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Filmmaker Biographies

Bill Haney

Writer, Director and Producer

Bill Haney is a filmmaker, inventor and entrepreneur.  

 

As a screenwriter, director and producer, he has made 15 narrative and documentary films and won The Gabriel Prize, A Silver Hugo, The Earthwatch Award, A Marine Conservation Award, and an Amnesty International Award.   

 

Chosen as Global Leader of Tomorrow by the World Economic Forum, he has won a Humanitarian Award from Harvard Medical School, a Distinguished Service Award from the Senior Olympics, the Slow Food Prize, a Genesis Award, and an Achievement Award from the ACLU.  Bill has been repeatedly nominated for a NAACP Image Award and won the Pare Lorentz Award.  

 

As an inventor and entrepreneur, Bill started his first company as a college freshman, inventing air pollution control systems for power plants now in use in utilities the world over.  He has since founded or co-founded more than a dozen technology companies. Presently, Bill is the co-founder and CEO of Dragonfly Therapeutics, a biotech company developing drugs to cure cancer, and co-founder and CEO of Skyhawk Therapeutics, a biotech company developing drugs to cure RNA-splicing based disease - from devastating neurological conditions like Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s Disease, to major cancers. 

 

Bill's been a founding member of the national environmental advisory board for the US Environmental Protection Agency, and the President’s Circle for the National Academy of Sciences and serves or has served on a variety of non-profit and government boards including for Harvard’s Kennedy School, MIT, State and Federal Government agencies, the World Wildlife Fund, the US DOE, the World Resources Institute, and the NRDC. He is the founder and Chairman Emeritus of World Connect, a non-profit partnered with the Peace Corps and dedicating to improving the health and welfare of mothers and children in the developing world, with programs now launched in more than 1500 villages in 30 countries. Bill is an inventor on more than 100 granted or pending patents, has a BA from Harvard College and served as a Fellow of Harvard’s Kennedy School.  

 

Bill’s portfolio as a film maker includes award-winning documentaries on socially important subjects such as coal mining (The Last Mountain, 2011) and worker exploitation (The Price of Sugar, 2007) and his work as writer/producer on Tim Disney’s civil rights drama, American Violet.  

 

Jim Allison: Breakthrough, his new work, celebrates the imagination and resilience that our greatest scientists display on their quest to push the frontiers of knowledge.  Featuring the extraordinary journey of immunologist Jim Allison from his childhood in foster support after the death of his mother in Friday Night Lights, Creationist Texas to his groundbreaking achievements in cancer research, Bill plumbs the incredible human drama of a life as a pioneer in the life sciences. Haney was inspired to highlight Allison’s discoveries after hearing his college roommate Tyler Jack’s description of Allison’s amazing life.  Made with partner Tim Disney under their Uncommon Productions banner, Jim Allison: Breakthrough was shot across the U.S. in 2017 and 2018, with its final day of filming taking place hours before Allison received the 2018 Nobel Prize in Medicine. 

 

 

Selected Filmography 

 

2019 Janis (pre-Production) 

2018 Jim Allison: Breakthrough 

2011 The Last Mountain 

2006 Accelerating America 

2007 The Price of Sugar 

2005 A Life Among Whales 

2004 Racing Against the Clock 

2002 Gift of the Game

R.J. Cutler

Executive Producer

R.J. Cutler is an American filmmaker, documentarian, television producer and theater director. His work includes the documentary films The War Room, A Perfect Candidate, Thin, The September Issue and The World According to Dick Cheney; the non-fiction television series American High, Freshman Diaries and 30 Days; the prime time drama series Nashville; and the feature film If I Stay. Cutler's first film, The War Room, was nominated for an Academy Award and he is the recipient of numerous awards including an Emmy, a Peabody Award, a GLAAD Award, two Cinema Eye Awards, and two Television Academy Honor Awards. In 2009, the Museum of Television and Radio held a five-day retrospective of his work.


RJ is a graduate of Harvard University with a degree in Fine Arts.

Jennifer Pearce

Producer

After graduating with a degree in English Literature from the University of Rhode Island, in her home state, Jennifer Pearce lived peripatetically for several years.  She traversed most countries of the world, living for extended periods in three of its most glamorous cities - Paris, New Orleans and San Francisco.  She also lived for three years on a 33-foot sailboat…crossing an ocean…sailing the Mediterranean…spending winters in Turkey and Crete. 

 

Eventually she came back home - or near to it, to Boston, where she set her sights on documentary films.  “I easily found work within the vibrant documentary film community and the local PBS station WGBH.”  For the past twenty years, she has worked on films about science, history, and biographies of Louisa May Alcott and Edgar Allan Poe.  “I am there from the beginning of production and contribute to all aspects of the film’s development.” 

