Dark Genome Symposium 2023
 Registration has now closed   
Join us on November 13 - 14 in London
The Dark Genome, the 98% of the genome that is not traditionally associated with protein-encoding exons, is increasingly found to be associated with many diseases, from autoimmune and neurological to cancer and ageing. Enara Bio, ROME Therapeutics, and Nucleome Therapeutics welcome you to the Dark Genome Symposium 2023 on November 13-14 in London. This event brings together leaders from Academia, Biotech and Pharma to share knowledge, opportunities, applications and challenges that we are solving as a community and aims to build momentum for further engagement after this meeting. We look forward to seeing you for a vibrant and full agenda of learning, discussion, and engagement.
Francis Crick Institute
1 Midland Rd, London NW1 1AT, UK
Date & Time
November 13, 2023, 8:30 AM - November 14, 2023 - 1:30 PM
Call for Abstracts
The Dark Genome Symposium 2023 will include ample time and space for networking and interaction between delegates. A key element of the program will be a Poster Presentation session for selected abstracts during the evening reception on the 13th November.

We welcome submission of abstracts covering any stage of research encompassing topics relevant to Dark Genome science. Abstracts should not exceed 250 words. The first/lead author will present the poster for chosen abstracts at the evening reception.

Please submit abstracts to [email protected] by October 13th, 2023. Selected abstract authors will be notified by 20th October 2023. Details of poster dimensions will be provided at that time.

We look forward to receiving your submissions.
Monday 13th November TitlesSpeakers Timings
Arrival with coffee

Hosts 09.00-09.20
Session 1: Translational Applications of Line-1 Biology Talks
Studies of a Human RetrotransposonJohn Moran 09.20-09.40
LINE-1 and agingVera Gorbunova09.40-10.00
Structural and functional analysis of Orf2p reveals synthesis of inflammatory cytosolic RNA:DNA hybridsMarty Taylor10.00-10.20
Pathogenic Role of LINE-1 RT Activity in SLE KeratinocytesDennis Zaller 10.20-10.40
Networking break

Panel Translational Applications of Line-1 Biology. Chair Ozgur OksuzPerspective 1: John Sedivy11.20-11.30
Perspective 2: Andrei Gudkov11.30-11.40
Panel: Ozgur Oksuz, John LaCava, John Sedivy, Andrei Gudkov, Marie Classon, Ozgen Deniz11.40-12.40

Panel Is The Dark Genome The Next Frontier of Precision Medicine? Perspectives from Pharma, Biotech and Investors. Chair Steve HarrisonPanel: Steve Harrison, Trev Howe, Rana AL-Hallaq, Dimtrios Vitsios, Josh Mandel-Brehm, Craig Fox13.40-14.40
Session 2 Talks: Bridging The Variant to Function Gap Using base pair mapping of chromatin structure to interrogate genome functionJames Davies 14.40-15.00
3D chromatin reprogramming primes human memory T cells for rapid recall and pathogenic dysfunctionRalph Stadhouders15.00-15.20
Networking break 

Session 2 Talks: Bridging The Variant to Function GapDecoding the dark genome in health and disease       Jim Hughes16.00-16.20
Forced linear enhancer recruitment reactivates genes and assigns function to intervening non-functionalWouter de Laat16.20-16.40
Day 1 KeynoteA few new bright spots in the dark genomeGerd Blobel16.40-17.00
Drinks Reception Poster Presentations 

Tuesday 14th November Titles SpeakersTimings
Arrival with coffee

Hosts 08.30-08.40
Day 2 Opening KeynoteApproaches to targeting HML-2 for Motor Neuron Disease, Brain tumors and Immune senescenceAvi Nath 08.40-09.00
Session 3 Talks: Harnessing immunity to Dark Antigens for therapeutic benefitTranslation of non-canonical open reading frames as a cancer cell survival mechanism in childhoodSebastiaan van Heesch09.00-09.20
Dark Antigens and PAMPsBen Greenbaum09.20-09.40
The interplay of TEs, Epigenetics and ImmunogenicityKate Chiappinelli09.40-10.00
Grey genome peptides as targets for cancer immunotherapiesSebastian Amigorena10.00-10.20
Networking Break 

PanelHarnessing Immunity to Dark Antigens: Chair Luke Williams Perspective 1: Alena Gros11.00-11.10
Perspective 2: Ankur Dhanik 11.10-11.20
Panel: Luke Willaims, Alena Gros, Ankur Dhanik , Michele Mishto, Stephane Depil, Joe Dukes, Helen Rowe11.20-12.20
Closing Keynote 1Would you please stop calling me dark?Didier Trono12.30-12.50
Closing Keynote 2Retroviral legacy in anti-tumour immunityGeorge Kassiotis12.50-13.10
Closing Remarks 
Hosts 13.10-13.20
Confirmed Speakers and Panel Members
In alphabetic order:

Rana Al-Hallaq (Pfizer Ventures)
Sebastian Amigorena (Institut Curie)
Gerd Blobel (Children's Hospital of Philadelphia)
Kate Chiappinelli (George Washington University)
Marie Classon (Pfizer Center for Therapeutic Innovation)
James Davies (University of Oxford)
Wouter de Laat (Hubrecht Institute)
Özgen Deniz (Barts Cancer Institute)
Stéphane Depil (Cancer Research Center of Lyon & ErVaccine)
Ankur Dhanik (Gritstone bio)
Joe Dukes (Enara Bio)
Craig Fox (Oxford Science Enterprises)
Vera Gorbunova (University of Rochester)
Ben Greenbaum (Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center)
Alena Gros (Vall d'Hebron Institute of Oncology)
Andrei Gudkov (Roswell Park Comprehensive Cancer Center)
