Workshop Speakers

Ali Mohamed

Ali Mohamed

Ali Mohamed, PhD, Vice President, CMC, Immatics US Inc in Houston TX currently leading the development and manufacturing of various Adoptive Cell Therapies for various solid cancers in collaborations with University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center. Dr. Mohamed has more than 20 years of experience in process development and GMP manufacturing of regenerative medicine, cell and gene therapy products at various CMOs and clinical stage companies. Before joining Immatics, Dr. Mohamed was the senior director of manufacturing operations/ manufacturing development at PCT (Hitachi Chemical Advanced Therapeutics Solutions) helping various companies manufacture cell in gene therapy products including Kite Pharma, Adaptimmune, and Bluebird Bio. Prior to joining PCT, Dr. Mohamed led the development of AlloCure’s MSCs cells for acute kidney injury in a phase 2 trial and previous to that he helped Lonza clients develop various cell therapy products. Dr. Mohamed holds a PhD in Molecular Pharmacology from Medical College of Ohio (Currently the University of Toledo Medical College) and postdoctoral fellowship in neuroscience and neurobiology from the Georgetown University Institute of Cognitive and Computational Sciences (GICCS). Dr. Mohamed holds a degree in Pharmacy from Cairo University, Egypt.


Axel Schambach

Axel Schambach

Dr. Axel Schambachis Director of the Institute of Experimental Hematology and Professor for Gene Modification of Somatic Cells at Hannover Medical School (MHH). He studied medicine in Hamburg, San Diego, San Francisco, Dallas and Zürich. He moved to MHH and received his PhD in Molecular Medicine. He is a group leader in the Excellence cluster REBIRTH since 2007. His main research interest is to understand the molecular pathophysiology of inborn and acquired diseases to develop tailor-made gene therapy strategies.


Cameron Turtle

Cameron Turtle

Dr. Turtle completed medical training in Australia, followed by dual Fellowships of the Royal Australasian College of Physicians and the Royal College of Pathologists of Australasia, and a PhD in Immunology. He is an Associate Member at Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center (FHCRC) and Associate Professor at the University of Washington (UW) in Seattle, WA. He serves as an attending physician on the Hematopoietic Stem Cell Transplant (HCT) Service and the Immunotherapy Service at FHCRC, Seattle Cancer Care Alliance (SCCA) and the UW Medical Center, and has a research laboratory in the Clinical Research Division at FHCRC. His laboratory is focused on understanding the characteristics of distinct subsets of human CD8+ T cells, their potential utility for tumor immunotherapy, and their role in immune reconstitution after HCT. Dr. Turtle is Principal Investigator and IND sponsor of several investigator-initiated clinical trials of CD19-targeted chimeric antigen receptor (CAR)-modified T cell therapy for patients with B cell malignancies.


Chiara Bonini

Chiara Bonini

Chiara Bonini, MD is Professor at the Università Vita-Salute San Raffaele, School of Medicine, Milan, and Deputy Director of the Research Division of Immunology, Transplantation and Infectious Diseases at the San Raffaele Scientific Institute. She is a physician scientist, trained in Hemato-oncology and Immunology in Milan, and at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle. The main research focus of her lab is the development of cell and gene therapy approaches to treat cancer. She pioneered the clinical application of suicide gene therapy applied to allogeneic stem cell transplantation and more recently developed innovative approaches to redirect T cell specificity against cancer with genetic manipulation and genome editing. A large part of her research is devoted to the identification of T cell subsets with the highest expansion and persistence abilities, to be exploited for cancer immunotherapy.

She received several awards during her career: The Young Investigator Award from the American Society of Cell and Gene Therapy (2005); the Team Science Recognition Award from the iSBTC (2010); the Van Rood Award from the European Federation of Immunogenetics (2012); the Jon Van Rood Award (2012), the Basic Science Award (2014) and the Van Bekkum Award (2012 and 2016) from the European Society of Bone Marrow Transplantation. She has been in the Board of Directors of several European and American cell and gene therapy scientific societies (ESGCT 2005-2011; ASGCT 2011-2014) and Chair of the Cell Therapy and Immunobiology Working Party (CTIWP) of the European Bone Marrow Transplantation Society (2014-2018). She is currently Member of ASH Awards Committee.


Christian Buchholz

Christian Buchholz

Christian Buchholz studied microbiology in Munich and started his scientific career at the Max-Planck-Institut for Biochemistry where he obtained his PhD in the Department for Virology in 1993. He performed postdoctoral studies at the Institute for Molecular Biology of the University of Zurich and the Centre for Protein Engineering at the MRC in Cambridge, UK. Since 1999 he heads the Section of Molecular Biotechnology and Gene Therapy at the Paul-Ehrlich-Institut and became Associate Professor for Biochemistry at the Goethe-University in Frankfurt in 2007.

