Setting a new tempo
in the fight against
Syncopation Life Sciences is changing the beat with new technologies to change the score in CAR-T therapy outcomes
Syncopation Life Sciences is advancing a new generation of adoptive cell therapies for cancers, with a new focused emphasis on addressing primary mechanisms of resistance to Chimeric Antigen Receptor T cell (CAR-T) therapies. Despite advances, approximately half of all patients treated with CAR-T therapies relapse. New and better treatments are needed.
By changing the beat with new engineering technologies, our founders and scientists are uncovering and addressing important mechanisms of resistance to make adoptive cell therapies better – much better. With our deep expertise in the design of CAR-T therapies combined with our proprietary insights and platforms, Syncopation is developing an exciting pipeline of programs with best-in-class potential to improve outcomes for cancer patients.
Crystal Mackall MD
Crystal Mackall is the Ernest and Amelia Gallo Family Professor of Pediatrics and Internal Medicine at Stanford University. She serves as Founding Director of the Stanford Center for Cancer Cell Therapy, Associate Director of Stanford Cancer Institute, Leader of the Cancer Immunology and Immunotherapy Program, and Director of the Parker Institute for Cancer Immunotherapy at Stanford. During a 27-year tenure at NCI, culminating as Chief of the Pediatric Oncology Branch, and now at Stanford, she has led an internationally recognized translational research program focused on immuno-oncology. She has led numerous early phase and first-in-human and first-in-child clinical trials spanning dendritic cell vaccines, cytokines, and adoptive immunotherapy using NK cells and genetically modified T cells. Working with colleagues at NCI, her group was among the first to demonstrate impressive activity of CD19-CAR in pediatric leukemia (Lee, Lancet 2014). Dr. Mackall’s lab invented the CD22-CAR which is the focus of this license application (Haso, Blood 2014), and Dr. Mackall played a leading role in the NCI clinical trial of the CD22-CAR (Fry, Nat Med 2018; Shah, JCO, 2020). She also contributed to the invention of the CD19/22 bispecific and bicistronic CARs and led the first two clinical trials of the CD19/22 bispecific-CAR at Stanford.
Dr. Mackall is a member of the American Society of Clinical Investigation, the American Academy of Physicians and received the Lila and Murray Gruber Award for Cancer Research in 2019. She serves in numerous national leadership positions, including co-PI on the NCI Pediatric Cancer Immunotherapy Network (U54), Leader of the NCI Pediatric Cancer Immunotherapy Trials Network, and co-Leader of the St. Baldrick’s-StandUp2Cancer Pediatric Dream Team. She is Board Certified in Pediatrics, Pediatric Hematology-Oncology, and Internal Medicine.
She has served on numerous biotechnology and pharmaceutical company scientific advisory boards and previously co-founded Lyell Immunopharma, which is developing next generation CAR-T cells.
Robbie Majzner MD
Robbie Majzner, M.D. is the Taube Distinguished Scholar for Pediatric Immunotherapy and an Assistant Professor of Pediatrics in the Division of Hematology and Oncology at Stanford University School of Medicine. His laboratory focuses on engineering novel CAR-T cells to overcome resistance in hematologic malignancies and to treat solid tumors. Dr. Majzner’s work has identified target antigen density as a major contributor to CAR-T cell efficacy, and he has generated novel CAR architectures capable of overcoming low target antigen density (Majzner et al., Cancer Discovery, 2020). Dr. Majzner has also generated and optimized novel receptors to recognize antigens over-expressed on pediatric solid tumors such as GD2 (Mount/Majzner et al., Nature Medicine, 2018) B7-H3 (Majzner et al., Clinical Cancer Research, 2019), and ALK (Walker/Majzner et al., Molecular Therapy, 2017), several of which are now in first-in-child clinical trials.
