of medical professional societies, foundations and certification boards and houses more than 35 such organizations and 270 employees in its headquarters based in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.