His research interests focus on the engineering of the surface of viral vectors to understand the molecular events during viral cell entry and to improve their applicability in modern molecular medicine. Recently, his team succeeded in engineering receptor-targeted lentiviral and AAV vectors. These vectors are modified in their receptor usage being unable to employ their natural receptor but instead use a cell surface molecule of interest for cell entry. They offer great potential for applications in drug delivery.


Cristina Maccalli

Cristina Maccalli

Cristina Maccalli is a Staff Scientist at the Division of Translational Medicine, Sidra Medicine, Doha, Qatar.

Cristina obtained in 1990 a Master’s Degree in Biological Sciences and then, in 1996, a Ph.D. in Applied Genetics at the University of Milan, Italy. Her research interest lies in the area of immunology, tumor immunology and immunotherapy, with main focus on the functional characterization of immune responses, cancer stem cells and on the identification of biomarkers predictive of patients’ clinical outcome and responsiveness to therapies.

She has carried out her post-doctoral research programs at the National Cancer Institute in Milan, Italy and, then, at the Surgery Branch, National Cancer Institute, NIH, Bethesda, MD, USA. From 2003 until mid 2007 she worked as investigator at the Istituto Superiore di Sanita’ Rome, Italy. In 2007 Cristina joined the Unit of Immuno-biotherapy of Melanoma and Solid Tumors at the San Raffaele Foundation Scientific Institute, Milan, Italy and she has been dedicated to novel studies on the immunological characterization of cancer stem cells from glioblastoma, and colorectal cancer patients and to perform monitoring of immune responses in cancer patients undergoing immunotherapy. In 2013 she contributed in the role of senior investigator to set up in the context of the Italian Network for Biotherapy of Tumors-(NIBIT) a novel laboratory dedicated to the identification of biomarkers for cancer patients through the design of standardized and validated immune-monitoring assays. In October 2014 Cristina joined the Translational Medicine Department at Sidra Medical and Research Center, Doha, Qatar, where she is involved in development of innovative studies in the context of biomarker discovery and immunotherapy. Her principle project areas are 1. the generation of chimeric receptor engineered T cells to target hematological malignancies; 2. The molecular and functional characterization of cancer stem cells isolated from colorectal and breast cancer patients and 3. the identification of biomarkers predictive of clinical outcome of pateints with inflammatory bowel disease.

Cristina is author/co-author of about 59 original peer-reviewed publications and 3 chapter books. She is Associate Editor of The Journal of Translational Medicine and reviewer of a variety of international scientific journals (e.g. Journal of Immunology, Cancer Research, Clinical Cancer Research, Cancer Immunology Immunotehrapy, Frontiers Immunology etc.). She acted as reviewer for fellowship programs of the Society of Immunotherapy of Cancer (SITC). She has been involved as lecturer in educational courses in ImmunOncology in the context of NIBIT. She is a member of the SITC. In the context of SITC she has served as member of working groups on immunotherapy biomarkers.


Francisco Martin

Francisco Martin

Dr Martin is Team Leader of the Gene and Cell Therapy Group (GCT) at the Centre of Genomic and oncology (GENYO- Granada). His activity in the last 23 years has combined basic research on stem cells and retroviruses and their application in gene therapy. During the last 10 years he has been focused on the development of new therapeutic strategies for the treatment of rare diseases and cancer. After obtaining his PhD (University of Granada 1994 -Apto Cum Laudem – Extraordinary Price), Dr Martin moved to London with a Marie Curie Fellowship to work on retroviral vectors development for gene therapy applications. From 1997 to 2002 he had an appointment as Senior Research Fellow at the University College of London (London, UK) to work on retrovirus vectors development for cancer gene therapy. In 2002 he moved back to Spain to establish his own group on Cell and Gene Therapy (CGT). Since 2009, Dr Martin is principal Investigator at Fundación Pública Progreso y Salud (FPS) at GENYO (Granada). He is in the board of directors of the Spanish Society of Gene and Cell Therapy and a member of the academic commission of the Biomedicine Doctorate Program (University of Granada) since 2012. Dr Martin has published over 64 scientific and technical articles in international journals including prestigious journal such as Nature Biotechnology, Journal of Molecular Biology, Trends in Biochemical Science, EMBO journal, Journal of Immunology, Arthritis & Rheumatism, Stem Cells, Human Gene Therapy, Gene Therapy, Molecular Therapy, Scientific Reports and Journal of Virology between others. Based on his expertise, Dr Martin has recently funded LentiStem Biotech, a Start-up focused on the development of SAFER AND MORE EFFICIENT gene delivery systems for gene-cell therapy applications.