 

In addition to Jim Allison: Breakthrough, her credits include: 

2016 Poe Buried Alive (PBS’ American Masters)

2011 The Great Famine (PBS’ American Experience)

2009 WE SHALL REMAIN: Trail of Tears (PBS’ American Experience)

2008  Louisa May Alcott: The Woman Behind Little Women (PBS American Masters)

2006 The War That Made America (PBS) Cine Golden Eagle Winner

2004 The Most Dangerous Woman in America (NOVA)

Peter Rhodes

Editor

Trained in the art and craft of cinema at the BBC, in his native country, Peter Rhodes moved to the United States in 1986 where he immersed himself in the burgeoning non-fiction film community.  He now has more than fifty credits – works of varied style and genre which have aired on PBS or the BBC, and screened at major film festivals.  He also produces and directs films for children.  His home is in Boston. 

 

Rhodes has a longstanding relationship with Bill Haney and Uncommon Productions, having edited five films prior to Jim Allison: Breakthrough.  Those notably include The Last Mountain (2011), an official Sundance selection and winner of the Pare Lorentz Award, as well as The Price of Sugar (2007), winner of the Audience Award at the South by Southwest Film Festival. 

 

His most recent work for others includes Poetry in America (2018/19) for WGBH and Edgar Allan Poe: Buried Alive (2016) for PBS’s American Masters series. Another PBS film, Latino Americans (2012), won the prestigious Peabody Award.  He conjectures that the most-watched title on his extensive resume is the four-hour From Jesus to Christ: The First Christians, made in 1997, which airs every Easter. 

 

Other films edited by Peter Rhodes include: 

The Year We Thought About Love (2015) 

Inside the Meltdown (2009 - Frontline),  

The People vs Leo Frank (2009 - PBS) - Special Jury Prize, 2010 History Maker’s Conference  

Typhoid Mary: The Most Dangerous Woman in America (Nova) 

The War That Made America (PBS) - Cine Golden Eagle winner, 2006 

Harvest of Fear (a Frontline/Nova co-production) - duPont-Columbia award.

Mark Orton

Composer & Musician

Mark Orton is a composer, songwriter and guitarist whose signature sound has scads of fans worldwide.  He is a founding member of Tin Hat, a San Francisco based collective whose unique compositions blur the line between chamber music and jazz (the rain is a handsome animal, Foreign Legion, The Sad Machinery of Spring). 

 

He has also scored a number of films, most notably Nebraska (2013), Alexander Payne’s lauded ‘dramedy’ starring Bruce Dern.  Orton supplied the music for a second Dern picture, The Lears (2017), a modern take on King Lear.  Others include My Old Lady (2014), Sweet Land (2006) and The Good Girl (2002) starring Jennifer Aniston. 

 

Orton studied at the Peabody Conservatory of Johns Hopkins University and the Hartt School of Music in Hartford, Connecticut.  He is the recipient of a Sundance Composer Fellowship and was nominated as Best New Composer by the International Film Music Critics Association.  He makes his home in Portland, Oregon. 

Mickey Raphael

Producer & Musician

Mickey Raphael, a native of Dallas, has been part of Willie Nelson’s band for more than four decades.  In addition to Willie, he has performed and recorded with such titans as Neil Young, Bob Dylan, Johnny Cash, U2 and many others, most recently with Chris Stapleton. 

 

“Dr. Jim Allison and I have more in common than a mutual love for the harmonica,” he explains.  “I lost my partner to ovarian cancer in 2014 and I keep up with what’s going on in the world of cancer research.  When I first heard about the work Jim was doing, I immediately reached out to him and we became fast friends.” 

 

Invited by Bill Haney to contribute a score for Jim Allison: Breakthrough, Raphael contacted Mark Orton, a long-time friend who created the highly-praised score for Alexander Payne’s film, Nebraska.  “I knew we would make a good team and I am honored and proud to have collaborated with him on Breakthrough.” 

 

In 2019, Mickey will perform in more than ninety cities with Willie Nelson.  When not on tour, he makes his home in Nashville.

Molly Schwartz

Animation Artist

A designer, animator and special effects artist, Molly Schwartz created the titles, science animations and graphics for Jim Allison: Breakthrough. She brought to the project her previous experience on the ground-breaking PBS series, Cancer: Emperor of All Maladies, produced by Ken Burns and directed by Barak Goodman.

