Scientific Program Committee

Co-chair:

John Bell

John Bell

Senior Scientist, Ottawa Hospital Research Institute, Centre for Innovative Cancer Research
Scientific Director, BioCanRx

Dr. John Bell is a world-renowned thought leader in oncolytic virus research and development. In addition to his many academic contributions to the field, Dr. Bell established a GMP manufacturing program that has produced clinical grade oncolytic viruses for worldwide use in phase I and II clinical trials. Dr. Bell co-founded and was the Chief Scientific Officer of Jennerex Biotherapeutics, which was acquired by SillaJen. Dr. Bell also co-founded Turnstone LP, an enterprise linking four Canadian research institutes to drive the clinical and commercial development of a proprietary next-generation oncolytic vaccine platform. Dr. Bell is a Senior Scientist with The Ottawa Hospital and Professor of Medicine and Biochemistry, Microbiology and Immunology at the University of Ottawa. He heads the Canadian Oncolytic Virus Consortium, a Terry Fox funded group that is developing virus based cancer therapeutics and is the Director of the Biotherapeutics Program for the Ontario Institute for Cancer Research. He is the Scientific Director of BioCanRx, Canada's Immunotherapy Network, and a Network Of Centres of Excellence. Dr. Bell is also a fellow of the Royal Society of Canada.


Co-chair:

Megan Mahoney

Megan Mahoney

Director, Scientific Affairs and Training Programs, BioCanRx

Megan currently works at BioCanRx, a federally funded Networks of Centre of Excellence focused on cancer immunotherapy. Since joining BioCanRx in 2017, she has developed and overseen training initiatives aimed at bridging the gap and growing the talent pool in translational expertise related to cell and virus-based therapies. Prior to joining BioCanRx, Megan was Operations Manager for the Biotherapeutics Manufacturing Centre (BMC) Virus Facility at the Ottawa Hospital Research Institute. In this role, she oversaw the operational activities of the BMC, which specializes in virus and vaccine development and manufacturing services for products destined for pre-clinical and clinical research. Megan is also a program advisor for the Science to Business Network and a program committee member for the Canadian Science Policy Centre. Megan received her PhD in Neuroscience from Queen's University in 2014.


Committee Members:

Sheela Abraham

Sheela Abraham

Assistant Professor, Queen’s University
Principal Investigator, Abraham Lab

I obtained my Ph.D. from the University of British Columbia under the supervision of Professor Marcel Bally, developing lipid membrane nanoparticle delivery systems which founded my interest in cancer therapeutics, lipid bilayer chemistry and nano-based structures. My Ph.D. thesis and first 1st authored publication served as the basis of my inventorship toward the development of the FDA approved liposomal formulation VyxeosTM. After my Ph.D., I carried out a doctoral fellowship in cellular biology supportedby the Natural Science and Engineering Research Council (NSERC) with Professor Paul Lehner at the University of Cambridge studying RING ubiquitin E3 ligases that regulate immune receptors. I completed a second post doctorate with Professor Tessa Holyoake, funded by Bloodwise that involved investigating critical pathways in chronic myeloid leukaemia (CML). In 2018 I established my independent research group at Queen’s University and our work involves investigating signalling events critical to the development and maintenance of both normal haematopoietic and cancer stem cells. To accomplish this, our research integrates biochemical and molecular biological techniques, primary human tissue culturing techniques, nanoparticle characterization and sizing, chromatography, mass spectrometry (MS), microscopy, flow cytometry, bioinformatics and network analyses.


Christine Allen

Christine Allen

Professor and inaugural Associate Vice-President and Vice-Provost Strategic Initiatives, University of Toronto

Christine completed her doctoral research in the Department of Chemistry at McGill University and post-doctoral research in the Department of Advanced Therapeutics at the B.C. Cancer Agency. She joined the University of Toronto in 2002 and has established a leading research group focused on the design of innovative materials and drug delivery technologies with over 140 peer-reviewed publications in her field. She has over 20 years of experience in the drug delivery field and has significant expertise in the design, development, and evaluation of advanced drug delivery systems. Christine’s research laboratory is located within the Leslie Dan Faculty of Pharmacy building at University of Toronto St. George campus. She is co-founder of Nanovista Inc., a company developing multi-modal visualization agents for high precision image-guided cancer therapy.