Frederick Locke

Frederick Locke

Prof Frederick Locke is currently working as the Vice Chair and Associate Member in the Department of Blood and Marrow Transplant and Cellular Immunotherapy and Co-Leader in Immunology Program at Moffitt Cancer Center. He is also an Associate Professor in the Department of Oncologic Sciences in College of Medicine in University of South Florida.

He completed his Bachelor in Science in Physiology (graduated with High Honors) in Michigan State University and Doctor of Medicine at Wayne State University School of Medicine in Detroit Michigan.

His clinical areas of interests are Hematopoietic stem cell transplantation and cellular immunotherapy against lymphoma and multiple myeloma.


Giulia Casorati

Giulia Casorati

Giulia Casorati obtained a degree in Biological Science (summa cum laude) at the university of Torino in 1987 with Prof Nicola Migone, working on the genetic structure of TCR and immunoglobulin variable regions. She obtained a PhD in Human Genetics at the university of Torino in 1992. Between 1988-91, she joined Klaus Karjalainen lab at the Basel Institute for Immunology, where she studied the structure of TCRs ab and gd and contributed to the identification of human invariant NKT cells together with Paolo Dellabona and Antonio Lanzavecchia.

Since 1992 she joint-directs with Paolo Dellabona the Experimental Immunology Unit at San Raffaele Scientific Institute in Milano.

She has published more than 100 papers on peer-reviewed journals with a total h-index = 46 (ISI Web of Science April 2018).

She is member of the Italian Society of immunology and clinical Immunology and allergology (SIICA), of the Italian Network for Tumor Biotherapy (NIBIT) (since 2009) and of the Association for Cancer Immunotherapy (CIMT) (since 2011).

Since at the San Raffaele Scientific Institute, she has been investigating fundamental mechanisms and translational aspects of the T cell immune response in cancer, with particular emphasis on CD1-restricted lipid-specific T cells. She has been interested on dissecting the development and function of human and murine invariant NKT cells both in transgenic mouse models generated in the laboratory, or in physiologic and pathologic human contexts. More recently she focused her interests to study the lipid antigen-specific CD1 restricted T cell response in leukaemia patients and designed new adoptive immunotherapy protocols to target leukemia cells.


Hans van der Vliet

Hans van der Vliet

Hans van der Vliet, MD PhD is a medical oncologist and associate professor at the department of medical oncology of the Amsterdam UMC, VU University and Cancer Center Amsterdam and scientific founder and CSO of Lava Therapeutics B.V., a biotech company that develops proprietary Vγ9Vδ2 T-cell engagers. He received his MD from the University of Amsterdam and his PhD (cum laude) and internal medicine/medical oncology specialization from the VU University in Amsterdam. He performed post-doctoral research at the Division of Hematology and Oncology, Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, Harvard Medical School and has authored over 80 peer-reviewed publications. He leads a translational research group that focusses on conserved immunoregulatory and immune effector cell populations and their potential for cancer immunotherapy.


Paul Veys

Paul Veys

Professor Veys is currently working as the following: Director of Blood and Marrow Transplantation in Great Ormond Street (GOS) Hospital for Children NHS Trust; Co-Chair in General Medical Staff Committee; and Honorary Clinical Professor at University College London GOS Institute of Child Health, Infection Immunity and Inflammation.

He is the author of 17 book contributions, more than 200 peer-reviewed papers and in receipt of more than 6.5 million pounds of research grant income.

His special interest are Universal CAR T-cell therapy, Immune reconstitution post Cord Blood Transplantatio, Reduced intensity SCT in paediatric diseases and SCT for primary immunodeficiencies and immunoregulatory disorders.


Renier Brentjens

Renier Brentjens

Dr. Brentjens obtained an M.D./Ph.D. (microbiology) from SUNY Buffalo, completed residency in medicine at Yale New Haven Hospital, and a medical oncology fellowship at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center (MSKCC).

Currently, Dr. Brentjens is an associate member on the faculty at MSKCC and an attending physician on the leukemia service. As a medical oncology fellow during his training at MSKCC, Dr. Brentjens initiated the initial pre-clinical studies demonstrating the potential clinical application of autologous T cells genetically modified to target the CD19 antigen through the retroviral gene transfer of artificial T cell receptors termed chimeric antigen receptors (CARs). Following completion of his medical oncology training, Dr. Brentjens became the principle investigator (PI) of his own laboratory.