 

Schwartz is also an installation artist who works directly with museums and other institutions to create wide-ranging visual effects. These include the Paley Center New York, United Nations Pavilion, Brooklyn International Film Festival and many others. She makes her home in Brooklyn.

 

Born in New York but raised in Oklahoma, Schwartz earned her BFA in painting from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. After a semester of study in Nepal, she studied art conservation and restoration of works of art on paper, and has a MPS graduate degree in visual programming and physical computing from New York University where she is an adjunct professor in the school’s Interactive Telecommunications Program.

 

Schwartz was the lead designer and animator for Watchers of the Sky (2014), winner of a Sundance Special Award for Animation. Among recent projects are Seeing With Sound for the American Museum of Natural History, Take Every Wave: The Life of Laird Hamilton, Rancher Farmer Fisher.

Tim Disney

Executive Producer

A founder with Bill Haney of Uncommon Productions, Tim Disney has partnered with him on fifteen productions as writer, producer or director.  The two struck up a friendship as students at Harvard College, later joining forces to make the world a better place. Once Jim Allison: Breakthrough is launched, they will commence work on a new project, Janis.  

 

The team’s environment-friendly business ventures include Blu Homes, the leading builder of green, prefabricated housing, and World Connect, a non-profit specializing in micro grants to women and children in developing countries.  Separately, Tim founded the Adamma Foundation, a Los Angeles-Based charitable foundation.  From 1992 to 2000, he served as Chairman and CEO of Virtual World Entertainment, a leading developer and operator of 3-D gaming and simulation technology.   

 

As part of the storied Disney clan - grand-nephew of Walt and grandson of Roy — Tim has had a long involvement with California Institute of the Arts (CalArts) and is now Chairman of the Board of Trustees, which presents a set of annual story-telling awards in his honor.

R. J. Cutler

Executive Producer

A filmmaker, television producer and theatre director of vast experience, R. J. Cutler struck gold as a non-fiction film producer with The War Room (1993).  Directed by Chris Hegedus and D. A. Pennebaker, it told the tale of Bill Clinton’s 1992 presidential campaign and set a standard unmatched until the present.  It was a box office hit and festooned with awards, including an Oscar nomination. 

 

A New York native, Cutler graduated from Harvard in 1994 and began working in New York theatre as a director (Right Behind the Flag, Emerald City, The Secret Garden).  In 1990, he produced the NPR show, Heat, which aired live five nights a week and received a Peabody Award.  Continuing in a political vein, he made A Perfect Candidate (1996 - with David Van Taylor) about Oliver North’s failed Senate Campaign.  He also conceived and supervised Edgewise, a weekly, magazine-format television show which ran for two years. 

 

Cutler’s next achievement was American High, a cinema verite look at life in high schools around the country.  In 2001, the first fourteen episodes received an Emmy Award for Outstanding Reality Program.  His more recent forays include TV movies (Four Stars, Members Only) and TV series (Nashville, Call of Duty ELITE, Restorer Guy). He also produced the documentaries, The World According to Dick Cheney (2013) and One Nation Under Dog (2012).

Maura McCarthy

Executive Producer

Maura McCarthy brings two decades of finance, capital raising, and market analysis experience to Uncommon Productions and Jim Allison: Breakthrough.  At Uncommon she runs Marketing, PR, and Finance, to support distribution of several films including The Last Mountain and William. 

 

McCarthy began her career at the Federal Reserve as a macroeconomic analyst and followed this as a venture investor in consumer, healthcare and technology companies.  She is the co-founder and chairman of Blu Homes, an eco-friendly prefab homes company, and is VP Corporate Development for Dragonfly and Skyhawk Therapeutics.  She is a co-founder of World Connect, a non-profit partnered with the Peace Corps and dedicating to improving the health and welfare of mothers and children in the developing world, with programs now launched in more than 1500 villages in 30 countries.  She was born in Eastern Kentucky, grew up in Michigan, is an amateur fiddler and a graduate of Georgetown University.

Michael Eisenson

Executive Producer

Several important threads of Michael Eisenson’s life came together in Jim Allison: Breakthrough, among them his long-term commitment to medical research as well as his support of analogous projects helmed by Bill Haney, whom he also calls a friend.  The loss of his mother to cancer when he was young propelled him towards more than twenty years of engagement with the Dana Farber Cancer Institute in Boston, where he and his wife, Barbara, live.  He is also a trustee of the Institute. 