Michele Ardolino

Michele Ardolino

Senior Scientist, Cancer Therapeutics Program, Ottawa Hospital Research Institute
Assistant Professor, Department of Biochemistry, Microbiology and Immunology, University of Ottawa

Michele obtained his PhD in Immunological Science at the University of Rome in 2010 and then moved to Berkeley to train with Dr. David Raulet. He joined the faculty at the OHRI and uOttawa in 2016. His lab is interested in studying the immune response to tumors and to develop new immunotherapies to fight cancer.


Conor Douglas

Conor Douglas

Associate Professor, Dept. of Science, Technology and Society, York University

Conor Douglas is an Associate Professor in the Department of Science, Technology and Society within the Faculty of Science at York University. He is an interdisciplinary scholar whose research explores the co-production between science/technology and society; patient and public participation in science and technological development; governance of science and technology; social and cultural factors constraining or enabling the translation of science and technologies; as well as global health & governance. These research interests are currently being deployed in a new project: Social Pharmaceutical Innovation (For Unmet Medical Needs), "SPIN", for which he is Project Leader and Canadian national team Principal Investigator. This internationally collaborative project is funded through the Trans-Atlantic Partnership. He also sits on the Editorial Board of the Journal of Responsible Innovation. He holds a PhD in Sociology from University of York (UK), a MSc, Science and Technology Studies (cum laude) from the University of Amsterdam.


Laura Evgin

Laura Evgin

Assistant Professor, Department of Medical Genetics, University of British Columbia
Scientist, Michael Smith Genome Sciences Centre, BC Cancer

Dr. Laura Evgin is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Medical Genetics at the University of British Columbia and a Scientist in the Michael Smith Genome Sciences Centre at BC Cancer. She received her PhD in Biochemistry at the University of Ottawa under the mentorship of Dr. John Bell and completed her post-doctoral fellowship training at Mayo Clinic with Dr. Richard Vile. Dr. Evgin started her own group at BC Cancer in 2020 with the goal of developing novel immune-oncology combinatorial approaches. Her research program uses immune competent mouse models of lymphoma to try to better understand the biological mechanisms underlying CD19 CAR T cell treatment failure in the context of a normal immune system. Using these preclinical models, her group is evaluating how to engineer cell therapies to be more fit in the relevant microenvironments, and how to use oncolytic viruses and vaccines to overcome barriers to effective therapy.


Rob Holt

Rob Holt

Distinguished Scientist, Genome Sciences Centre, BC Cancer Research Institute
Scientific Co-Director, BC Cancer Immunotherapy Program
Professor of Medical Genetics, University of British Columbia
Professor of Molecular Biology & Biochemistry, Simon Fraser University

Dr. Holt grew up in Vancouver BC and obtained his PhD in Neuropharmacology from the University of Alberta. After a postdoctoral fellowship in Molecular Evolution at the State University of New York, Dr. Holt joined Craig Venter's team at Celera Genomics in Rockville, Maryland, where he served as the Scientific Operations Manager for initial sequencing of the human genome and numerous model organism genomes. Since 2003 Dr. Holt has been a scientist at Canada's Michael Smith Genome Sciences Centre located at the British Columbia Cancer Research Institute in Vancouver, where he is also Scientific Co-Director of the BC Cancer Immunotherapy Program. Dr. Holt's team is recognized for developing next-generation sequencing methods to interrogate the genetics of the adaptive immune system and for identifying novel infectious agents (oncomicrobes) linked to cancer. His current basic and clinical research directions are focused on developing and implementing immune interventions for cancer, including cancer vaccines and genetically engineered immune cells.


