Alex Bankovich, Ph.D. is Vice President of Research and Development at Link Cell Therapies. Following his academic training, Alex joined Stemcentrx in 2010 as the staff biochemist and biophysicist support antibody discovery. Alex helped build and lead a pipeline assessing the therapeutic viability of 150 novel targets in multiple solid tumor indications with antibody drug conjugates. Following the acquisition of Stemcentrx by AbbVie in 2016, Alex coordinated multi-functional and cross-site collaborations on diverse oncology initiatives. He held a leadership role in antibody drug conjugate development from target selection through early clinical studies.
Alex obtained his B.S. in Chemistry (Biochemistry specialization) Cum laude from The University of Virginia. He obtained his Ph.D. from Stanford University, working in the laboratory of K. Chris Garcia on the structure biology of adaptive immune receptors and cytokines. He then pursued post-doctoral work with Jason Cyster on S1P receptor biology and biochemical interaction with CD69.
Alex has co-authored 25 scientific publications and is an inventor on 3 patents.
Diego Vargas, Ph.D. is Executive Director of Cell Therapy at Link Cell Therapies. After his academic training Diego worked at Pfizer and Allogene, where he and his team developed Potency Enhancements for Allogeneic CAR T cell Therapies. After Allogene, Diego joined Serotiny, a Bay Area startup focusing on high-throughput library-based optimization of Cell and Gene Therapies. At Serotiny, Diego led the Research Team which validated the company’s platform and supported the signing of strategic external partnerships with Tessera Therapeutics and Janssen Pharmaceuticals.
Diego obtained his B.S. in Biology (Immunology specialization) from Universidad Peruana Cayetano Heredia in Lima, Peru. He then obtained his Ph.D. from The University of Texas Medical Branch, studying the immune response to the intracellular parasite Leishmania. Diego then pursued post-doctoral training in the Vaccine Branch of the National Cancer Institute where he developed novel HIV vaccines based on adenoviral vectors. He then became a Staff Scientist in the Laboratory of Viral Diseases at the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases where he worked on developing CAR T cells to eradicate HIV infection.
Diego has co-authored 37 scientific publications and is an inventor on 3 patent applications.
Bryan Smith, Ph.D. is a Principal Scientist and leads target discovery at Link Cell Therapies. He has over 10 years of experience in discovery oncology with a focus on identifying target antigens for immune-based therapeutics. Bryan previously worked at Arsenal Bio, where he drove efforts to define and characterize solid tumor target pairs for logic-gated cell therapies. Prior to Arsenal Bio, Bryan supported the development of allogeneic CAR T cells against novel solid tumor targets at Allogene Therapeutics.
Bryan obtained his B.A. in Biochemistry from DePauw University. He holds a Ph.D. from the University of Notre Dame, where he conducted research on in vivo detection of cell death using synthetic coordination complexes. He then pursued post-doctoral training with Owen Witte at UCLA on establishing new therapeutic targets for advanced epithelial cancers.
Bryan has co-authored 23 scientific publications and has received several awards and fellowships including a Prostate Cancer Foundation Young Investigator Award and American Cancer Society Postdoctoral Fellowship.
Robbie Majzner is an Assistant Professor of Pediatrics at Stanford University School of Medicine who is focused on the development and deployment of immunotherapies for pediatric cancer. He received his MD from Harvard Medical School followed by training in pediatrics at New York Presbyterian-Columbia and pediatric hematology-oncology at Johns Hopkins and the National Cancer Institute. His work in the laboratory centers on engineering platform technologies to improve the efficacy of CAR T cells in solid tumors and overcome therapeutic resistance. Concurrently, he is focused on translating laboratory advances in innovative clinical trials for children with incurable cancers.
Crystal L Mackall, M.D. is the Ernest and Amelia Gallo Family Professor of Pediatrics and Medicine at Stanford University, the Founding Director of the Stanford Center for Cancer Cell Therapy, Associate Director of the Stanford Cancer Institute, Leader of the Cancer Immunotherapy Program and Director of the Parker Institute for Cancer Immunotherapy at Stanford. During the last three decades, Dr. Mackall has led an internationally recognized translational research program focused on immune-oncology. Her work has advanced understanding of fundamental immunology and translated this understanding for the treatment of human disease with a major focus on children’s cancers. Her work is credited with identifying an essential role for the thymus in human T cell regeneration (NEJM 1995) and discovering IL-7 as the master regulator of T cell homeostasis (Blood 2001, J Exp Med 2008). Furthermore, her group was among the first to demonstrate impressive activity of CD19-CAR in pediatric leukemia (Lancet 2015), developed a CD22-CAR that is the only active salvage therapy for CAR19 resistant B cell malignancies (Nat Med 2018, J Clin Onc 2020, Blood 2021), demonstrated preclinical activity of GD2 targeting CARs for pediatric diffuse intrinsic pontine glioma (Nat Med 2018), superiority of regional CNS delivery of CAR T cells for brain tumors (Nat Med 2020) and impressive clinical activity of GD2-CAR T cells in this disease (NCT04196413), which is among the first to demonstrate significant and consistent activity of CAR T cells in solid cancers (Nature 2022). Her group identified T cell exhaustion as a major factor limiting CAR T cell potency (Nat Med 2015), created the first exhaustion-resistance (Nature 2019) and exhaustion-reversal platforms (Science 2021) and developed a best-in-class regulatable “remote-controlled” CAR T cell platform (Cell, 2022).
She serves in numerous national leadership positions and has received numerous awards, including election as a fellow of the AACR Academy, the Smalley Award for outstanding contributions to cancer immunotherapy from the Society for the Immunotherapy of Cancer, the AACR-St.Baldrick’s Distinguished Achievement Award for Pediatric Cancer Research, and the Nobility in Science Award from the Sarcoma Foundation of America. She has published over 250 manuscripts and founded 3 biotech companies. Crystal is Board Certified in Pediatrics, Pediatric Hematology-Oncology and Internal Medicine.
Abe Bassan is a Principal at Samsara BioCapital, a life science investment firm dedicated to building companies that advance innovative medicines. Prior to joining Samsara, he held operation roles at Revolution Medicines and Bluebird Bio, and before that was an Associate at Third Rock Ventures. 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, Septerna, CARGO Therapeutics, and Vedere Bio II.
Brian Slingerland co-founded and was the CEO of Stemcentrx, which discovered a number of novel cancer targets and developed in-house target validation, GMP manufacturing and clinical development capabilities. The company had target and platform-specific partnerships with Pfizer and Bristol Myers Squibb, and was acquired by AbbVie. Prior to Stemcentrx, Brian co-founded Qatalyst Partners which became a leading strategic and transactional advisor to technology companies. Brian’s early career was spent with Goldman Sachs and Credit Suisse advising companies on private financings, IPOs, partnerships, mergers & acquisitions.
Srinivas Akkaraju, M.D., Ph.D. is the Founder and Managing General Partner at Samsara BioCapital, a fund focused on long term value creation of therapeutic 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, Chinook Therapeutics, Scholar Rock, Syros Pharmaceuticals, and Jiya Acquisition Corp. Previously, he served as a director on the boards of Seattle Genetics, Principia Biopharma, Barrier Therapeutics, Eyetech Pharmaceuticals, ZS Pharma, Synageva Biopharma Corp., and Amarin