Avindra Nath (National Institute of Health)
Trevor Howe (Johnson & Johnson)
Jim Hughes (University of Oxford)
John Moran (University of Michigan Medical School)
George Kassiotis (Francis Crick Institute, Imperial College London)
John LaCava (European Research Institute for the Biology of Ageing, University Medical Center Groningen)
Josh Mandel-Brehm (CAMP4 Therapeutics)
Michele Mishto (Francis Crick Institute, King’s College London)
Luke Williams (Enara Bio)
Helen Rowe (Queen Mary University of London)
John Sedivy (Brown University)
Ralph Stadhouders (Erasmus University Medical Center)
Martin Taylor (Mass General Hospital and Harvard Medical School)
Didier Trono (EPFL)
Sebastiaan van Heesch (Utrecht University)
Dimitrios Vitsios (AstraZeneca)
Dennis Zaller (ROME Therapeutics)
Speakers and Panel Members
In no particular order (updating)
Rana Al-Hallaq
Rana Al-Hallaq, PhD is Executive Director and Partner at Pfizer Ventures. Rana leverages her preclinical, clinical, and business development experience to assess, invest in, and manage equity investments for Pfizer Ventures. She currently has responsibility for Pfizer’s investments in ReCode Therapeutics (Menlo Park, CA; Dallas, TX), Vivet Therapeutics (Paris, France), Mitokinin, Inc. (San Francisco, CA), Autifony Therapeutics Ltd. (Stevenage, UK), Blade Therapeutics (South San Francisco, CA), RefleXion Medical (Hayward, CA), Montis (Leuven, Belgium), Triplet Therapeutics (Cambridge, MA), Biograph55 (San Francisco, CA), Jnana Therapeutics (Boston, MA), Arkuda (Cambridge, MA), and the Dementia Discovery Fund (London, UK) among others. Prior to her current role, Rana was a Transactionalist in Worldwide Business Development at Pfizer where she was responsible for negotiating and transacting licenses, acquisitions, and partnerships across therapeutic areas. Rana joined Pfizer in 2015 as an Early Candidate Clinical Lead where she advised early clinical programs in CNS to ensure alignment with business strategies. Prior to joining Pfizer, she held roles at Allergan (formerly Actavis, formerly Forest Laboratories), first in Clinical Development Psychiatry as scientific and operational lead on Phase 2 and Phase 3 studies investigating novel treatments for Major Depressive Disorder and schizophrenia, and later in Business Development where she assessed and executed on a number of acquisitions and licenses across therapeutic areas. She began her training as a research fellow at the National Institutes of Health. Rana graduated Summa Cum Laude and Phi Beta Kappa with a BA in Biology from Hamilton College and holds a PhD in Neuroscience from Georgetown University Medical Center.
Trevor Howe
Jim Hughes
Originally trained as a biochemist, I became fascinated by genetics and molecular biology at an early stage, leading me to pursue a Ph.D. at Oxford University. During that time, which was before the genome era, I focused on identifying and cloning genes associated with common genetic diseases. However, with the sequencing of the human genome, my interests shifted towards understanding gene regulation and the role of the non-coding portion, which constitutes approximately 97% of the genome and underlies a significant proportion of human disease predisposition. Recognizing the increasing importance of computational skills in my field, I retrained as a bioinformatician, being among the first biologists to do so. Due to my own multidisciplinary career, the research group I established and currently oversee at Oxford develops and employs both experimental and computational methodologies, including Machine Learning technologies. Our primary focus revolves around investigating gene activity in relation to health and disease and the role of non-coding genome variation.  Our goal is to advance our understanding of both the basic biology of genome function and its role in human disease.  
Kate Chiappinelli
Kate Chiappinelli is an Assistant Professor in the George Washington University Department of Microbiology, Immunology and Tropical Medicine and the GW Cancer Center, where she started her independent laboratory in 2017. Dr. Chiappinelli received her PhD in Developmental, Regenerative, and Stem Cell Biology from Washington University in St. Louis under the supervision of Dr. Paul Goodfellow. She pursued postdoctoral studies at Johns Hopkins University with Dr. Stephen Baylin where she and her colleagues discovered that inhibiting DNA methylation causes an immune response in cancer through transcription of transposable element RNA. Her independent laboratory, funded by NIH and DOD grants, studies the epigenetic changes in cancer and how epigenetic drugs can reverse these, specifically focusing on noncoding regions of the genome and the anti-tumor immune response. A major focus of her research is epigenetic regulation of transposable elements in cancer and how they contribute to innate immunity. A translational goal of this work is learning how to optimally combine epigenetic and immune therapies to fight cancer, with a focus on ovarian cancer. Kate is passionate about undergraduate science education and community science outreach, with extensive experience working with high school students in urban environments.
