BioCanRx 2023 Public Forum
Envisioning an ‘Own the Podium’ Strategy for Cancer Immunotherapy in Canada

Wednesday, September 27
1:00-2:30pm ET (Online)
Supported by Merck

BioCanRx is very pleased to host our free annual Public Forum in conjunction with our scientific conference – the Summit for Cancer Immunotherapy.

‘Own the Podium’ is the name of a strategy implemented in Canadian sports for the 2010 Vancouver Winter Olympics to increase Canada’s number of podium finishes It worked so well for the program that an organization was created to continue to deliver on this very specific objective. This year’s Public Forum asks ‘could a similar approach be taken to increase the survival rate of Canadians diagnosed with cancer’? During the forum we’ll hear from a clinician scientist, a patient partner, and a scientist on how novel clinical trials and exciting science is aiming to achieve such lofty goals.

Envisioning an ‘Own the Podium’ Strategy for Cancer Immunotherapy in Canada

Key topics and themes covered:

  • Introduction to cancer immunotherapy
  • Why Canada should want to ‘Own the Podium’ in Cancer Immunotherapy
  • Cancer research and innovation strategies from other countries (e.g., USA’s Cancer Moonshot Strategy)
  • Case study example of bringing tumour infiltrating lymphocytes (TIL) therapies to Canada
  • Patient perspective on a Canadian ‘Own the Podium’ strategy
  • What is a clinical trial, and how do you access one?

Who should attend:

This FREE virtual public forum is open to everyone and is targeted toward individuals seeking to learn more about immuno-oncology clinical trials in Canada. Registration is required.


The 1.5-hour session will include a panel discussion and ample time for Q&A from the audience.

Who is BioCanRx?

BioCanRx, Canada’s Immunotherapy Network, is a network of scientists, clinicians, cancer stakeholders, academic institutions, NGOs and industry partners working together to accelerate the development of leading-edge immune oncology therapies for the benefit of patients. Our vision is to cure patients and enhance the quality of life of those living with cancer. BioCanRx invests in leading edge immune oncology research translating world-class technologies from the lab into early phase clinical trials. BioCanRx provides researchers with access to funding, expertise, training and manufacturing facilities and is a leader in the translation, manufacture and adoption of cancer immunotherapies. The network is committed to training and developing the talent needed for a thriving health biotechnology sector in Canada. BioCanRx receives funding from the federal government’s Networks of Centres of Excellence, and support from industry, the provinces and charities. The network is hosted by the Ottawa Hospital Research Institute.


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.

Louise Binder

Louise Binder

Health Policy Consultant, Save Your Skin Foundation

Louise Binder is a lawyer and health advocate who has been involved in informing the development of health policy and systemic treatment access practices from the patient perspective since the early 1990’s subsequent to her own HIV diagnosis. She co-founded the Canadian Treatment Action Council (CTAC) in 1996. Louise began similar work in the cancer area and is presently a Health Policy Consultation with the Save Your Skin Foundation. She has been recognized by many organizations for her work, including receiving an Honorary Doctorate of Laws from her alma mater, Queen’s Law School; the Order of Ontario from the Province of Ontario; and two Queen Elizabeth II medals.

Stéphanie Michaud

Stéphanie Michaud

President and Chief Executive Officer, BioCanRx

Dr. Stéphanie Michaud is the President and CEO of BioCanRx, a not-for-profit that seeks to accelerate the delivery of innovative immunotherapies from the bench to the bedside. In this position, Stéphanie is responsible for running all facets of the organization. She brings more than 20 years of public, government and private sector experience in research and Science & Technology innovation policy. She strives to create partnerships between government, not-for-profits, academia and industry to maximize the impact of research funded by the BioCanRx network on the lives of those affected by cancer.

Vera Samarkina

Vera Samarkina

My name is Vera Samarkina, and I am a cancer survivor. I have faced various stages in the cancer journey: in 2014 I was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer, and two years later, with endometrium cancer, both related to Lynch syndrome. I have been through chemo (different regimens), radiation and immunotherapy trial. Besides, I have developed a number of side-effects that require regular medical assistance (for example, PBD change) and encourage me to educate myself more about human body and health. I have PhD in Literature, and as an educator, I am comfortable around people. I am a Visual Artist and use healing powers of art in conversations with the world. I also have experience as a Patient Advocate – in 2019, I attended CCRA Conference in Ottawa in that capacity. My patient voice was taken into account in a number of panels run by CCRA, CPAC, U of T, and Sunnybrook. Besides, I used to be a member of Pancreatic Cancer Peer Support pilot program. All that experience, I believe, would help me give various perspectives for the study.

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.