As a PI, Dr. Brentjens successfully translated these studies to the clinical setting treating patients with relapsed CD19+ tumors including chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL) and B cell acute lymphoblastic leukemia (B-ALL). Ongoing pre-clinical research in the laboratory is focused on the further development of CAR modified T cells designed to overcome the hostile immunosuppressive tumor microenvironment through the generation of “armored CAR T cells” currently being translated to the clinical setting as second generation CAR modified T cell clinical trials.

Additionally, work in the Brentjens lab has expanded this CAR technology to target additional tumor antigens expressed on other tumors including targeting the MUC-16 antigen expressed on ovarian carcinomas as well as the more ubiquitous WT-1 tumor associated antigen. These latter projects are similarly in the process of translation to the clinical setting.


Soldano Ferrone

Soldano Ferrone

Soldano Ferrone joined the Massachusetts General Hospital, Harvard Medical School in 2012 as Professor in the Department of Surgery. He has held faculty positions at many Academic Institutions In the United States and at the Medical School of the University of Milan, Milan, Italy.

His research program focused on the development of antibody-based immunotherapeutic strategies for the treatment of solid tumors and on the characterization of the role of defects of HLA class I antigen processing machinery as an escape mechanism utilized by tumor cells to avoid immune recognition and destruction. These studies are greatly facilitated by the large panel of HLA antigen- and human tumor antigen-specific monoclonal antibodies he has developed and shared with the scientific community over the years.

He has described the results of his studies in more than 600 papers published in peer reviewed journals. Moreover he has been the editor of 14 books and the guest editor of 5 special issues of oncology journals.

Dr. Ferrone has received many awards and honors. For the last 30 years he has been the member of many review committees including NIH Study Sections, and of the editorial boards of many scientific journals. Furthermore he is the member of several external scientific boards.


Thomas Blankenstein

Thomas Blankenstein

Prof Blankenstein is the Director of Institute for Immunology and Research Group Leader at the Max-Delbruck-Center for Molecular Medicine. He completed his Diploma in Biology at the University of Cologne and in 1987 he got his PhD at the same university.

He was a spokesman of the Collaborative Research Center (Mutation-specific T Cell Receptor Gene Therapy of the Berlin Institute of Health from 2014 – 2017 and spokesman of the Collaborative Research Center (Sonderforschungbereich) TR36, Adoptive T Cell Therapy with integrated Graduate College.

His research interests and scientific focus are Immunology, Cancer Immunology, and Gene Therapy


Tomas Bos

Tomas Bos

Dr. Tomas Bos joined Glycostem on May 1st, 2018 and is responsible for the development and further optimization of the company’s CAR-NK research program. Glycostem is a Dutch biotechnology company that focuses on the development of allogeneic NK cell-based cellular therapy products. The company generates NK cells via a completely closed system starting from CD34+ cells isolated from cord blood. Next, the CD34+ cells are expanded and differentiated into mature NK cells. This platform forms the basis for the generation of CAR-NK cells with improved specificity and cytotoxicity.

Dr. Bos obtained his PhD in the medical sciences at the Free University of Brussels (VUB, Belgium) where he did research in the field of multiple myeloma and explored how lentiviral vectors and the understanding of epigenetics contribute to increased understanding of the onset and development of the disease. After his PhD, Dr. Bos moved to San Diego where he worked for 1 year at the Salk Institute researching the epigenetic control mechanism(s) within the p16 locus in breast cancer. Next, he moved to UC San Diego to identify and study novel splicing factors via large-scale tethering assays. These assays resulted in a series of previously unidentified splicing factors with relevance in various cancers.

Dr. Bos has authored 15 peer-reviewed papers in various high-impact journals and is the recipient of several awards and scholarships.


Michael Kapinsky

Michael Kapinsky, PhDMichael Kapinsky has a strategic marketing role at Beckman Coulter’s Flow Cytometry division (Beckman Coulter is a Danaher company). As a member of the global business unit, Michael owns responsibility for the clinical research product line branded as DURAClone and contributes to Beckman Coulter’s strategic clinical research initiative. Michael joined Beckman Coulter in 2002. Michael is following closely trends and future directions in biomedicine with a particular interest in novel therapeutic approaches based on immune modulation and targeting as well as on “living drugs”. Marrying detailed insight into the dynamic ATMP space with his technical flow cytometry expertise, he leads the development of ready-to-use antibody panels for phenotypic and functional characterization of primary and genetically modified human cells. Michael is a chemist by training. In 2002 he received his PhD at the Institute of Laboratory Medicine of the University of Regensburg/Germany. Back-to-back he joined Beckman Coulter’s flow cytometry division in Germany as field application specialist, allowing him to participate in the advent of multicolor flow cytometry and to understand the specific demands of analytics in regulated environments. Michael was granted patents in US and EU for a novel antibody panel design method. He contributed to 7 peer-reviewed publications in international life science journals and provided substantial technical support to international clinical research studies such as The ONE Study (www.onestudy.org). He was granted the Danaher “Excellence in Innovation” award for his contributions to the development of a novel diagnostic method for infectious diseases.