Carolina Ilkow

Carolina Ilkow

Senior Scientist, Cancer Therapeutics Program, Ottawa Hospital Research Institute
Assistant Professor, University of Ottawa

Dr. Carolina Ilkow is originally from Buenos Aires, Argentina where she obtained her Bachelor's degree in Science. After working for two year in outreach projects aiming to address the unmet health care needs of the Indigenous people of the Amazon rainforest, Carolina decided to move to Edmonton, Canada to continue her graduate studies at the University of Alberta. Carolina obtained her PhD in cell biology and virology under the supervisor of Dr. Tom Hobman, after which she joined Dr. John Bell's lab as a post-doctoral fellow. Carolina's work in the Bell lab aimed at developing novel and tailored virotherapies to fight Pancreatic cancer.

In 2016, Carolina was recruited as a Scientist at the Ottawa Hospital Research Institute, and an Assistant Professor in the department of Biochemistry, Microbiology and Immunology at the University of Ottawa. Her research is focused on developing novel biotherapeutics for cancer treatment. Carolina is also committed to educate the next generation of scientists and to address the critical need of High Qualified Personnel in the rapidly growing field of biomanufacturing in Canada. Carolina is a member of both the High Qualified personnel training committee for BioCanRx and the Canadian Partnership for Research in Immunotherapy Manufacturing Excellence (CanPRIME) program.


Natasha Kekre

Natasha Kekre

Scientist, Clinical Epidemiology Program, Ottawa Hospital Research Institute
Hematologist, Transplant and Cellular Therapy Program, The Ottawa Hospital
Associate Professor, Faculty of Medicine, University of Ottawa

Dr. Natasha Kekre has been appointed to the Department of Medicine in the Division of Hematology, within the Transplant and Cellular Therapy Program at The Ottawa Hospital, effective October 2015. She is also an associate scientist within the Ottawa Hospital Research Institute and an associate professor of medicine at the University of Ottawa. She completed her Bachelor’s in Science at the University of Windsor then obtained her medical degree from the University of Ottawa. She then trained at the University of Ottawa in Internal Medicine and Hematology. She went on to do a fellowship in stem cell transplantation at Dana Farber Cancer Institute in Boston, MA with a Masters in Public Health from Harvard University.

Her research is focused on developing early phase clinical trials and moving home grown therapeutic strategies into patients. She collaborates with a number of local investigators and scientists in Ottawa, studying hematologic malignancies and blood and marrow transplant recipients more specifically. She collaborates with scientists and physicians across Canada to build a Canadian CAR-T cell platform (chimeric antigen receptor T cells are immune cells engineered to kill cancer cells), bringing this exciting new therapy to Canadian patients. Her other clinical research interests include improving transplant related outcomes and projects with an epidemiologic focus, including but not limited to decision modeling and meta-analyses.

She also participates with a number of cooperative groups in North America including the Center for International Blood and Marrow Transplant Research, the Canadian Blood and Marrow Transplant Group, the American Society of Hematology and the American Society for Transplant and Cellular Therapy.


Doug Mahoney

Doug Mahoney

Translational scientist, Alberta Children’s Hospital and Charbonneau Cancer Research Institutes at the Cumming School of Medicine

Dr. Douglas Mahoney is a translational scientist at the Alberta Children’s Hospital and Charbonneau Cancer Research Institutes at the Cumming School of Medicine. Over the past 15 years, he has made important contributions to the development of two cancer immunotherapies, Smac mimetic compounds and oncolytic rhabdoviruses, which are now being tested in human clinical trials. Currently, his lab is focused on understanding how rhabdoviruses interact with host cells and using that knowledge to engineer "designer viruses" that evoke anticancer immunity and improve Chimeric Antigen Receptor (CAR) T-cell therapy of cancer. In light of the COVID-19 pandemic, his lab is applying their expertise in virus engineering and immunology to build and test a set of viral-vectored vaccine prototypes against SARS-CoV-2. Outside the lab, Doug spends his time with his wife and three children, mostly enjoying the Alberta/BC wilderness.