 

In his business life, Eisenson is Co-Chair and Founding Partner of Charlesbank Capital Partners, a private equity firm.  He also personally invests in startup companies whose goals conflate with his own ethos.  He is a co-founder of Horizons for Homeless Children, a program providing high quality preschool for homeless children.  A native New Yorker, Eisenson is a graduate of Williams College where he currently serves as Chairman of the Board.  He is Vice Chair of the Board of the Berklee College of Music and an enthusiast of American roots music.  “Few things move the soul like a good harmonica riff,” he avers.

Sean E. Reilly

Executive Producer

Sean Reilly is CEO of Lamar Advertising and an early stage investor in several biotech companies targeting solutions in the immuno-oncology space.  Sean and Bill Haney have been best of friends since they met the first day of their freshman year in college.  Sean has been riding Bill’s coattails ever since, including bit producing roles in several of his documentary and feature films. 

 

Most recently Bill has invited Sean to invest in and serve on the board of his two early stage Bio Pharma companies, Dragonfly Therapeutics and Skyhawk Therapeutics.  These two companies are striving to make breakthrough contributions to the science of oncology and neurology with drugs that may hold hope for patients that struggle with the most challenging diseases.

Film Subject Biographies

Malinda Allison

Malinda Bell Allison was born in Vernon, Texas and met Jim within the first few weeks of arriving at the University of Texas in Austin in 1966.  They married in 1969, and lived in Austin, San Diego, Berkeley and New York City.  Malinda worked as a law librarian and paralegal while Jim pursued his scientific education and career.  Their son Robert was born in Berkeley in 1990.  When she and Jim divorced in 2012 Malinda moved to Honey Grove, Texas, a small community in northeast Texas where her grandparents were born.  She is involved in many volunteer activities in Fannin County, including the Honey Grove Library, the Fannin County Museum of History and the Fannin County Historical Commission.  She was Citizen of the Year in Honey Grove in 2014.

Murphy Allison

Eldest brother of James Allison, grew up in Alice, Texas.  He earned an undergraduate and masters degree in Mechanical Engineering from Texas Tech University.  After college he returned to Alice where he started a family and he worked in the oil and gas industry until he retired.  Murphy now lives with his son and his daughter-in-law on their ranch 30 miles outside of Alice.

Sharon Belvin

Sharon Belvin is a 37-year-old mother of 2 and a stage 4 melanoma survivor.  Cancer, however, isn’t her whole story; just a key player in an absolutely fantastic life.  She had a “normal” happy childhood in Beachwood, New Jersey. She loved sports, goofing off with friends and family, and never had any serious injuries or illnesses. However, when she turned 22 in 2004 that normalcy abruptly ended. She found out that she had stage 4 melanoma just 2 weeks before she was set to marry her now ex-husband, Rob.  Through the next 1.5 years that she and Rob actively fought cancer they learned to never take a day for granted and that life is precious and far too short.   Though they are now separated, they still remain friends and are both very grateful for the lessons that cancer taught them. 

 

It has now been almost 15 years since her diagnosis and life sure didn’t turn out the way she thought it would.  From the time she was 7 years old she thought that she was going to be a school teacher.  Instead, through her own weight loss journey, after the birth of her 2 children she became a personal trainer and health coach for a hospital system.  It was there that she met her now fiancée, Janice.  Talk about a life stopping moment. She thought cancer would be the biggest life altering event that she would experience, well ... she was wrong. Finding out that you fall in love with the person and not a gender altered her perception on life irrevocably.  

 

Cancer shaped me into a person that tries to live each day as if it very well could be my last.  She would never change the fact she got cancer. She just NEVER wants to have to learn the lessons that cancer taught her ever again.

Eric Benson

Eric Benson is a senior editor at Texas Monthly, where he has written about everything from the Senate candidacy of Beto O’Rourke to the Branch Davidian siege outside Waco to cartel violence in the Mexican city of Reynosa. His cover story on Jim Allison, “The Iconoclast,” was named best profile (circulation of 60,000 or greater) at the 2017 National City and Regional Magazine Awards. His work has also appeared in the New York Times Magazine, Rolling Stone, and the Oxford American.

Jeffrey Bluestone

Jeffrey Bluestone, PhD, is president and CEO of the Parker Institute for Cancer Immunotherapy and the A.W. and Mary Margaret Clausen Distinguished Professor at UCSF. Dr. Bluestone is one of the leading immunologists in the field of T-cell activation and immune tolerance research that has led to the development of multiple immunotherapies, including the first FDA-approved drug targeting T-cell co-stimulation to treat autoimmune disease and organ transplantation and the first CTLA-4 antagonist drugs approved for the treatment of metastatic melanoma. 