Vera Gorbunova
Vera Gorbunova is an endowed Professor of Biology at the University of Rochester and a co-director of the Rochester Aging Research Center. Her research is focused on understanding the mechanisms of longevity and genome stability and on the studies of exceptionally long-lived mammals. Dr. Gorbunova earned her B.Sc. degrees at Saint Petersburg State University, Russia and her Ph.D. at the Weizmann Institute of Science, Israel. Dr. Gorbunova pioneered comparative biology approach to study aging and identified rules that control evolution of tumor suppressor mechanisms depending on the species lifespan and body mass. Dr. Gorbunova investigates the role of Sirtuin proteins in maintaining genome and epigenome stability. She investigates the role of genomic instability and transposable elements in aging and disease. She demonstrated that LINE1 elements trigger innate immune response that drives age-related sterile inflammation. She has more than 100 publications including publications in high profile journals such as Nature, Science and Cell. Her work received awards of from the Ellison Medical Foundation, the Glenn Foundation, American Federation for Aging Research, and from the National Institutes of Health. Her work was awarded the Cozzarelli Prize from PNAS, prize for research on aging from ADPS/Alianz, France, Prince Hitachi Prize in Comparative Oncology, Japan, and Davey prize from Wilmot Cancer Center.
Andrei Gudkov
Dr. Andrei Gudkov is Professor of Oncology, Sr. VP, and Garman Family Chair of the Department of Cell Stress Biology at Roswell Park Comprehensive Cancer Center in Buffalo, NY, USA. Born in Moscow, former USSR, he earned his academic degrees from the National Cancer Center (PhD in experimental oncology) and Moscow State University (Doctor of Sciences in molecular biology). In 1990, he relocated to the US and joined the faculty of the Department of Genetics at the University of Illinois at Chicago. From 2001 to 2007, Dr. Gudkov was the head of the Department of Molecular Genetics at Lerner Research Institute at Cleveland Clinic in Cleveland, Ohio. Since 2007, he has been based at his current position at Roswell Park Cancer Center in Buffalo, New York. His interests encompass anti-cancer and anti-aging research, radiation biology, virology, and the mechanisms of inflammation. He authored over 250 research articles and co-founded biotech companies focused on developing anticancer and anti-aging drugs stemming from his innovations.
James Davies
Professor James Davies is a Founder at Nucleome therapeutics; an Associate Professor of Genomics at the University of Oxford; and an Honorary Consultant at Oxford Universities NHS Foundation Trust. He completed his clinical training at the University of Oxford in 2001 and developed a keen interest in Haemopoietic Stem Cell Transplantation and Cell Therapy. Since 2017, Professor Davies has worked as a consultant with the Bone Marrow Transplant Service in Oxford. He is also a qualified intensive care physician and served as a Consultant in Intensive Care Medicine during the COVID-19 pandemic. As a group leader at the MRC Weatherall Institute of Molecular Medicine (University of Oxford) in the MRC Molecular Haematology Unit, Professor Davies is recognized for his expertise in developing high throughput sequencing techniques. He specializes in complex functional genomics assays and has made significant contributions to the study of chromatin structure, a challenging area within functional genomics research (Hua et al., Nature 2021). Over nearly 10 years, he has acquired extensive experience in software development and bioinformatics, and has licensed software through Oxford University Innovation. Additionally, Professor Davies's laboratory focuses on developing advanced cellular therapies using innovative genome editing technologies. He has pioneered genome editing approaches to potentially cure sickle cell disease and haemoglobin E, which is the commonest cause of transfusion-dependent thalassaemia worldwide.
George Kassiotis
George Kassiotis is currently a Principal Group Leader and head of the laboratory of Retroviral Immunology at the Francis Crick Institute, London, UK. He is also a Professor of Retrovirology, at the Department of Infectious Disease, Imperial College London, UK, and recipient of an ERC Advanced Grant. His doctoral studies, with Lesley Probert and George Kollias at the Hellenic Pasteur Institute, Athens, Greece, focused on transgenic mouse models for human neuroimmunological diseases. He carried out postdoctoral studies with Brigitta Stockinger at the Medical Research Council's National Institute for Medical Research in Mill Hill, London, UK, on T cell homeostasis and immunological memory. His laboratory's current work concentrates on innate and adaptive immune responses to endogenous and exogenous retroviruses, as well as the broader evolutionary impact of endogenous retroelements on the development and function of host immunity. In the last few years, his laboratory has been heavily involved in the response of the Crick to the COVID-19 pandemic and has worked on SARS-CoV-2.