Drawing on deep correlative studies from clinical trials performed at Stanford, Dr. Majzner’s team identified mutations and loss of CD58 in large B cell lymphoma as predictive of poor outcomes after treatment with CD19 CAR-T cells. After modeling the failure of CAR-T cells against CD58-negative tumor cells in murine models and defining the biology of the CD58-CD2 interaction in CAR-T cells, Dr. Majzner’s laboratory engineered novel CAR-T cell receptors capable of overcoming CD58 loss in lymphoma and other cancers. This CD2 platform will be licensed by Syncopation and developed alongside the CD22 CAR with the overall mission of overcoming CAR resistance to extend their clinical benefit for patients in need.
Nancy Goodman JD
Nancy Goodman is the CEO of Kids v Cancer, a nonprofit dedicated to policy reform to attract biotech and pharmaceutical companies to pediatric cancer drug development. Ms. Goodman is an author and the lead advocate of the RACE for Children Act, which was passed into U.S. law in 2017 (21 U.S.C. 355c). The RACE for Children Act amends the Pediatric Research Equity Act to authorize the FDA to require companies developing cancer targeted therapies to undertake pediatric studies when the molecular targets of the drugs in development are substantially relevant to pediatric cancer indications. She is also the author and lead advocate of the Creating Hope Act Rare Pediatric Priority Review Voucher Program, passed into U.S. law in 2012 (21 U.S.C. 360ff). The priority review voucher program establishes a market-based incentive, a voucher, for companies to develop drugs expressly for children with cancer and other life-threatening illnesses. Over $1.2 billion in vouchers have been traded since the establishment of the program. In 2015, Kids v Cancer under Ms Goodman’s leadership launched a Compassionate Use Navigator for pediatric cancer patients. In 2010, Kids v Cancer launched a post mortem pediatric brain tumor tissue donation program under Ms. Goodman’s leadership. Among the honors she has received are: American Association of Cancer Research Distinguished Advocacy Award, Fast Company Magazine as top ten most innovative nonprofits (award to Kids v Cancer), US Food and Drug Administration Group Recognition Award, Member of U.S. Vice President’ Biden’s Blue Ribbon Pediatric Oncology Panel for the Cancer Moonshot, Member of National Cancer Institute Board of Scientific Counselors.
Srinivas Akkaraju MD, PhD
Dr. Srinivas Akkaraju is the Founder and Managing General Partner at Samsara BioCapital, a venture fund focusing on long term value creation of start-up cellular therapy companies that target unmet medical needs. Previously, from April 2013 to February 2016, he served as a General Partner of Sofinnova Ventures. From January 2009 until April 2013, he served as Managing Director of New Leaf Venture Partners. Previously, he served as a Managing Director at Panorama Capital, LLC, a private equity firm. Prior to co-founding Panorama Capital, Dr. Akkaraju was with J.P. Morgan Partners, which he joined in 2001 and of which he became a Partner in 2005. From October 1998 to April 2001, he was in Business and Corporate Development at Genentech, Inc. (now a wholly owned member of The Roche Group), a biotechnology company, most recently as Senior Manager.
Prior to joining Genentech, Dr. Akkaraju was a graduate student at Stanford University, where he received his M.D. and a Ph.D. in Immunology. He received his undergraduate degrees in Biochemistry and Computer Science from Rice University. Dr. Akkaraju also serves as a director of Intercept Pharmaceuticals and Syros Pharmaceuticals. Previously, he served as a director on the boards of Seattle Genetics, Principia Biopharma, Aravive, Inc., Barrier Therapeutics, Eyetech Pharmaceuticals, ZS Pharma, Synageva Biopharma Corp., and Amarin Corporation.
Abe Bassan, a Vice President at Samsara BioCapital, has significant experience operating and investing in cell therapy companies. Abe was previously at bluebird bio, where he was the project manager for the manufacturing and development activities for the company’s β-Thalassemia, Sickle Cell Anemia, and ALD programs, all based on ex vivogene therapy with lentiviral vectors.
