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.


Nizar Jacques Bahlis

Nizar Jacques Bahlis

Associate Professor of Medicine, University of Calgary

Dr Bahlis is an Associate Professor of Medicine at the University of Calgary in the division of Hematology and Bone Marrow Transplantation and a member of the Charbonneau Cancer Research Institute. Dr Bahlis received his medical degree in 1995 from St Joseph University - French Faculty of Medicine in Beirut. He then completed his internal Medicine residency at the State University of New York in Syracuse followed by a Hematology-Oncology fellowship at the University of Miami, Florida. Dr Bahlis also completed a postdoctoral fellowship in cancer biology at the University of Miami under the mentorship of Dr Lawrence Boise. Dr Bahlis’ clinical and laboratory research focus on the study of plasma cell dyscrasia, with particular interest in multiple myeloma genomics, single cell immune profiling and the development of novel therapeutics. He has received several awards and research funding from numerous agencies including the ASCO young investigator award, the Multiple Myeloma Research Foundation, The Leukemia and Lymphoma Society of Canada, Alberta Cancer Foundation, the National Institute of Health, the Terry Fox Foundations and the Canadian Institute of Health and Research (CIHR). His research work was published in many peer-reviewed journals including New England Journal of Medicine, Blood, JCO, Leukemia, Molecular Cancer Research and Clinical Cancer Research. Dr Bahlis also served on the editorial board for the journal Blood and on the review panels of several national and international funding agencies. He is a member of the American Society of Hematology (ASH) and served on the ASH plasma cell dyscrasia scientific panel and is a current member of the international myeloma society (IMS) education panel.


Jeanette Boudreau

Jeanette Boudreau

Assistant Professor, Department of Microbiology & Immunology, Dalhousie University

The Boudreau laboratory investigates the immunology of natural killer cells, with a special focus on their role in cancer and cancer immunotherapy. We focus on inter-individual variation and the impact of immunogenetics and functional training of NK cells. We employ analysis of primary samples from patients and a state-of-the-art humanized mouse model to understand the features of NK cells that impact NK-mediated control of disease, to inform novel immunotherapies.


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.


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.


Réjean Lapointe

Réjean Lapointe

Full Professor, Faculty of Medicine, Université de Montréal
Head, CRCHUM Cancer Research Department
Scientific Director, Institut du Cancer de Montréal

Dr. Lapointe is a researcher specialized in human tumor immunology since 1997. He got his basic training at Université Laval from 1987-1997 in microbiology and immuno-virology, and moved to the NIH in the group of Drs. Steven Rosenberg and Patrick Hwu while working on tumor immunology. He was recruited at Université de Montréal/CHUM/Institut du cancer de Montréal in 2002, where he is now full professor. He also is the current head of the CRCHUM Cancer research department and Scientific director of the Institut du cancer de Montréal. Objectives of his lab in the last 10 years were oriented at both fundamental and applied research to: study T and B lymphocyte biology, establishing a Cell therapy program, and a clinical Immuno-monitoring platform, study tumor-immune system interactions, and develop new vaccination systems and immunotherapies. He is part of 2 FRQS Networks (cancer and cell/tissue/gene therapy), the National Center of Excellence (NCE) on Biotherapeutics for Cancer Treatment (BioCanRx), the immunotherapy network (iTNT) and the Montreal Cancer Consortium (MCC), the last 2 being supported by the Terry Fox Research Institute. He manages the FRQS/CHUM Breast Cancer Bank and has established the clinical CHUM immune-monitoring platform (6 clinical trials with Pharma). He published over 70 articles in immunology, oncology and microbiology.


Doug Mahoney

Doug Mahoney

Associate Professor, Microbiology, Immunology & Infectious Diseases; Department of Biochemistry & Molecular Biology, University of Calgary

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.


Natalia Martin Orozco

Natalia Martin Orozco

Chief Scientific Officer for Providence Therapeutics Holdings, Inc.

Dr. Natalia Martin Orozco is Chief Scientific Officer for Providence Therapeutics Holdings, Inc. since January of 2022. She joined Providence in 2018 as VP of Drug Development and in 2021 she served as Chief Development Officer. Natalia has more than 15 years experienced in drug development in both industry and academia. Prior positions include leading target discovery, and development teams at multiple companies, through regulatory approvals for clinical trials for personalized cell therapies and biologics for cancer and autoimmunity. Before joining Providence, Natalia served as Principal Scientist at EMD Serono, and LION Biotechnology (now IOVANCE). Earlier in her career, Natalia spent 9 years at MD Anderson Cancer Center working on translational immunology research for immunotherapies and inflammation.

Natalia earned her PhD in Immunology from Universidad Nacional Autonoma de Mexico and did postdoctoral training at Harvard Medical School in Boston and Hospital for Sick Children in Toronto.


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.


Maya Shmulevitz

Maya Shmulevitz

Associate Professor, Department of Medical Microbiology and Immunology, University of Alberta
Canada Research Chair, Molecular Virology and Oncotherapy

Maya Shmulevitz is Associate Professor in the department of Medical Microbiology and Immunology at the University of Alberta, and Canada Research Chair in Molecular Virology and Oncotherapy. She trained at the University of Alberta (BSc Honors Biochemistry), Dalhousie University, Weizmann Institute (Rehovot, Israel), Argonne National Laboratories (Chicago, USA), and the University of Saskatchewan’s Veterinary and Infectious Disease Organization (VIDO). The Shmulevitz laboratory studies reovirus, a benign enteric virus that has been repurposed into a potential cancer therapy. Their laboratory explores adaptations in reovirus and host factors in the tumor microenvironment that impact reovirus replication and immune response in tumors. Ultimately the Shmulevitz lab hopes to improve the potency and predictability of reovirus oncolytic therapy.


Simon Turcotte

Simon Turcotte

Associate Professor, Department of Surgery, Université de Montréal
Physician, Hepatopancreatobiliary and liver transplantation division, CHUM
Co-director, CHUM hepatopancreatobiliary cancer clinical database and biological specimen repository
Roger-Des-Groseillers chair in hepatobiliary and pancreatic oncological surgery, Université de Montréal

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.


Christine Williams

Christine Williams

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

As part of OICR’s executive team, Dr. Williams works with the Institute’s scientists, senior leaders and partners to develop and implement strategic priorities across the Institute’s translational research programs. She leads coordinated engagement and communications strategies, oversees research operations and stewards OICR research assets through commercialization and into the health system to advance OICR’s mission. Dr. Williams focuses on developing and maintaining OICR’s collaborative relationships with a broad range of provincial, national and international stakeholders including clinical, academic, industry, government and patient partners.

Dr. Williams received an undergraduate 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, Dr. Williams held various leadership positions at the Canadian Cancer Society, most recently as its Chief Mission Officer & Scientific Director, responsible for strategy development and program delivery nationwide.

Dr. Williams is currently a member of boards and advisory committees for a number of organizations, including the Canadian Cancer Research Alliance, the Canadian Institutes of Health Research, CanPath, The Canadian Cancer Clinical Trials Group and BioCanRx.