 

Dr. Bluestone is an academic leader on a national and international scale. He was the founding director of the Immune Tolerance Network, the largest NIH-funded multicenter clinical immunology research program, testing novel immunotherapies in transplantation, autoimmunity and asthma/allergy; executive vice chancellor and provost emeritus at UCSF and the former director of the UCSF Diabetes Center. Finally, Dr. Bluestone has authored more than 400 peer-reviewed publications and has received numerous awards, including election to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and the National Academy of Medicine. He was also appointed a member of Vice President Joe Biden’s Cancer Moonshot Blue Ribbon Panel.

Michael Curran

As a fellow in the lab of Dr. Jim Allison, Dr. Curran was the first to describe the immunobiology and translational potential of combination blockade of the CTLA-4 and PD-1 T cell co-inhibitory pathways, as well as to define the cellular mechanisms underlying the efficacy of 4-1BB agonist antibodies. The focus of Dr. Curran’s lab at MD Anderson Cancer Center is on studying the mechanisms by which tumors evade and suppress host immunity, both through intrinsic resistance and through recruitment of an immune suppressive and metabolically-hostile microenvironment. The lab pursues multiple strategies to overcome these suppressive adaptations in immunotherapy-resistant cancers such as pancreatic and prostate cancers and glioblastoma including T cell checkpoint modulation, diminished myeloid suppression, and re-conditioning of tumor metabolism.

Rachel Humphrey

Rachel Humphrey is a medical oncologist who is currently serving as the Chief Medical Officer of CytomX, a biotech company based in South San Francisco where she supervises the clinical development of ProbodyTM Therapeutics for the development of cancer.   Prior to this, she held various senior level roles in cancer drug development including at Cytomx (Board of Directors), AstraZeneca (SVP, Head of the Immuno-oncology department), and Bristol Myers Squibb (VP, Clinical Development).   Dr. Humphrey’s career is notable for, among other things, overall supervision of the (early and late-stage) clinical development of ipilimumab (Yervoy) at BMS and sorafenib (Nexavar) at Bayer.  She is also the lead singer and one of the co-founders of the band, The Checkpoints.

Tyler Jacks

Tyler Jacks, PhD is the Director of the Koch Institute for Integrative Cancer Research at MIT, the David H. Koch Professor of Biology, and an Investigator of the Howard Hughes Medical Institute. Over the course of his career at MIT, Dr. Jacks has pioneered the use of gene targeting technology to study cancer-associated genes and to construct models of many human cancer types, including cancers of the lung, brain, and ovary. His laboratory has made seminal contributions to the understanding of the effects of mutations of several common cancer-associated genes. This research has led to novel insights into tumor development, normal development and other cellular processes, as well as new strategies for cancer detection and treatment. Dr. Jacks has published more than 300 scientific papers. 

 

Dr. Jacks has served on the Board of Scientific Advisors of the National Cancer Institute, is the immediate past chair of the National Cancer Advisory Board, and served as co-chair of Vice President Biden’s Cancer Moonshot’s Blue Ribbon Panel. He is an advisor to several biotechnology and pharmaceutical companies, and is a member of the Board of Directors of Amgen and Thermo Fisher Scientific. He is a founder of T2 Biosciences and Dragonfly Therapeutics, where he serves as chair of the Scientific Advisory Board. 

 

Among many honors, Dr. Jacks is a member of the National Academy of Sciences, the National Academy of Medicine, the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and the Fellows of the American Association of Cancer Research Academy. In 2015, he received the Killian Award, the highest honor MIT bestow upon a member of its faculty. 

G. Barrie Kitto

Barrie Kitto grew up in New Zealand and received B.Sc. and M.Sc. (Hons) degrees in biochemistry from Victoria University in that country. Following two years working as a biochemist in the Pathology Department at the 900 bed Wellington Hospital, he came to the United States for further graduate studies at Brandeis University in Massachusetts, receiving a Ph. D. from that institution in 1966. That same year he accepted academic offers of an Assistant Professorship in the Chemistry Department and as a Research Scientist in the Clayton Foundation Biochemical Institute at the University of Texas at Austin. Apart from sabbaticals at the University of California, Berkeley and Duke University he remained at the University in Austin for more than 45 years rising through the ranks to a Full Professorship. He also served as the Director of the Center for Biotechnology at the University from 1989 to 2009. Dr. Kitto has also been the recipient of several teaching awards and was founder of a biotechnology company and a co-founder of an educational multimedia company. He retired as Professor Emeritus in 2014 but still comes into the University a couple of days a week. 