He was also Director of Program Biology at Revolution Medicines, where he co-led early development of the company’s 4EBP1/mTORC1 cancer program. Before taking on operating roles, Abe was an Associate at Third Rock Ventures, where he was involved in the firm’s investment in bluebird bio and concept creation for Blueprint Medicines, a precision medicine oncology company. Abe was also the founder of Aurora Medical, a molecular diagnostics testing services company. Abe received an A.B. in Molecular Biology from Princeton University, and an M.S. in Developmental Biology from Stanford University. Abe serves as a director on the boards of Graphite Bio, a Stanford-founded gene editing company, and Vedere II, a Berkeley-founded ophthalmology gene therapy company. Abe is also an observer on the boards of Autobahn Labs, MiroBio, Neurogene, Primmune, and Palvella. Previously, he was an observer on the board of Nkarta Therapeutics, a NK-CAR cancer cell therapy company.
Corinne Epperly MD, MPH
Dr. Corinne Epperly is the Chief Operating Officer of Syncopation Life Sciences and brings over 15 years of deep oncology experience as a physician and scientist blending medicine and business with a proven track record in oncology drug development and launches. Previously she served as Senior Vice President of Strategy and Operations at Iovance Biotherapeutics, a public clinical-stage immuno-oncology company, leading clinical operations overseeing all clinical trials, developing and implementing business strategy to advance drug development including clinical trial design, global business development, and the commercial operating model for the launch of Tumor Infiltrating Lymphocytes (TIL), with the potential to be the first approved cell therapy for solid tumor cancers. Prior she served as the US Chief Operating Officer at VBL Therapeutics, a public biopharmaceutical focused on first-in-class cancer treatments, where she helped lead corporate strategy, financing, business development, designed a US commercial operating model and marketing plan, and supported immuno-oncology clinical drug development. Prior to VBL, in her 7 years at Bristol Myers Squibb she delivered results across multiple leadership roles spanning marketing, including helping drive the launches of OPDIVO® (nivolumab) and YERVOY® (ipilimumab) in 6+ tumor indications under accelerated timelines, M&A leading global transactions and negotiations, strategic operations, and medical strategy in the US Immuno-Oncology Business. Previously at Goldman Sachs International in London she served as an equity analyst in Global Pharmaceutical and Biotechnology Investment Research. She also serves as a director on the board of AVEO Oncology.
She holds a Bachelor’s degree in Biochemistry and Biology from the University of Virginia, a Doctorate of Medicine and a Masters of Public Health from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (UNC). She completed her medical training at the UNC Hospitals. She trained at the National Cancer Institute of the NIH in translational medicine, experimental cancer immunology in checkpoint inhibition, tumor suppressor genes, and bone marrow transplant clinical trials.
Richard Van Doren
Richard Van Doren is our Chief Financial Officer and also serves as the Chief Financial Officer of Samsara BioCapital, where he is responsible for the firm’s financial & back office operations, business management, compliance, and investor relations. Prior to joining Samsara, Mr. Van Doren was the Chief Operating Officer and Chief Financial Officer of Pacific Grove Capital. Prior to Pacific Grove, Mr. Van Doren was the Chief Financial Officer of Marcato Capital Management where he was responsible for building out the front and back office, accounting & finance, trade operations, firm compliance program, and was an instrumental team member in the successful growth of AUM to $2.6 billion. From 2002 – 2010, Mr. Van Doren was the Chief Financial Officer of Cannell Capital where he was responsible for multi-state business operations, finance, compliance, and investor relations.
Mr. Van Doren graduated from the University of San Francisco with a B.S. in Finance and earned a Graduate Certificate in Tax from Golden Gate University. He serves on the Board of Regents at Saint Junipero Serra High School and is a member of the Dean’s Circle at the University of San Francisco School of Business Management.
Michael Bethune PhD
Michael T Bethune, Ph.D., is Director of Discovery Research at Syncopation Life Sciences. He has worked in the fields of immuno-oncology and immune cell therapy for 12 years, beginning as a post-doctoral fellow at Caltech. His post-doctoral work on engineering T cell receptors for cell therapy and discovering the antigens and immune receptors that mediate anti-tumor immunity led to the founding of PACT Pharma. At PACT, Michael invented the core technology for neoepitope-specific T cell receptor discovery and led their scientific and technical development of personalized TCR-T therapy from concept to clinic. Thereafter, and just prior to joining Syncopation, Michael worked with Allogene Therapeutics to develop technologies that enhance the performance and persistence of allogeneic CAR-T therapies.