John LaCava
John LaCava, Ph.D., is jointly appointed as Research Associate Professor at The Rockefeller University, and as Associate Professor and Group Leader of the Laboratory of Macromolecules and Interactomes at The European Research Institute for the Biology of Ageing, University Medical Center Groningen. John’s group develops methods to study the contributions of dysregulated macromolecular assemblies (chiefly protein-protein and protein-RNA interactions) to human diseases. For this, the group uses affinity-based enrichment methods, coupled e.g., to mass spectrometry, nucleic acids sequencing, and computational integration - thereby characterizing and dissecting the molecular compositions of target assemblies, changes therein, and likely biological implications. The leads obtained may then be prioritized and followed-up with validating functional and structural investigations by the group and in collaboration with others. Among multiple areas of interest, the group studies the molecular (patho)physiology of human LINE-1 ribonucleoproteins and L1-related macromolecular assemblies in e.g., cancer, autoimmunity, and ageing.
Michele Mishto
Interested in molecular aspects of the T cell mediated imune response and how cells show their antigenic landscape to T cells. My research has a strong multi-disciplinary approach. I have progressed from in silico, to in vivo into the clinic and back again over the last decade. This has been possible by enjoying the collaboration with pioneering researchers, and a passion for everything related to proteasomes. The outcome has been the discovering of the unbearable lightness of spliced peptides (and the curse on those who study them), the complex dynamics of proteasome catalytic processes, the association of immunoproteasomes to neurological diseases and ageing, and the development of methods for investigating noncanonical peptides, among others. Currently, I am located at the Francis Crick Institute in London and I am constantly looking for young brilliant researchers who are interested in joining my team.
Helen Rowe
Helen Rowe has a long-standing interest in regulation of the human immune system. She obtained her PhD from University College London, working on cancer vaccines using lentiviral vectors. She undertook her postdoctoral work studying epigenetic regulation of retrotransposons. She then started her lab at University College London and moved to Queen Mary University of London in 2020. Her lab works on immune regulation by retrotransposons through epigenetic mechanisms. Her labs’ main findings have been in uncovering factors that regulate LINE-1 retrotransposons and interferon responses (the HUSH complex and TRIM28). Her long-term goal is to contribute to translating these discoveries into immunotherapies and cancer vaccines.  
John Moran
John V. Moran, Ph.D. is the Gilbert S. Omenn Collegiate Professor of Human Genetics and a Professor of Internal Medicine at the University of Michigan Medical School. He received a B.S. degree in Chemistry from the Rochester Institute of Technology. He conducted graduate studies with Dr. Philip S. Perlman, earning a M.S. degree in Molecular Genetics from The Ohio State University and a Ph.D. degree in Biochemistry from the University of Texas Southwestern Medical School in Dallas. His graduate research focused on elucidating group I and group II intron mobility mechanisms in Saccharomyces cerevisiae mitochondrial DNA. He conducted postdoctoral studies with Dr. Haig H. Kazazian at the Johns Hopkins Medical Institute and the University of Pennsylvania Medical School as a Damon Runyon/Walter Winchell Cancer Research Fund Fellow. His postdoctoral research focused on developing systems to study the mobility of Long Interspersed Element-1 retrotransposons in cultured human cells. Dr. Moran became a faculty member at the University of Michigan Medical School in 1998, was promoted to Associate Professor in the Departments of Human Genetics (with tenure) and Internal Medicine (without tenure) in 2003, and was promoted to Full Professor of Human Genetics (with tenure) and Internal Medicine (without tenure) in September 2008. Dr. Moran is an alumnus of Howard Hughes Medical Institute, is an elected Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, received the Curt Stern Award from the American Society of Human Genetics in 2013, and recently served on the American Society of Human Genetics Board of Directors. During the past ~25 years, Dr. Moran’s laboratory has been at the forefront of human transposable element research and has made discoveries about the mechanism of LINE-1 and Short Interspersed Element (SINE) retrotransposition and their impact on the structure and function of the human genome. His laboratory currently uses a battery of multidisciplinary approaches to answer the following questions: What are the molecular mechanisms responsible for LINE-1 and SINE retrotransposition? To what extent do somatic and germline LINE-1 and SINE retrotransposition affect the human genome? and What host factors influence LINE-1 and SINE retrotransposition? Dr. Moran has worked in the mobile genetic element field for over 30 years and has published approximately 100 articles (the total includes articles, book chapters, perspectives, and a thesis). Dr. Moran takes pride in teaching and in the accomplishments of his former trainees. To date, he has trained nine postdoctoral fellows and ten graduate students, many of whom are now independent principal investigators throughout the world. Dr. Moran also is the Director of the NIH-funded University of Michigan Interdisciplinary Genetics Predoctoral Training Program, has organized national and international meetings on mobile genetic elements, serves on the Scientific Advisory Board of Tessera Therapeutics, and has earned several research and teaching honors during his time at the University of Michigan.
Sebastian Amigorena
Sebastian Amigorena founded and directed until 2021 the Immunology department at Institut Curie. He is currently team leader and head of the Institut Curie Immunotherapy Cancer Center, as well as founder and CSO of Mnemo Therapeutics. Dr. Amigorena graduated at Paris VII University and performed postdoctoral work with Ira Mellman, at Yale School of Medicine. He is member of the French Academy of Sciences and EMBO. He received two Advanced ERC Grants and multiple French and international science awards. Dr. Amigorena’s laboratory made important contributions to immunology and cell biology, including the discovery of immunoreceptor tyrosine-based inhibitory motifs (ITIMs), the identification of phagocytic mechanisms involved in antigen cross presentation in dendritic cells and the role of regulatory T cells in the shaping T cell receptor (TCR) repertoires. More recently, the Amigorena laboratory analyzed the epigenetic control of T cell fates, revealing the role of heterochromatin dynamics in helper T cell functions and effector vs. memory differentiation. The teams at Institut Curie and Mnemo also identified new sources of non-conventional tumor antigens derived from transposable elements and non-canonical splicing. Dr. Amigorena recently initiated collaborative Institut Curie-Mnemo Therapeutics programs for non-canonical tumor target identification and for developing epigenetically re-programed CAR T cells in cancer.