 

Dr. Kitto’s research covered a very wide range of topics and was concerned with such areas as how insects fly, detection of food contaminants, the unusual properties of the hemoglobins of marine organisms, controlling screwworm infestations in cattle as well as immunological approaches to cancer and HIV therapies. He has published more than 100 scientific papers and served as Jim Allison’s undergraduate mentor and Ph.D. supervisor (along with Dr. William Mandy) from 1967 - 1973 

 

Outside academics, Barrie Kitto is an avid craftsman with a broad range of interests, from making one of a kind pieces of gold and silver jewelry, to more recent forays into metal 3D printing and laser cutting in wood and acrylics. Other endeavors include wood turning, ceramics, glasswork, screen printing and photography. He and his wife Binnie have 3 children and 3 grandchildren.

Alan Korman

Dr. Korman is currently Vice President, Immuno-Oncology, at Bristol-Myers Squibb, where he leads a group dedicated to the development of biologics in tumor immunotherapy. Dr. Korman started his career in the biotechnology industry at Supragen in Colorado in 1993, which became part of NeXstar Pharmaceuticals. At NeXstar, he initiated the development of therapeutics targeting CTLA4. In 2000, he joined Medarex (Bristol-Myers Squibb since 2009) and continued the development of antibody therapeutics in tumor immunotherapy with programs targeting PD-1 and PD-L1 along with the preclinical development of combinations in immunotherapy. Five additional antibodies in immuno-oncology (anti-LAG-3, anti-GITR, anti-OX40, anti-CD73, and anti-TIGIT) are currently in clinical development. Dr. Korman received his PhD in Cellular and Developmental Biology from Harvard University (Cambridge, MA) in 1984, where he studied molecular immunology in the laboratory of Dr. Jack Strominger. From 1984 to 1989, he was a Whitehead Fellow at the Whitehead Institute, Massachusetts Institute of Technology (Cambridge, MA), where he continued his work in molecular immunology in association with the laboratory of Dr. Richard Mulligan. He was also a Charge de Recherche at the Institut Pasteur (Paris, France) from 1990 to 1993, where he studied viral superantigens.

Max Krummel

Important discoveries come from fundamental research and ‘How does this work?’ questions. For the past 25 years, Matthew Krummel, PhD, has studied mechanisms that regulate T cell responses and therefore regulate immune function, using cutting-edge real-time imaging methods to ask these kinds of questions. As a graduate student, he discovered the function of a molecule called CTLA-4 and applied these antibodies toward upregulating T cell responses to antigens in vivo and then toward augmenting immune responses to tumors. That approach is now termed ‘checkpoint blockade’, now FDA approved and widely used for treatment of melanoma and other cancers. He is a poster child whose work demonstrates that basic studies yield clinically-relevant results. 

 

Dr. Krummel’s lab at UCSF focuses on figuring out how entire immune systems, collections of cells in complex tissues, work. Their work capitalizes on using cutting-edge time-lapse microscopy to track information processing by the immune system. To do this, they have developed home-built instruments including multiphoton, TIRF and Lattice-Light sheet microscopes.  A particular emphasis of the lab is to track, from time-lapse sequences, how information is exchanged in the dense cellular milieu of organs. Their approaches are revealing how motile immune cells ‘search’ their environment for critical information and the unexpected dynamics of the assembly of complexes of lymphocytes—clusters and temporally ordered aggregates of cells. They have also developed mouse models of breast cancer in which the stromal cells that interact with tumors become fluorescent by virtue of the uptake of very stable fluorescent proteins from the tumor. Through this, his team identified critical stimulatory phagocyte populations in tumors, demonstrating that these are necessary for profound CD8 responses and are a key biomarker that predicts response to checkpoint therapies. Returning to imaging, they have shown that these phagocytes are maintained by virtue of interactions with tissue resident NK cells that provide them with critical cytokines. This axis provides an important way to understand the challenges ahead in the next round of therapy development. 

 

Dr. Krummel also drives collaborative science. At UCSF, he conceived of, built and staffed an imaging ‘collaboratory’ which now houses over a dozen microscopes, six ‘shared’ personnel and serves over 30 labs per year. A second major initiative was a novel industry consortium-funded project called UCSF Immunoprofiler (Immunoprofiler.org) which is moving tumor biopsies into labs in order to understand the biology of individual patients. Dr. Krummel also founded a biotech company, Pionyr Immunotherapeutics, to translate his lab’s findings in immunology toward treating those people for whom checkpoint blockade is insufficient. Most recently, he chairs the UCSF ImmunoX initiative, a cross-laboratory initiative share and collaborates in the research community. The downstream aim of all of his research is to understand then use the immune system to improve human health.