Michael obtained his B.S. in Biochemistry from The University of California in Davis and his M.S. in Forensic Molecular Biology from The George Washington University in Washington D.C. He obtained his Ph.D. from Stanford University, working on mechanisms of antigenic peptide transport across the intestinal epithelium and oral protease therapies for celiac sprue.
Michael has co-authored 25 scientific publications and is an inventor on 15 issued or submitted patents.
Matt Siegel PhD
Matthew Siegel is Director of Translational Research at Syncopation Life Sciences. He has 15 years of biotech industry experience and 20 years of experience in drug discovery. Matthew previously served as Vice President of Research at Anwita Biosciences where he worked on the discovery and development of multi-functional antibody/cytokine fusion proteins in the fields of oncology and autoimmunity. He worked as Director of Molecular and Cellular Pharmacology at Ardelyx (ARDX) where he helped elucidate the mechanism of action of Tenapanor, an investigational first-in-class treatment for hyperphosphatemia, and discovered a novel combination therapy for the treatment of hyperkalemia as biology lead of the RDX013 program. Matthew is an author on over 20 peer-reviewed publications and has broad expertise in biochemistry, cell biology, and immunology. He received his B.S. in Chemical Engineering at the University of Notre Dame and his Ph.D. from Stanford University.
Jeff Jonker JD
Jeff Jonker is a veteran biotech executive with experience in operational, strategic, business development, and legal roles across public and private companies. Mr. Jonker is a senior advisor to Ambys Medicines, where he was previously President and CEO, and other early stage biotech companies. Immediately prior to Ambys, Mr. Jonker served as President of NGM Biopharmaceuticals (NASDAQ: NGM), where he established the Merck partnership, grew the organization into a fully integrated clinical development company, and guided the company’s robust pipeline, including therapeutics for immuno-oncology, retinal, liver, and metabolic diseases. Prior to joining NGM, Mr. Jonker was Senior Vice President, Corporate and Business Development at Theravance Biopharma (NASDAQ: TBPH) and held that same role at Theravance, Inc. (NASDAQ: THRX) prior to completing the spin-out of TBPH and creation of Innoviva, Inc. (NASDAQ: INVA). He previously served as Chief Business Officer of Satori Pharmaceuticals, Vice President of Business Development and Corporate Strategy for Gloucester Pharmaceuticals prior to its acquisition by Celgene (NASDAQ: CELG), and in multiple leadership positions in the business development and legal groups at Genentech. Prior to Genentech, Mr. Jonker was a member of the Technology Transactions Group at Wilson, Sonsini, Goodrich & Rosati, representing clients in the life science and high tech industries. Mr. Jonker currently serves on the board of directors of Metacrine (NASDAQ: MTCR). Mr. Jonker holds a J.D. from Columbia University School of Law, an M.LITT. from the University of St. Andrews, and a B.A. from Claremont McKenna College.
Robert Baffi PhD
Robert A. Baffi, Ph.D., has proven leadership skills in biotechnology with a product development emphasis. He had a 20-year tenure at BioMarin and as President of Global Manufacturing & Technical Operations was responsible for overseeing manufacturing, process development, quality, logistics, engineering, and analytical chemistry. Dr. Baffi served 14 years in a number of increasingly responsible positions at Genentech, Inc., primarily in the functional area of quality control. Prior to Genentech, Dr. Baffi worked for Cooper BioMedical as a Research Scientist and at the Becton Dickinson Research Center as a Post-Doctoral Fellow. Dr. Baffi has contributed to the approval and commercial success of 28 products. He serves on the board for the National Institute for Bioprocessing Research & Training, Neurogene Inc. and Mosaic ImmunoEngineering. Dr. Baffi received a Ph.D., M. Phil. and a B.S. in biochemistry from the City University of New York and an M.B.A. from Regis University.