Matthew Porteus

Matthew PorteusDr. Porteus graduated Magna Cum Laude from Harvard University with a degree in “History and Science” where he wrote an honors thesis entitled “Safe or Dangerous Chimeras: The Recombinant DNA Controversy as a Conflict Between Differing Socially Constructed Interpretations of Recombinant DNA Technology.” He then completed his MD and PhD degrees at Stanford where his PhD focused on the molecular biology of mammalian forebrain development and was titled: “Isolation and Characterization of TES-1/DLX-2: A Novel Homeobox Gene Expressed During Mammalian Forebrain Development.” He then completed his residency training in Pediatrics at Boston Children’s Hospital and his fellowship training in Pediatric Hematology/Oncology at Boston Children’s Hospital and the Dana Farber Cancer Institute. For his post-doctoral work he trained with Dr. David Baltimore at MIT and the California Institute of Technology. It was during his post-doctoral work that he began his studies of genome editing and was the first to show that engineered nucleases could be used to precisely modify human cells by homologous recombination. He was an Assistant Professor of Pediatrics and Biochemistry at UT Southwestern Medical School in Dallas before returning to Stanford in 2010 as an Associate Professor of Pediatrics. His research is focused on developing homologous recombination based therapies for genetic and other diseases. He also sees patients and his clinical practice is at the Lucille Packard Children’s Hospital where he is an attending physician on the Pediatric Bone Marrow Transplant Service


Gianfranco Pittari

Dr Gianfranco Pittari

Dr Gianfranco Pittari received his International Baccalaureate from the United World Colleges and his MD degree from the University of Pavia, Italy. He later completed a clinical hematology specialty training at the University of Parma, Italy and a Master in Clinical Research followed by a PhD in Immunology at the University of Paris 11.

He initially served as BMT physician in Parma, and subsequently worked at Gustave-Roussy and Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center. Later on, he served as Senior Consultant of Hematology/BMT at HMC’s National Center for Cancer Care and Research. Currently, he is Associate Director, CAR-T Research and Development, at Celgene International, Switzerland.

Dr Pittari’s research focus is to dissect the mechanisms responsible for the anti-tumor potential of immune effector cells, and use this knowledge to enhance the clinical efficacy of cellular therapy for the treatment of hematological malignancies and solid tumors.


Hadi Mohamad Abu Rasheed

Dr. Hadi Mohamad Abu Rasheed, MD

Dr. Hadi Mohamad Abu Rasheed, MD is a Head of Professional Development and Scientific Research Department at the Qatar Cancer Society. He is a member in the National Cancer Committee in Qatar.

Dr. Hadi’s mission is to enforce the continuous professional development for healthcare professionals and health and patient organizations' personals and to engage in community participatory/based research related to cancer awareness, its prevention and early detection, and survivorship to make Qatar a leader in cancer prevention and its burden control.

He graduated from the University of Aleppo – Faculty of Medicine in Syria and completed his post graduate training at the University of Iowa in USA. He has clinical experience in Syria, USA and Qatar. He was involved as primary or Co-investigator in clinical research and trials in Qatar and USA. He has published or presented at different medical journals and forums in Qatar and USA. He has years of experience in Patient Education, Community-Based Health, Medical Disaster Response management, and Medical Training with the Syrian and Qatari Red Crescent and Cancer advocacy, awareness and prevention with Cancer societies in Syria and Qatar.

Presentation title: Potential Community Partnership Platform Role of Qatar Cancer Society in Cancer Immunotherapy

This presentation will provide overview of the potential role that Qatar Cancer Society would play in mobilizing our health, academic, media, private, and government partners to support the advancement in cancer immunotherapy. Also, the steps that Qatar Cancer Society could take to increase the knowledge about cancer immunotherapy at the level of healthcare professionals, people living with cancer, and decision and policy makers in Qatar which in return will build up the momentum to take septs forward in introducing engineered immune cells technologies in cancer immunotherapy in Qatar.


