September 17, 2020

The Mark Foundation Launches Inaugural Industry Advisory Committee

Move highlights foundation’s differentiated investment model

The Mark Foundation for Cancer Research (MFCR) announced today the formation of an Industry Advisory Committee (IAC) of biotech industry leaders, a move that highlights the organization’s unique approach to investing in new oncology ventures. The inaugural members of the committee are:

  • Hans Bitter, PhD, Vice President, Data Sciences at bluebird bio. Hans has been at the intersection of advanced analytics and big data to develop new therapies for cancer patients. Previously, he was Global Head of Bioinformatics Oncology at the Novartis Institutes of BioMedical Research. He has contributed to several marketed therapies including Kymriah, the first approved CAR-T therapy.
  • Pamela Carroll, PhD, Chief Business Officer at Silicon Therapeutics. Pam previously served as SVP of Immuno-oncology at Genocea Biosciences developing cancer cell therapies and vaccines; VP of Janssen Oncology/Johnson and Johnson Innovation leading strategic partnerships, newco investments, and academic collaborations; and VP of Oncology Discovery at Roche. Pam has contributed to eight programs currently in clinical development or approved, including the targeted BRAF(V600E) inhibitor for melanoma, Zelboraf.
  • Dan Hicklin, PhD, Founder and CEO at Werewolf Therapeutics. Dan is an accomplished cancer researcher and biopharmaceutical executive with over three decades of oncology drug development experience. He previously was President and CEO of Potenza Therapeutics. Dan has been involved in the development of several approved oncology agents including Erbitux, Cyramza, Portrazza, Lartruvo, Keytruda, and a number of other programs currently in clinical development.
  • Markus Renschler, MD, President and CEO at Cyteir Therapeutics. Markus is a medical oncologist with 25 years of experience in cancer research from basic laboratory research to drug approval and drug launches. Prior to Cyteir, he was in leading roles in clinical R&D, project leadership, business development and medical affairs at Celgene, Pharmion, and Pharmacyclics. Approved drugs he has worked on include Abraxane, Revlimid, Pomalyst, Vidaza, and Imbruvica.

“Bringing new cancer therapies and diagnostics to patients who so desperately need them requires innovative research, financial support, and these days, companies to develop them to meet regulatory standards worldwide,” said Dr. Markus Renschler. “I am honored and excited to join the IAC of The Mark Foundation to help advance projects into small companies to accelerate their development. Patients can’t wait.”

Since 2017, MFCR has awarded over $95 million in grants to enable innovative basic, translational, and clinical cancer research, including early-stage drug discovery. MFCR also has a growing investment portfolio that includes drug discovery companies Accent Therapeutics (focused on RNA-modifying proteins implicated in cancer) and Verseau Therapeutics (developing immunotherapies), as well as liquid biopsy diagnostics companies C2i Genomics and GRAIL. C2i spun out of foundational research at Weill Cornell Medicine and the New York Genome Center that was funded by one of MFCR’s first-ever ASPIRE awards in 2018.

MFCR’s Unique Approach

MFCR has the unique ability to not only fund cancer research at all stages, but also build a pipeline to help to move projects along the path of commercialization. With the addition of its new IAC, MFCR will be even better positioned to continue accelerating the process of transforming a great idea into a marketed product that greatly improves the lives of patients through grants for discovery research, translational studies, and platform development in academia; support for therapeutics development, seed funding, and operational guidance for startups; and financing of promising early-stage companies.

“We are developing a novel playbook for the role of foundations in new biotech creation,” said Michele Cleary, PhD, CEO of MFCR. “We’re not just a passive funder, whether it be for grants, investments or other activities critical for pipelining our grants into an investments. We roll up our sleeves and get involved with researchers, entrepreneurs and biotech companies to make sure results are achieved and successfully translated to breakthroughs.”

MFCR looks forward to continuing to engage with its network of researchers and advisors, including its newly formed IAC, to identify opportunities where the organization can serve as a catalyst and partner for bringing new therapies and diagnostics to patients.

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