Josh Mandel-Brehm
Josh Mandel-Brehm is President & Chief Executive Officer of CAMP4 Therapeutics.  Mr. Mandel-Brehm was previously an entrepreneur partner with Polaris Partners and held key business development and operations leadership roles at leading biotech companies. Most recently he served as part of the Business Development group at Biogen, where he led multiple strategic activities and corresponding transactions. Prior to Biogen, Mr. Mandel-Brehm held several roles of increasing responsibility at Genzyme as part of the business development group for the company’s rare disease business unit. Mr. Mandel-Brehm earned a BA in Biology from Washington University in St. Louis and holds an MBA from the University of Michigan.
Ankur Dhanik
Ankur is Vice President at Gritstone Bio where he is leading teams working on immunotherapies for cancers and infectious diseases. His Bioinformatics and Data Science team is responsible for developing novel AI-driven prediction models for target discovery, generating personalized and shared vaccine designs, and understanding translation data from clinical studies. The Proteomics and TCR/Epitope discovery teams drive the experimental discovery and validation of Gritstone’s targets. Previously, Ankur was a bioinformatics group leader at Regeneron Pharmaceuticals where he was involved in therapeutic target discovery, technology development, and translational research. Ankur received his PhD degree from Stanford University, Master’s degree from National University of Singapore, and Bachelor’s degree from Indian Institute of Technology. He carried out his training as a Keck Fellow at Rice University and MD Anderson Center where he was part of the Computational Cancer Biology Training Program.
Stéphane Depil
Prof. Stéphane Depil, M.D., Ph.D., is onco-hematologist at Léon Bérard Cancer Center, team leader at Cancer Research Center of Lyon, and adjunct Professor at University Claude Bernard Lyon 1, France. He was also Visiting Professor at King’s College London. He is the founder and chairman of ErVaccine Technologies, a biotech company developing cancer vaccines and T cell therapies targeting unconventional tumor epitopes. Prof. Depil is a Board-certified physician in hematology. He received his M.D. from the University of Lille and obtained a Ph.D. in immunology at Institute of Biology of Lille after working on a project of cancer vaccination. Stéphane Depil has over 20 years of experience in oncology development, both in academic centers and pharmaceutical companies. He was Senior Vice President Research and Development and Chief Medical Officer at Cellectis and served as Chief Executive Officer at Netris Pharma. Prior to Netris, Stéphane Depil worked at Servier Research Institute for 8 years in a variety of roles, including Director of Oncology Research and Development. He is the author of more than 120 articles and abstracts and inventor of 15 patents.
Ralph Stadhouders
Dr. Ralph Stadhouders is a molecular biologist and immunologist working at the Erasmus MC in Rotterdam, the Netherlands. He obtained his PhD with Prof. Frank Grosveld at the Erasmus MC, after which he moved to the Centre for Genomic Regulation in Barcelona for postdoctoral training with Dr. Thomas Graf. In 2017 he returned to the Erasmus MC to establish his own research line in molecular immunology at the Pulmonary Medicine department. His laboratory is focused on obtaining a better understanding of how immune cell activity is controlled at a molecular level, with special emphasis placed on identifying mechanisms and cell subsets associated with severe inflammatory disease or failing anti-tumor immunity. During his career, he has developed a special interest in the non-coding part of our genome and how 3D chromatin folding contributes to transcriptional control. Dr. Stadhouders’ laboratory has recently received support from the Dutch Research Council (ZonMW VIDI), the Dutch Lung Foundation (Longfonds) and the Dutch Cancer Society (KWF).
Marie Classon
Marie Classon is currently a Research Fellow at the Pfizer Center for Therapeutic Innovation CTI in South San Francisco, CA. Dr. Classon received her PhD at the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm, Sweden and pursued post doctoral studies at Tularik Inc and at Harvard Medical school.  Following her training Dr. Classon was an assistant professor at Harvard Medical school before transitioning into the pharmaceutical industry, holding positions at Genentech and Pfizer CTI.  A major focus of her independent research in academia and industry has been centered around cancer drug resistance mechanisms and the emerging role that repression of the “repeatome” plays in the survival of cancer cells during otherwise lethal drug exposures.
