Speakers

Rebecca Auer

Rebecca Auer, MD, MSc, FRCSC

Dr. Rebecca Auer is a Surgical Oncologist specializing in Colorectal Surgery and Retroperitoneal Sarcomas at The Ottawa Hospital. She is an Associate Professor in the Department of Surgery at the University of Ottawa and Director of Cancer Research at the Ottawa Hospital Research Institute. Dr. Auer’s translational research program focuses on understanding the promotion of metastatic disease in the perioperative period, following surgical stress, and how to counteract these effects with novel immunotherapies, including oncolytic viruses. She runs a research laboratory that studies these therapies in pre-clinical models and is the principle investigator on three related clinical trials of perioperative cancer therapies. She currently holds a Tier 2 Clinical Research Chair and a Canadian Institute of Health Research New Investigator Award.


Teresa Evans

Teresa Evans, PhD

Dr. Teresa Evans is a trained scientist, leader and consultant whose passion involves cultivating the innovation ecosystem in San Antonio. For her work in these fields, she was recently honored with the inclusion in the San Antonio 40 under 40 class of 2018. Dr. Evans leads a self-named consulting firm where she tackles challenges for clients that align with her key focus areas: innovation, military/DoD relevant projects, economic development, science and technology. Additionally, Dr. Evans is currently serving as a fractional COO for Trauma Insight, a Contract Research Organization focused on supporting the commercialization of military relevant innovations in trauma and critical care through design and execution of pre-clinical and clinical trials. She also holds a part-time faculty position at UT Health San Antonio where her work focuses on growing the STEM workforce of San Antonio through promoting K-12 Science Teacher Professional Development.

After receiving a PhD in Neuroscience from UT Health San Antonio, she has contributed to the life science community as a faculty member there and publish several peer-reviewed manuscripts in the fields of neuroscience and science education. Her publication in Nature Biotechnology titled “Evidence for a Mental Health Crisis in Graduate Education” has garnered significant national attention. It is currently ranked at the 99th percentile (12th out of 267,441) for tracked articles of similar age in all journals and has been tweeted approximately 10,000 times. She has received several grants from both the National Institutes of Health and private foundations as well as is the author of a book on the essential career guidance topics for scientists.

As the founding Director of the Office of Workforce and Career Development (OWCD) at UT Health San Antonio, Teresa designed programs to foster the connections among academic scientists, San Antonio industry partners, and the military community. Dr. Evans was the co-founder of San Antonio Science, a non-profit that hosted several highly successful science outreach events, most notably San Antonio Science Fiesta.

Dr. Evans possesses technology commercialization expertise, having been a Partner at the RealCo Seed Fund Program. Additionally, she guided the successful raising of funds for multiple seed rounds for the companies in the RealCo portfolio and was instrumental in the design of a novel commercialization program tailored to the needs of startup founders. Throughout her work across the academic and industrial sectors of San Antonio life sciences and technology, Teresa has developed a reputation as an advocate for the advancement of innovation through her abilities to communicate and connect with a wide variety of professionals across a variety of disciplines.


Hideho Okada

Hideho Okada, MD, PhD

As a physician–scientist, Dr. Okada has been dedicated to brain tumor immunology and development of effective immunotherapy for brain tumor patients for over 20 years. His team was one of very first to discover cytotoxic T lymphocyte (CTL) epitopes in glioma-associated and glioma-specific antigens. Dr. Okada also found critical roles for the integrin receptor very late activation antigen (VLA)-4 and the chemokine CXCL10 in facilitating entry of CTLs to the brain tumor site. Dr. Okada has translated these discoveries into a number of innovative immunotherapy clinical studies in both adult and pediatric brain tumor patients. Dr. Okada’s discoveries have also led to two currently active multicenter trials (NCT02078648 and NCT02960230), each involving 15 or more sites. Most recently, Dr. Okada has developed a novel chimeric antigen receptor (CAR) against epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR)viii and cloned a high affinity T-cell receptor against H3.3K27M, both of which are glioma-specific antigens. Dr. Okada’s team has also pioneered in discoveries of novel immunoregulatory mechanisms in gliomas, such as one mediated by myeloid-derived suppressor cells (MDSC) and mutations of the isocitrate dehydrogenase (IDH) enzymes IDH1 and IDH2. To improve radiologic evaluation criteria for brain tumor patients undergoing immunotherapy, Dr. Okada leads an international group of brain tumor immunotherapy experts to develop novel iRANO criteria.