CHIARA CUGNO

Dr. Cugno joined Sidra Medicine in April 2014, as Bone Marrow Transplant Program Manager in the Research Division and she was appointed Director of the Clinical Research Center in October 2016. She is a 17 year experienced medical doctor with a Board Certification in Pediatrics and Pediatric Hematology/Oncology at the University of Pavia (Italy), and a II Level Master in Pediatric Hematology at the University “La Sapienza” of Rome (Italy). She has been directly involved in the Hematopoietic Stem Cell Transplantation (HSCT) activity at the Pediatric Hematology/Oncology Unit, Fondazione IRCCS Policlinico San Matteo, a renowned Academic Health Center that has performed more than 1500 HSCT (autologous, and allogeneic from sibling, unrelated and mismatched family donors, including cord blood transplants). From December 2008 to February 2014, she worked as Pediatric Oncology, Hematology and HSCT Consultant, also coordinating the staff of the Pediatric HSCT, Hematology and Oncology Outpatient Clinic from February 2012 to March 2014. Moreover, she conducted clinical research projects on innovative strategies of adoptive and regenerative cell therapies at the GMP-certified lab affiliated with the above mentioned clinical unit, and on PhosphoFlow Cytometry for studying the intracellular signalling in pediatric leukemia. At Sidra, she has been working on the development of the Clinical Research Centre, including a Cellular Therapy Unit for the delivery of cellular products for tissue, cell and gene therapy, and research projects on Mesenchymal Stromal Cells and pediatric leukemia. Dr. Cugno is author of more than 20 articles published in peer-reviewed journals.


K. R. Alexander Knuth

Professor K. R. Alexander Knuth is the Chief Executive Officer and Medical Director of the National Center for Cancer Care and Research (NCCCR) and Chairman of Cancer Services at Hamad Medical Corporation in Doha, Qatar. He chairs the Qatar Cancer Research Partnership involving all clinical, academic and research health partners in Qatar and is responsible for the implementation of the research component of the Qatar National Cancer Framework 2017-2022,

Alexander Knuth is Professor emeritus of the University of Zurich where he held the Chair of Internal Medicine/Oncology from 2003 until 2013. His clinical research focus is on ‘Cancer Immunology and Cancer Immunotherapy’. His pioneering work in human cancer immunology led to the discovery of multiple human cancer antigens including MAGE, the first candidate of the so-called Cancer/Testis (CT) family of antigens. He has authored and co-authored over 300 research articles in peer-reviewed scientific journals, reviews and book chapters and shares multiple patents in the field of cancer immunology and cancer immunotherapy.


Ian Johnston

Dr. Johnston is responsible for the development of cutting edge technologies to enable cell and gene therapies to be applied routinely in the clinic. Since joining Miltenyi Biotec in 1999, Dr. Johnston has developed a number of reagents and procedures to improve the efficiency of genetic modification of primary cells such as human T and stem cells. A number of these procedures have been fully automated on a functionally closed cell processing platform – the CliniMACS® Prodigy. In addition, Dr. Johnston has lead development of numerous products for magnetic isolation of cells, molecules, organelles and for use in the field of HIV research. He has been Principle Investigator on a number of European consortium grants focused on the genetic modification of stem cells, most recently Cell-PID and SCIDNET. His group is also investigating new targets for Chimeric Antigen Receptors (CAR) to be used in T cell cancer immunotherapies.

Prior to joining Miltenyi, he studied Natural Sciences at Cambridge University where he also completed a PhD studying immunopathological mechanisms in the CNS. This was followed by postdoctoral research at Würzburg University with Prof. Volker ter Meulen working with recombinant measles virus systems, supported by two fellowships from the Wellcome Trust and Alexander von Humboldt Foundation.


Fatemeh Darakhshan-Rassam

Dr. Fatemeh Darakhshan-RassamDr. Fatemeh Darakhshan-Rassam is a Programme Manager at QNRF in the Biomedical Sciences and Health section of the technical team. She is extensively involved in pre-award and post-award activities, as well as providing technical opinion in accordance with QNRF requirements.

Dr. Darakhshan-Rassam was awarded the higher degree of the Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) jointly from The University Reading, United Kingdom (UK), and the Health Protection Agency (formerly NRPB), Harwell Laboratories, Oxfordshire, UK. Her thesis and research, focused on Mapping of Murine Radiation Induced, Acute Myeloid Leukaemia Susceptibility Loci.

Dr. Darakhshan-Rassam, gained further research experience when awarded a postdoctoral fellowship at the Sir Alastair Currie, CRUK, Molecular Medicine Centre, Edinburgh. She has also undertaken research training at the Department of Haematology at the Imperial College of Science Technology and Medicine (UK), St Mark’s Hospital (UK), the MRC National Institute of Medical research (UK) and The Royal London Hospital (UK). She has published on cancer genetics, carcinogenesis and medical oncology.