Lewis Lanier

Lewis L. Lanier is an American Cancer Society Professor and the J. Michael Bishop MD Distinguished Professor and Chairman of the Department of Microbiology and Immunology at the University of California San Francisco and is Leader of the Cancer Immunity Program of the UCSF Helen Diller Comprehensive Cancer Center and Director of the Parker Institute for Cancer Immunotherapy at UCSF. Dr. Lanier received his Ph.D. in Microbiology and Immunology from the University of North Carolina – Chapel Hill. After postdoctoral studies, first at the Lineberg Cancer Center at the UNC – Chapel Hill and then as a Damon Runyon – Walter Winchell Cancer Research Fellow at the University of New Mexico, he joined the Research & Development Department at the Becton Dickinson Monoclonal Center in Mountain View, California, advancing to Associate Director of Research and was a Becton Dickinson Research Fellow. In 1990, he joined the DNAX Research Institute of Molecular and Cellular Biology in Palo Alto, California, where he advanced to Director of Immunobiology. In 1999, Dr. Lanier joined the faculty of UCSF. His research group studies Natural Killer (NK) cells, which recognize and eliminate cells that have become transformed or infected by viruses. In recognition of his scientific contributions he was awarded the William B. Coley Award for Distinguished Research in Basic Tumor Immunology from the Cancer Research Institute in 2002, in 2005 was given the Rose Payne Award for contributions to the field of Immunogenetics by the American Society for Histocompatibility and Immunogenetics, in 2010 was elected to the US National Academy of Sciences, and in 2011 was named a Fellow of the American Academy of Microbiology and elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. He was awarded the 2017 Excellence in Mentoring Award from the American Association of Immunologists and served as President from 2006-2007. Dr. Lanier serves on the Scientific Advisory Board of several pharma and biotech companies and research institutes and Editorial boards of scientific journals.

Dan Littman

Dan Littman is Professor of Molecular Immunology at the New York University School of Medicine. He became fascinated by the immune system while in college, and after completing MD and PhD studies he was among the first to identify genes for molecules at the surface of T lymphocytes. As a professor at the University of California, San Francisco, he studied how T lymphocytes develop and function, and discovered how they become infected by the human immunodeficiency virus. More recently, at NYU, he investigates how immune cells are regulated by the intestinal microbiota, whose composition can influence susceptibility to autoimmune diseases and allergies, as well as responsiveness to cancer immunotherapy. Dr. Littman’s studies have led to development of therapies for AIDS and inflammatory diseases. 

Nils Lonberg

Dr. Lonberg is Senior Vice President, Oncology Discovery Biology, at Bristol-Myers Squibb, where he leads drug discovery efforts for both targeted and immuno-oncology agents. Dr. Lonberg began his career in the biotechnology/ pharmaceutical industry, leading the GenPharm International research group that developed genetically engineered strains of mice with germline configuration human immunoglobulin genes. These transgenic animals have been used to discover more than three dozen clinical-stage human sequence antibodies, including 10 FDA-approved products (golimumab, ustekinumab, ofatumumab, canakinumab, ipilimumab, nivolumab, secukinumab, daratumumab, bezlotoxumab, and olaratumab). GenPharm International was acquired by Medarex in 1997, and then by Bristol-Myers Squibb in 2009. In 1998, Dr. Lonberg’s drug discovery group at Medarex began to focus on antibody therapies that target and modulate immune-attenuating pathways to activate patient immune responses to cancer cells (so-called “checkpoint blockade” therapies). Ipilimumab, which began clinical testing in 2000, was the first-ever checkpoint blockade cancer therapy to enter clinical development and to gain regulatory approval. Ipilimumab, approved in 2011, was also the first drug to demonstrate, in a randomized clinical trial, a survival benefit for patients with metastatic melanoma. A second checkpoint blockade cancer therapeutic, nivolumab, entered clinical development in 2006 and gained regulatory approval in 2014. Dr. Lonberg received his PhD in Biochemistry and Molecular Biology from Harvard University (Cambridge, MA) in 1985, where he studied under Dr. Walter Gilbert. He was a postdoctoral fellow at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center (New York, NY) and was elected to the National Academy of Engineering in 2015. 

Andrew Pollack

Andrew Pollack covered biotechnology and the pharmaceutical industry for the New York Times and wrote many articles on cancer immunotherapy as it achieved success over the past several years. He first met Dr. Allison at the 2010 annual meeting of the American Society of Clinical Oncology, where he covered the presentation of some of the first promising clinical trial results for ipilimumab. In his 35 years at the Times, before retiring in 2016, Pollack also covered high technology and Silicon Valley and spent five years as a foreign correspondent based in Tokyo.