Simon Turcotte

Simon Turcotte

Assistant Professor, Université de Montréal; Surgical Oncologist and Scientist, Centre Hospitalier de l’Université de Montréal (CHUM)

Dr. Turcotte is a young Canadian surgeon-scientist with bench-to-bedside expertise in solid cancer immunology and immunotherapy. After his general surgery training and a Masters in cancer immunology at Université de Montréal, he completed post-doctoral training at the National Cancer Institute and at the Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, focusing on metastatic gastrointestinal cancer immune recognition. During those years, he established that endogenous T cells could recognize antigens derived from somatic mutations in gastrointestinal cancers refractory to chemotherapy, and that these reactive T cells could mediate cancer regression after adoptive T cell transfer to patients.

Since 2013, he is an assistant professor at the Université de Montréal, works as an hepatopancreatobiliary (HPB) surgical oncologist and full scientist at the Centre Hospitalier de l’Université de Montréal (CHUM). His laboratory focuses on identifying new types of tumour antigens and therapeutically actionable immune checkpoints in colorectal cancer liver metastases. He co-leads the launch of the CHUM adoptive T cell cancer immunotherapy program. He has set-up and leads the CHUM HPB Cancer Prospective Clinical Database and Tissue Repository, to which more than 2000 patients have contributed thus far. He holds a Clinician-Scientist Research Scholarship from the Fond de recherche-santé Québec. In 2017, he was nominated the Université de Montréal Roger Des Groseillers Research Chair in HBP surgical oncology and received an Innovator Award from the Canadian Association of General Surgeons.


Jennifer Quizi

Jennifer Quizi

Director, Biotherapeutics Manufacturing Operations, BioCanRx
Director, Biotherapeutics Manufacturing Centre, Virus Manufacturing Facility, The Ottawa Hospital

Dr. Jennifer Quizi has a Doctorate in Cellular and Molecular Medicine from the University of Ottawa and has been working as part of a translational team in cancer therapy, providing strategic and scientific insight for more than 10 years. As Director of Manufacturing Operations at BioCanRx, Dr. Quizi is responsible for enabling the roll-out of point-of-care (POC) manufacturing at strategic sites across Canada as well as to facilitate building additional capacity in therapeutic virus manufacturing in Canada. To ensure the sustainability of these investments in biomanufacturing, Dr. Quizi has championed the establishment of a first-of-its kind training program that provides trainees with hands-on, real-world experience working in a GMP environment, called CanPRIME. Dr. Quizi is also an Investigator and the Director of BioCanRx Core Facility, the Biotherapeutics Manufacturing Centre- Virus Manufacturing Facility (BMC-VMF) at the Ottawa Hospital Research Institute. In her capacity as Director of the BMC-VMF, Dr. Quizi oversees the development and GMP production of therapeutic viruses that are used in early phase clinical trials in cancer and other disease indications.


Christine Williams

Christine Williams

Executive Vice President and Head of Implementation Science, Ontario Institute for Cancer Research

Dr. Christine Williams is an immunologist and currently serves as the Executive Vice President and Head of Implementation Science at the Ontario Institute for Cancer Research (OICR).

As part of OICR’s executive team, she develops and implements strategic priorities across the Institute’s translational research programs. She leads coordinated engagement and communications strategies with a broad range of provincial, national and international partners, oversees research operations and stewards OICR research assets through commercialization and into health system adoption.

She received a degree in Life Sciences from Queen’s University and a PhD in Immunology from the University of Toronto. She received postdoctoral training at Massachusetts General Hospital and Harvard University where she studied the molecular pathways involved in the development of leukemia and lymphoma in children. Prior to her role at OICR, she held leadership positions at the Canadian Cancer Society, most recently as its Chief Mission Officer & Scientific Director.

She is currently a member of a number of boards and advisory committees, including the Canadian Institutes of Health Research, Sinai Health System, The Canadian Cancer Trials Group and various other research and community organizations.