Prior to joining QNRF, her last appointment was as a National Health Service (NHS) Manager in the UK, where she was responsible for project/service implementation and improvement in addition to staff training and development. She took a lead role in drafting and presenting reports, working closely with Medical Consultants and Pediatricians.


Richard O’Kennedy

Richard O’KennedyRichard O’Kennedy, B.Sc., Ph.D., C. Biol., FRSB., F.I.Biol.I., Dip. F.S., Dip. C.S., Dip. Computing, MRIA, is Vice-President for Research, Development and Innovation at the Qatar Foundation and Vice-President for Research at Hamad Bin Khalifa University, Doha, Qatar, previously he was Professor and Scientific Director of the Biomedical Diagnostics Institute at Dublin City University (DCU). He is past President of the London International Youth Science Forum, Past President of the Institute of Biology of Ireland, past Chairman/Founder of the Centre for Talented Youth (CTY) in Ireland, and represented Ireland and the Royal Irish Academy (RIA) on the International Union of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology (IUBMB). In 2018 he was selected as the representative of the IUBMB for Qatar. He was a member of the Industrial Research and Commercialisation Committee of Enterprise Ireland, the National Bioethics Council for Ireland, and the Life Sciences and Health Committee of the RIA. Previously he was Vice-President for Teaching and Learning at DCU, Chair of the Management Committee of the Dublin Region Higher Education Alliance (11 Institutions and ca 66,000 students) and Visiting Scientist at M.D. Anderson Cancer Centre at the University of Texas at Houston, where his work was selected as ‘Invention of the Year’.

He directs the Applied Biochemistry Research Group, internationally recognised for its expertise in antibody generation and immuno/ biosensor assay development, has published extensively (250 peer-reviewed papers, 51 reviews, 40 book chapters, 2 books + 1 in process), has mentored 69 Ph.Ds to completion and has a Google Scholar H-Index of 53 with ca 11,800 citations. He has academic collaborations worldwide, has carried out many collaborations with industry, has 7 patents, multiple licences and many of his reagents/innovations have been licenced and commercialised. He is Founder and Chief Scientific Officer of AbYBiotech, is chairman the Scientific Board of Glycoselect, a highly innovative Biotech company, and has acted as reviewer for over 60 journals, is editor of 3 journals and acts as a reviewer for ca 30 international funding bodies. He has a major interest in innovative approaches to Healthcare and has received many awards for research (Biochemistry Medal of the RIA; President’s Award for Research, 3 Fujitsu Awards for Innovation; Ireland’s Bioscience Lab of the Year, 2014), teaching (President’s award, DCU; Outstanding Masters Programme Award, Graduate Ireland, 2011 and Outstanding Education and Outreach Lab, 2017, and CTY award, 2018).


Jens Hasskarl

Jens HasskarlJens Hasskarl is a board-certified hematologist and oncologist and private lecturer and faculty member at Freiburg Medical School, Germany. He received his medical education at Freiburg Medical School, University of Vienna Medical School, University of Heidelberg Medical School and Harvard Medical School. He completed his thesis in cancer biology at the German Cancer Research Center in Heidelberg and at Harvard Medical School. He received his medical training - interrupted by 3 years postdoc at Harvard Medical School - at the University of Freiburg as board certified hematologist and oncologist.

He joined industry as a physician scientist in 2009 and served in various global roles with ascending responsibilities. In these roles he was responsible for developing and successfully executing the global development strategy across various compounds, including CAR T cell therapies.


Reuben Benjamin

Dr Reuben BenjaminDr Reuben Benjamin is a Consultant Haematologist and Honorary Senior Lecturer with an interest in multiple myeloma, stem cell transplantation and cell therapy. He completed his haematology training at University College Hospital, London and then worked as a postdoctorate fellow at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, NY undertaking research in CAR-T cell therapy for leukaemia and myeloma. Since 2014 he has been based at King's College Hospital, London where he leads the plasma cell disorder service and CAR-T cell programme. He is Chief Investigator of the CALM Trial, the first allogeneic off-the-shelf CAR-T cell study for relapsed adult B-ALL and is also actively involved in offering CAR-T cell therapy for myeloma and lymphoma. He has an active research group at King’s College London focusing on allogeneic CAR-T cells for lymphoid malignancies as well as in studying the biology of myeloma.


H.E. Sheikh Dr. Mohammed Bin Hamad Bin J. Al-Thani

Dr. Mohamed Bin Hamad Al Thani is Director of Public Health Department at the Ministry of Public Health since 2008.