Matt Richtel

Matt Richtel is a Pulitzer Prize winning New York Times science reporter and bestselling author. His 2019 non-fiction narrative An Elegant Defense explores the extraordinary science of the immune system through the lens of four intimate medical journeys. A previous book, A Deadly Wandering (2014) drew on his Pulitzer Prize winning reporting about distracted driving, told the true story of fatal texting-and-driving crash, and was named a book of the year by numerous publications, including The Christian Science Monitor and The San Francisco Chronicle.

Elliott Sigal

Elliott Sigal, M.D., Ph.D. is a former Executive Vice President and Director of Bristol-Myers Squibb. He served as Chief Scientific Officer and President of R&D for Bristol-Myers Squibb from 2004 until 2013. Under his leadership, fourteen new medicines came to market including Erbitux (Colon Cancer), Baraclude (Hepatitis B), Orencia (Rheumatoid Arthritis), Sprycel (Leukemia), Eliquis (Stroke), and Yervoy, the first checkpoint inhibitor (Melanoma). He built BMS research into a lead position in immuno-oncology which is revolutionizing the practice of medicine in cancer. In 2012, Dr. Sigal was named the best R and D chief in the pharmaceutical industry by Scrip Intelligence. 

 

Dr. Sigal was a principal architect of the successful Biopharma Transformation Strategy of the company and was instrumental in increasing R&D productivity, developing the company’s strategy in biologics and acquiring external innovation in Bristol’s String of Pearls initiative. 

 

Dr. Sigal currently serves as a senior advisor to the healthcare team of New Enterprise Associates and also consults for select biotechnology companies including Amgen. He is co-chair of the Scientific Advisory Board of Amgen and is a member of the Sean Parker Institute for Cancer Immunotherapy Scientific Steering Committee. He is a member of the Board of Directors for the biotechnology companies Adaptimmune, Spark Therapeutics and Surface Oncology. Dr. Sigal joined BMS in 1997 and held roles in both discovery and development before ascending to chief scientific officer. Positions prior to BMS included a faculty appointment at University of California, San Francisco (UCSF), senior executive roles at Syntex/Roche and CEO of the genomics firm, Mercator Genetics. Dr. Sigal received his M.D. from the University of Chicago in 1981 and trained in Internal Medicine and Pulmonary Medicine at UCSF. Prior to medical school he received a B.S., M.S., and Ph.D. in industrial engineering from Purdue University.

Pam Sharma

Dr. Sharma is a trained medical oncologist and immunologist whose research work is focused on investigating mechanisms and pathways within the immune system that are responsible for tumor rejection and clinical benefit. She is the Principal Investigator of multiple immunotherapy clinical trials and conducts translational laboratory studies related to these trials. Her studies enable development of novel immunotherapy strategies for the treatment of cancer patients. She is a Professor in the departments of Genitourinary Medical Oncology and Immunology, and the Scientific Director for the Immunotherapy Platform at M. D. Anderson Cancer Center. She is also the Co-Director of Parker Institute for Cancer Immunotherapy at MD Anderson Cancer Center. She received the Emil Frei III Award for Excellence in Translational Research in 2016 and was inducted into the American Society for Clinical Investigation (ASCI) in 2018.

Jedd Wolchok

Dr. Jedd Wolchok is Chief of the Melanoma and Immunotherapeutics Service and holds The Lloyd J. Old Chair in Clinical Investigation at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center (MSK) with an expertise in the treatment of metastatic melanoma. The focus of his translational research laboratory is to investigate innovative means to modulate the immune response to cancer as well as to better understand the mechanistic basis for sensitivity and resistance to currently available immunotherapies. Dr. Wolchok also established the Immunotherapeutics group (ITC), a specialized phase 1-2 outpatient unit at MSK for patients with a broad spectrum of malignancies, that is focused on the conduct of novel immunotherapy trials with a specific emphasis on pharmacodynamic biomarker identification. His additional appointments include: Head of the Swim Across America - Ludwig Collaborative Laboratory; Associate Director of the Ludwig Center for Cancer Immunotherapy (LCCI); SU2C–ACS Lung Cancer Dream Team Co-leader; Director of the Parker Institute for Cancer Immunotherapy at MSK; Director of the Cancer Vaccine Collaborative (CVC), a joint initiative between the Cancer Research Institute (CRI) and the Ludwig Institute for Cancer Research (LICR); and ASCO Board of Directors. Dr. Wolchok has helped establish MSK as a leader in the discovery and treatment of cancers with novel immunotherapies.