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Can oncolytic viruses make a comeback?

Ever since the first oncolytic virus was approved way back in 2015, developers have been rushing ahead what they believed were sure-fire ways to create an effective wave of next-gen therapies that would be much, much better. But the promised never has yet to happen. Can this latest round of efforts beat the odds?

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Paul Peter Tak

Paul Peter Tak

President & Chief Executive Officer, Candel Therapeutics

Paul Peter Tak, M.D., Ph.D., FMedSci, has served as President and Chief Executive Officer and as a member of the board of directors of Candel since September 2020; he oversaw the IPO process on the Nasdaq in 2021.

He received his medical degree cum laude from the Amsterdam University Medical Center and was trained as an internist, rheumatologist, and immunologist at Leiden University Medical Center, where he also received his Ph.D. Dr. Tak has been a Clinical Associate Professor of Medicine at the University of California San Diego. Next, he served as Professor of Medicine and Chair of the Department of Clinical Immunology and Rheumatology at the Amsterdam University Medical Center. Dr. Tak has pioneered preclinical and clinical research on the role of the vagus nerve in chronic inflammation. This work provided a platform from which to explore bioelectronics as a therapeutic approach in autoimmune disease.

He has published ~600 papers in peer-reviewed journals (H-index 142) and received numerous awards. He has been elected Fellow of the Academy of Medical Sciences (U.K.). At GlaxoSmithKline he served as Senior Vice President, Chief Immunology Officer, and Global Development Leader from 2011 to 2018. In his role as Global Head of a cluster of Therapy Area Units at GSK (Dermatology, ImmunoInflammation, Infectious Disease, and Oncology), he oversaw the creation of a portfolio of new medicines, including anti-CCL17 antibody, gepotidacin, belimumab sc (approved in 2017 [Benlysta® sc]), mafodotin (approved in 2020 [Blenrep®]), cabotegravir/rilpivirine (approved in 2021 [Cabenuva®]), and tapinarof (acquired by Dermavant Sciences; approved in 2022 [VTAMAR®]). Dr. Tak was the Chair of the Scientific Review Board, the governing body accountable for the scientific assessment of GSK’s R&D portfolio. He was also the President and CEO of Tempero Pharmaceuticals (acquired by GSK). From 2018 to 2020, Dr. Tak served as venture partner at Flagship Pioneering and also as President and CEO of Kintai Therapeutics (merged with Senda Biosciences). In addition, he has served as board director of Galvani Bioelectronics, ViiV Healthcare, and Omega Therapeutics. Currently, he is also on the Board of Sitryx Therapeutics (co-founder), Levicept, and he is the Chair of the Board of Citryll. He is a 2021 PharmaVOICE100 honoree (100 most inspiring people in life sciences), was included in ‘The Medicine Maker Power List 2023’, and ranked #120 in the 2023 Edition of the World Ranking of Top 1000 Scientists in the area of Immunology.

Howard L. Kaufman

Howard L. Kaufman

President and Chief Executive Officer, Ankyra Therapeutics, Inc.

Dr. Howard L. Kaufman has served as the President and Chief Executive Officer since March 2022. He joined the company in 2021 as the Chief Medical Officer. Dr. Kaufman is a leading authority on local tumor immunotherapy and oncolytic viruses. He led the successful phase III trial of Talimogene laherparepvec (T-VEC), the first oncolytic virus to be approved for cancer treatment. He also led the pivotal clinical trial of avelumab, an anti-PD-L1 monoclonal antibody, that was approved for the treatment of patients with Merkel cell carcinoma. His industry experience includes roles as Chief Medical Officer at Compass Therapeutics and Replimune, Inc., and most recently he was Head of Research and Development at Immuneering Corporation. Dr. Kaufman received his MD from Loyola University, completed a residency in General Surgery at Boston University, and fellowship training in Tumor Immunology and Surgical Oncology at the National Cancer Institute.

He previously held appointments as Chief of the Division of Surgical Oncology and Associate Director of the Herbert Irving Comprehensive Cancer Center at Columbia University, Director of the Rush University Cancer Center, and Associate Director for Clinical Sciences at the Rutgers Cancer Institute of New Jersey. Dr. Kaufman has maintained a funded laboratory in tumor immunology for 20+ years and has published over 500 peer-reviewed scientific papers, books, review articles and scientific abstracts. He serves on the editorial board of the Journal for Immunotherapy of Cancer and Journal of Translational Medicine, and is a member of numerous professional societies, including his service as President of the Society for Immunotherapy of Cancer from 2014-2016. Dr. Kaufman was the recipient of several awards including the Daland Prize, MRF Humanitarian Award and UIC Distinguished Alumnus Award and he has been appointed to the Board of Directors of several professional, academic and industry organizations. He maintains an academic appointment at Harvard Medical School and is a Clinical Associate at Massachusetts General Hospital where he continues to see patients with cutaneous malignancies.

Adina Pelusio

Adina Pelusio

Senior Vice President of Clinical Operations, KaliVir Immunotherapeutics

Ms. Pelusio has more than 20 years of experience in drug development. Before joining KaliVir, she served as Senior Vice President of Clinical Operations at Turnstone Biologics, where she oversaw the advancement of candidate oncolytic viruses, cancer vaccines and adoptive cell therapies into clinical trials. Prior, Ms. Pelusio spent 10 years at SillaJen, Inc. (formerly Jennerex Biotherapeutics) where she led the introduction of oncolytic viruses into 17 countries across Phase I-III clinical trials. She holds an M.S. from the University of Florida and is pursuing an M.P.H. from Harvard University T.H. Chan School of Public Health.

Amber Tong

Amber Tong

Senior Editor, Endpoints News

Amber Tong is the senior editor at Endpoints News, where she reports on news and feature stories while keeping an eye on the overall voice and look of the site. Her coverage varies daily but as a Hong Kong native, she is particularly excited about biopharma trends in China. A graduate of Rice University, she has previously written for and edited the Rice Thresher, Houstonia Magazine, Governing Magazine and The Chautauquan Daily. Amber is based in Hong Kong.