Gerd Blobel
Gerd A. Blobel MD, PhD holds the Frank E. Weise III Endowed Chair in Pediatric Hematology at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia and the Perelman School of Medicine. Dr. Blobel earned his MD degree summa cum laude from the University of Heidelberg, Germany, and a PhD degree from Rockefeller University in New York. He carried out his postdoctoral work at Boston Children’s Hospital and Harvard Medical School. Dr. Blobel is the co-director of the Epigenetics Institute at the University of Pennsylvania and co-director of the Spatial and Functional Genomics Program at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia. Dr. Blobel has been continually funded by the NIH since arriving at Penn and held a NIH MERIT award. In 2014 he won the Stanley N. Cohen Biomedical Research Award, and in 2015 received the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia Mentor Award. He was elected to the American Society for Clinical Investigation (2004) and the Association of American Physicians (2008).
Sebastiaan van Heesch
Sebastiaan van Heesch, PhD, is a group leader at the Princess Máxima Center for Pediatric Oncology (Utrecht, NL) – the largest pediatric cancer research hospital in Europe. His lab combines wet lab and computational approaches to study non-canonical translation and microproteins, with the aim to develop new immunotherapeutic strategies for childhood cancer. Dr. van Heesch obtained his MSc degree at Utrecht University (2010, cum laude), his PhD at the Hubrecht Institute (2010-2014), and was supported by an EMBO long-term fellowship, NWO Rubicon grant, and DZHK excellence grant during his postdoc at the MDC Berlin (2014-2020). In 2020, he established a fully independent research group at the Princess Máxima Center, where he leads an immunotherapy development and microprotein research program, supported by various Dutch and European grants. Dr. van Heesch’ work has contributed to improved identification and characterization of non-canonical translation and novel microproteins in human tissue samples (e.g., Cell 2019). He is acting co-lead of the Therapeutic Vaccines work stream within the Dutch Oncode Accelerator project (2023-2031), which aims to accelerate the preclinical development of cancer treatment in the Netherlands. Dr. van Heesch further co-initiated and is co-leading a world-wide consortium that aims to identify, catalog, and characterize new Ribo-seq ORFs and microproteins in humans (Nature Biotechnology 2022; Molecular Cellular Proteomics 2023). His research group additionally has a keen interest in understanding the evolutionary origins and functions of microproteins that emerged recently in human evolution and might contribute to early onset childhood cancer (Nature Ecology & Evolution 2023, Molecular Cell 2023).
Craig Fox
Craig joined Oxford Science Enterprises in February 2022, bringing over 20 years of drug discovery and development expertise, with vast experience as a research scientist managing initial target selection through to Phase 2 clinical studies. At OSE, Craig supports the growth and development of Life Science businesses, the identification of new opportunities, and formation of new spinouts. He joined from C4X Discovery where he was Chief Scientific Officer and an Executive Board Member for more than six years, guiding its transition from a technology-based company to a therapeutics business. Craig has also worked at a number of biotechnology companies supporting multiple financing deals, the creation and management of strategic collaborations and licensing deals with Pharma. Craig holds a PhD in Respiratory Medicine from Birmingham University and a first-class Biochemistry degree from the University of Surrey.
Wouter de Laat
Wouter de Laat obtained his PhD (1998) in molecular biology at the Erasmus University and is currently group leader at the Hubrecht Institute & Oncode Institute and professor in Biomedical Genomics at the UMC Utrecht. His team pioneered the use and development of 3C-based technologies, making seminal contributions to the field of gene regulation and 3D genome organization. They were the first to demonstrate chromatin loops between genes and enhancers and show that transcription factors, including the key architectural factor CTCF, set up such loops. They were also the first to modify and apply these methods for the detection of DNA rearrangements and haplotyping, opening avenues for non-invasive prenatal diagnosis for monogenic diseases and improved translocation detection in cancers. Wouter de Laat is founder of the biotech company Cergentis (sold to Solvias in 2022), received national and international (ERC) career grants and is an elected EMBO member.
Avindra Nath
Dr. Nath is the Clinical Director of the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS) at NIH, where he is also Chief of the Section of Infections of the Nervous System, Director of the Translational Center for Neurological Sciences positions he has held since 2011. Prior to this he was the Director of the Division of Neuroimmunology and Neurovirology and Professor of Neurology at Johns Hopkins University, positions he held for nine years. Dr. Nath did his residency training in Neurology at University of Texas in Houston in the early 1980’s when the AIDS pandemic had emerged. Following the residency, he did fellowships in Neuroimmunology and Neurovirology. His research focused on understanding the mechanisms of neurodegeneration and development of dementia due to HIV infection. His laboratory was one of the first to show that viral proteins can be released from infected cells and injure neurons without infecting them. For these phenomena to occur, complete viral replication was not necessary. In 2005, he made the observation that some individuals with HIV infection could also develop amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) however, if these individuals could be treated early in the course of the illness with antiretroviral drugs that penetrate the brain, their symptoms could be reversed. He then refocused the efforts of his laboratory to study the potential role of retroviruses in the pathophysiology of ALS. His laboratory was the first to show that an ancient retrovirus, HERV-K subtype HML-2 which is embedded in the human genome can get activated in patients with ALS and mice engineered to express just the envelope protein of the virus in the brain developed signs of upper and lower motor neuron disease similar to that seen in individuals with ALS. His current research is focused on understanding the mechanisms that lead to activation of the virus, how it causes neurodegeneration and the potential role of the immune system in controlling these effects. His laboratory is also developing new and novel ways of blocking the virus and is in the process of initiating clinical trials in ALS. He believes that lessons learned from studying the mechanisms of interactions between viruses and the brain can provide unique insight into neurodegenerative diseases and can help identify new therapeutic targets. Thus, his laboratory is studying the neuropathogenesis of several recent pandemic viruses including Ebola, Zika, Coronaviruses and Monkeypox. He received the Pioneer in NeuroVirology Award from the International Society of NeuroVirology and served as its President. He received the Wybran award from the Society of Neuroimmune Pharmacology for contributions to Neurovirology. He is an elected member of the Association of American Physicians and an elected Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science. He serves as a member of the Board of the American Neurological Association. He is the Associate Editor of the journals, Brain and Practice Update Neurology. He is an editor of a book, Clinical Neurovirology currently in its second edition. He has published over 500 manuscripts and reviews. His work has been cited over 46,000 times.