He is Associate Professor of Clinical Healthcare Policy and Research at Weill Cornell Medical College and Qatar University

He developed programs to protect the health of individuals, families and community in Qatar.

He placed a high priority in developing the first Public Health Strategy 2017-2022 in Qatar.

He is continually conducting clinical research studies in the most ethical and safest manner possible to develop an integrated approach to health prevention and promotion. He has more than 30 scientific publications in Diabetes, Environmental health, Road safety, Communicable diseases, obesity…

Dr. Mohamed Bin Hamad Al Thani has headed number of national committees including the National Preventive Health Committee, which aims to address the many facets of transitioning from a curative to a preventive health focus and to ensure a robust preventive health governance system is in place.

He is the Chair of the Public Health Implementation Committee, and Member in the National Public Health Committee


Christof von Kalle

Professor Christof von Kalle is the Chief Research Officer at Sidra Medicine. He was appointed in April 2018.

In his role, he oversees, coordinates and directs all aspects of research conducted at the institution. His goal is to align the activities of the clinical and research branches of Sidra Medicine into one effective program aimed at developing diagnoses that improve the lives of patients, as well as make essential contributions to Qatar’s healthcare and medical education systems.

As a physician scientist with a clinical background in hematology and oncology and over 150 acclaimed publications, Prof. Kalle is an internationally recognized research leader in stem-cells, mutation analysis and gene therapy.

Prof. Kalle joined Sidra Medicine from the National Center for Tumor Diseases (NCT) where he served as Director and chaired the NCT Board of Directors. At the NCT, Dr. Kalle coordinated overall activities, with the primary goal of facilitating excellence in translational and clinical research.

Prof. Kalle received his MD from Cologne University Medical School in 1987 and his Medical PhD degree in 1991. Between 1992 to 2008, he held various senior positions including a role as Clinical Investigator and Senior Resident in the Department of International Medicine in the University of Cologne Medical School, Germany. He was also Senior Clinical Investigator in the Gene Therapy Program and Senior Medical Staff Fellow in the Department of Internal Medicine at Freiburg University Medical School. His extensive career also includes his role as an Adjunct Professor of Pediatrics in Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center at the Division of Experimental Hematology in the U.S.

Prof. Kalle has been recognized for his contributions to medical research, receiving a number awards over the years, including the Pioneer Series Award for Human Gene Therapy in 2011, the Eva Luise Köhler Award for Rare Diseases in 2005, and the Langen Research Award from Paul-Ehrlich-Institute in Langen, Germany in 2004.

He is the president of the German Society for Gene Therapy (DG-GT) and board member of the European Society of Gene and Cell Therapy (ESGCT) as well as the European Association for Cancer Research (EACR). He is also an elected member of the European Academy of Cancer Sciences (EACS).He is also the co-founder of two Biotech companies, Lifecodexx and GeneWerk.

In addition to his role at Sidra Medicine, he retains his position as the Head of the Department of Translational Oncology, NCT and German Cancer Research (DKFZ) in Heidelberg, Germany.


Sheikh Dr. Khalid Bin Jabor Al Thani

His Excellency Sheikh Dr. Khalid Bin Jabor Al Thani is the Founder and Chairman of Qatar Cancer Society, University of Calgary in Qatar Board of Trustees Chair, and Chairman of the Gulf Union Against Cancer.

His Excellency served as Assistant Medical Director and Managing Director of Hamad Medical Corporation, Undersecretary for the Ministry of Public Health, Vice Chairman of the National Health Authority, and Chairman of the Permanent Licensing Committee for Healthcare Practitioners in Qatar.

Also, His Excellency served as Chairman of Qatar Foundation for the Elderly and Board member of the Supreme Council for Family Affairs and the Shafallah Center for Children with Special Needs.

His Excellency is a Medical Doctor with a Bachelor of Medicine and Bachelor of Surgery from King Faisal University and graduated from Nova Southeastern University in Ft. Lauderdale, FL, USA with a Master of Health Care Administration with emphasis on Planning and Budgeting.


Ruba Y. Taha

Senior consultant in clinical hematology section, medical oncology department, NCCCR-HMC in Qatar.

Clinical lead of lymphoma– HMC and chair of lymphoma MDT since 2015, vice chair of lymphoma MDT 2013-2014, extended member in leukemia MDT since 2014 and core member of leukemia MDT 2012-2013, core member in BMT MDT since 2014 and program director of hematology fellowship program since August 2018.

Her research interest include lymphoid malignancies and plasma cell disorders.