Dr. Okada is a Professor of Neurosurgery at University of California, San Francisco, and a member of Parker Institute for Cancer Immunotherapy. Dr. Okada serves as an associate editor for Neuro-Oncology.


Julian Smazynski

Julian Smazynski

Julian Smazynski, is a PhD Candidate at the BC Cancer Deeley Research Centre. Julian completed his BSc (Hons) in microbiology at the University of Victoria in the lab of Dr. Julian Lum, where he then transferred to the lab of Dr. Brad Nelson to pursue a PhD in Cancer Immunotherapy. His main research interest centres on the exclusion of immune infiltration in "cold" tumor microenvironments and designing novel cell engineering strategies to enhance immunotherapy against solid cancers. For his PhD thesis, Julian has found that the checkpoint TIGIT ligand, CD155 (Polio virus receptor), is over-expressed in ovarian cancer, especially those that are resistant to T cell infiltration. This work has led to the development of a novel genetic engineering strategy to convert the TIGIT/CD155 pathway from an inhibitory 'off switch' to a co-stimulatory 'on switch', thereby super-charging the T cell response against ovarian cancer. He is also involved in several projects focused on designing combinatorial approaches aimed at bridging oncolytic virus and cell based strategies.


Brittany Umer

Brittany Umer

Brittany is a PhD student in the Medical Microbiology and Immunology program the University of Alberta. Her research investigates methods of improving oncolytic vaccinia virus immunotherapy for breast cancer treatment. In addition to her studies, Brittany is a passionate advocate for patient engagement in research, and helped to develop the BioCanRx-Cancer Stakeholder Alliance Learning Institute. This initiative pairs cancer patients with early stage immuno-oncology researchers to create a bi-directional model of learning. By forming relationships between scientists and patients, Brittany hopes to help accelerate health research and better impact patient care.


Nathan L. Vanderford

Nathan L. Vanderford, PhD, MBA

Dr. Vanderford is an assistant professor at the University of Kentucky (UK) College of Medicine within the Department of Toxicology and Cancer Biology. He also holds several administrative positions including Assistant Director for Research for the Markey Cancer Center, Director of Administration for the Center for Cancer and Metabolsim, and Director of the Appalachian Career Training in Oncology Program at UK. In these administrative positions, he works to facilitate research and education initiaties across the university. Dr. Vanderford has an award-winning history of teaching and mentoring trainees and in creating innovative career development experiences and opportunities for trainees, including designing a career development course and facilitating experiential learning activities. He recently co-authored “ReSearch: A Career Guide for Scientists” (Academic Press) that focuses on guiding trainees’ career development. He has also published several articles on the topic of improving graduate education in high impact journals including Science, Nature, and Nature Biotechnology. He is involved in career development activities at the national level where he serves on several national committees and advisory groups including those associated with the American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology.


Samuel Workenhe

Samuel Workenhe, DVM, MSc, PhD

Dr. Samuel Workenhe is Assistant Professor at McMaster University. Dr. Workenhe is a trained veterinarian and immunologist who has contributed significantly to the field of immunity against viruses and cancer. Despite the enormous impact of immunotherapy in cancer medicine, many tumor types hide from immune recognition by orchestrating adaptive resistance mechanisms. Dr. Workenhe’s extensive work has contributed to the understanding of early immunological events that predict the success of oncolytic viruses. In particular, his published studies have shown that the type of cancer cell death activated during virotherapy predicts the ability of the immune system to recognize tumors. As a result, his current research program is investigating the mechanisms and immunotherapeutic outcome of rewiring tumor cell death during virotherapy. In addition to providing basic knowledge of tumor immunology, Dr. Workenhe’s research will be instrumental in developing immunotherapies that will benefit many Canadians.