Ben Greenbaum
Dr. Greenbaum is an Associate Attending in the Computational Oncology Service. His research seeks to quantify the interaction of tumors with the immune system and to predict immune driven evolution of tumors and viruses. His work utilizes a broad range of mathematical tools, from statistical physics and information theory to evolutionary biology. Dr. Greenbaum has established the new program of Computational Immuno-Oncology that brings computational approaches to immunotherapy. It acts as a bridge between the Computational Oncology Service and Immuno-oncology investigators from across MSK. In the last year Dr. Greenbaum’s team, together with his collaborators, has made important advances in understanding the immunogenic and oncogenic tradeoffs in tumor driver gene mutations that define fitness (Hoyos et al. Nature, 2022). They discovered that neoantigen quality predicts immunoediting in pancreatic cancer survivors (Luksza et al. Nature, 2022), and they revealed a connection between impaired humoral immunity and prolonged COVID-19 (Lyudovyk et al. Cancer Cell 2022). Dr. Greenbaum has a PhD in theoretical physics from Columbia University and has trained at Los Alamos National Laboratory and the Institute for Advanced Study. He previously held the role of Associate Professor at Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai in the Departments of Medicine and Oncological Sciences, where he was the founding director of the Center for Computational Immunology. Over the years Dr. Greenbaum has authored many publications in high-ranking journals and he holds several awards including a Phillip A. Sharp Award for Innovation in Collaboration from Stand Up to Cancer, a Pershing Square Sohn Prize, and an ASPIRE Award from the Mark Foundation.
Martin Taylor
Bio- Marty Taylor, MD PhD is a practicing gastrointestinal pathologist at the Massachusetts General Hospital and an Instructor of Pathology at Harvard Medical School. His research is focused on understanding the basic mechanisms of the LINE-1 retrotransposon, cellular and organismal consequences of LINE-1 expression, and the potential utility of LINE-1 in cancer diagnostics and therapeutics. He completed MD and PhD in Pharmacology from Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, co-mentored by Phil Cole and Jef Boeke. Subsequent work with the Boeke, Rout, and LaCava groups developed tools and systems to study LINE-1, discovered key cellular interactors, and established the roles of these proteins in the LINE-1 lifecycle. Together with the Burns lab, Marty’s work has shown that LINE-1 proteins are a pervasively expressed ‘hallmark of cancer’, and recently established LINE-1 ORF1p as a promising multi-cancer biomarker with potential utility in both tissue and blood for disease detection and monitoring. Through these and related projects, Marty’s generated many of the LINE-1 affinity reagents (antibodies and nanobodies) now in broad use in the field. Marty has also led a large recent effort that determined the structure of the LINE-1 ORF2 multifunctional reverse transcriptase, provided key mechanistic insights into polymerization, insertion, and activation of the innate immune system, and shed light on its evolutionary history. He is independently funded by a K08 from the NIDDK and support from the Dana Farber / Harvard Cancer Center, and is also wrapping up a major story from his postdoctoral research with David Sabatini and Phil Cole on the structural and mechanistic basis of Akt activation by mTOR Complex 2.
Dennis Zaller
Dennis Zaller has >30 years of experience in the Biopharma industry. Dennis is currently a Partner at Curie.Bio, a seed stage life science investment firm. Dennis was the founding Chief Scientific Officer at ROME Therapeutics, a biotech company focused on unlocking the dark genome to discover new classes of medicines for cancer and autoimmune diseases, and currently serves as Distinguished Fellow and Chair of ROME’s Scientific Advisory Board. Dennis also serves on the Scientific Advisory Boards for Ventus Therapeutics, Anokion SA, and the Keystone Symposia for Molecular and Cellular Biology. Previously, Dennis worked in the Integrated Sciences group at Celgene (later Bristol Myers Squibb) providing scientific leadership across a portfolio of external collaborations with early-stage biotech companies. Dennis worked for 25 years at Merck Research Laboratories in a series of roles with increasing responsibility for leading large drug discovery teams. In his career, to date, Dennis helped advance 34 molecules into the clinic resulting in 7 marketed drugs with several molecules in early-to-late-stage clinical development. Before joining BioPharma, Dennis was an academic researcher at the California Institute of Technology. Dennis has an M.A., M.Phil. & Ph.D. from Columbia University. Dennis is an author of >60 manuscripts in leading journals covering a variety of scientific discoveries and is a co-inventor on many patents.
Luke Williams
Luke is Head of Pipeline Research at Enara Bio where he is working with teams across the company to develop the first Dark Antigen-targeting, bispecific T-cell engager. Prior to joining Enara Bio in 2021, Luke was a Scientist-in-Residence at Oxford Science Enterprises where he co-founded and led Immunology Research at T-Cypher Bio. He also spent time at Immunocore leading the TCR-Discovery function and early-stage pipeline projects. Luke holds a PhD in Cancer Immunology from the University of Birmingham and as a Research Fellow studied the role of NK cells and T cells in controlling virally-associated cancers.
Dimitrios Vitsios
Dimitrios Vitsios is the Director of Data Science at the Centre for Genomics Research (CGR), AstraZeneca in Cambridge, UK. He holds a PhD in Computational Biology from the University of Cambridge and the EMBL-EBI, where he focused on the function and biogenesis of small non-coding RNAs, the study of epi-transcriptomic modifications in miRNAs towards inference of associated functional implications and the prediction of small RNAs using machine learning. He joined AstraZeneca in 2018 and has been leading the Data Science team at CGR since 2020, specialising in machine learning and deep learning methods development for target identification and validation in the coding and non-coding parts of the human genome, ultimately aiming to drive the development of new precision medicines.
Alena Gros
Alena received her Ph.D. from the University of Barcelona, Spain. Following that, Alena joined Dr. Steven Rosenberg’s group at the National Institutes of Health, NCI, where she stayed for 7 years. Her work at the NCI led to the identification of biomarkers that can guide the detection and isolation of tumor-reactive and mutation-specific T cells from the tumor and peripheral blood of cancer patients. Alena joined the Cancer Immunotherapy Program at VHIO in October 2016. At VHIO her group’s research focuses on studying the naturally occurring T-cell responses against cancer.  The main goal of the Tumor Immunology and Immunotherapy group is to better understand the mechanisms of response and resistance of clinically approved cancer immunotherapies and to design more effective, personalized, T-cell therapies.
Joe Dukes
Joe joined Enara Bio in 2019 following leadership across research and early development of novel immunotherapies, having led molecules from early discovery and validation through to first-in-human clinical studies. Prior to joining Enara Bio, Joe spent eight years at Immunocore, developing novel TCR-based bispecific therapeutics. During this time, he established a bespoke, in vitro preclinical approach for generating safety data to de-risk TCR-based therapeutics. In his role as Head of Biology, Joe oversaw TCR discovery, characterisation, and preclinical screening of drug candidates. In addition, Joe was Program Leader for the second TCR-bispecific molecule to enter the clinic, leading cross-functional teams from early discovery in research, through preclinical and clinical development to successful IND/CTA submissions and first-in-human Phase 1 studies. Joe obtained a PhD in Cell Biology and a subsequent post-doctoral fellowship at The University of Bath.
Özgen Deniz
Özgen Deniz is a Lecturer and Group Leader at the Barts Cancer Institute, Queen Mary University of London. She received her PhD under the supervision of Professor Modesto Orozco from Barcelona University, where she studied chromatin dynamics throughout cell cycle. She then joined Dr Miguel Branco’s group at Queen Mary University of London for her postdoctoral training to investigate the epigenetic regulation of transposons in early development and cancer. During her postdoc, she revealed the first examples of transposable elements activated as oncogenic enhancers in cancer. After being awarded a Cancer Research UK Career Development Fellowship, she established her research programme in 2022 at the Barts Cancer Institute. Her research group focuses on the epigenetic regulation of transposable elements and how their dysregulation contributes to the development of blood cancers.
John  Sedivy
John Sedivy is the Director of the Center on the Biology of Aging at Brown University.  He has a long-standing interest in mammalian genetics, signaling and cell cycle control. He elucidated the role of the p21 and p16-pRb pathways in the regulation of cellular senescence, delineated the signaling pathway between dysfunctional telomeres and the cell cycle, and quantified for the first time cellular senescence in aging primates. His other discoveries include age-associated retrotransposon activation in somatic cells and the triggering of host interferon and innate immune responses by LINE-1 activation. He is currently investigating the involvement of LINE-1 in neurodegenerative diseases and the life cycles of LINE-1 elements in aging and senescent cells.
Didier Trono
Didier Trono, M.D., completed a clinical training in pathology, internal medicine and infectious diseases in Geneva and at Massachusetts General Hospital before performing post-doctoral work with David Baltimore at MIT. In 1990, he moved to the Salk Institute to launch a center for AIDS research. From 1997 to 2004, he was at the University of Geneva before joining the EPFL as dean of its newly launched School of Life Sciences. Since 2012, he has been steering the Health 2030 Initiative, a joint venture of the EPFL, the Universities and hospitals of Geneva, Bern and Lausanne to promote the advent of personalized health in Switzerland. Didier Trono's research has long gravitated around interactions between viruses and their hosts, which led him to study the endovirome, and demonstrate how in concert with its epigenetic controllers it shapes all aspects of human biology.
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