Board of directors

Carisma’s Board of Directors has deep expertise in science, technology, drug development, finance, and strategy, positioning Carisma to be an industry leader in the development and commercialization of next generation cell therapies.

Sanford (Sandy) Zweifach is a senior executive with 30 years in the life sciences industry. Mr. Zweifach was most recently Chair of Palladio Biosciences, Inc. and Janpix, Inc. which were merged into Centessa Pharmaceuticals , Ltd (NASDAG: CNTA) which was created by Medicxi though the merger of 10 private biotech companies. Mr. Zweifach is currently the Executive Chair of Kaerus Biosciences Ltd, a Non-Executive Board Member of Compugen, Inc.,(NASDAQ: CGEN) and Board Member of Essa Pharma, Inc. (NASDAQ: EPIX) and advisor to several life science companies across several therapeutic areas.

Mr. Zweifach was a Venture Partner at Medicxi, the Co-Founder and Chief Executive Officer of Nuvelution Pharma, Inc., the Co-founder and CEO of Ascendancy Healthcare, Inc., and a Partner at Reedland Capital Partners. Previously, Mr. Zweifach served as CEO of Pathways Diagnostics, Managing Director and CFO of Bay City Capital, and President and CFO of Epoch Biosciences. Mr. Zweifach received his B.A. in Biology from UC San Diego and an M.S. in Human Physiology from UC Davis.

Regina is a Managing Partner at Wellington Partners and represents the Wellington funds on the Boards of Ayoxxa, Carisma, Endostim, GTX Medical, Themis and TRiCares. She was a founding investor in Rigontec (acquired by MSD), Sapiens (acquired by Medtronic), Middle Peak Medical (acquired by Symetis / Boston Scientific) and an external director at GlaxoSmithKline's Respiratory TA Board. Since joining the industry in 2000, she has become an influential investor in the European VC industry, focusing on early-stage and growth deals in Life Sciences. She currently serves as the Spokesperson for the Board of the German PE and Venture Capital Association (BVK).

Further stations of her career were McKinsey, Atlas Venture and Apax Partners, for which she served on several boards including Bicycle Therapeutics, F-star, Jenavalve, U3 Pharma, Nitec Pharma, Egalet and Novamed. Regina studied chemical engineering in Vienna and holds a Ph.D. in biochemistry.

Steven Kelly joined Carisma Therapeutics in February 2018 bringing nearly thirty years of experience in Pharma/Biotech at all phases of the business across multiple therapeutic categories. Prior to joining Carisma, Mr. Kelly held a number of leadership positions in the biotechnology industry including: CEO, Pinteon Therapeutics; CEO, Theracrine; CCO, BioVex; CEO, Innovive Pharmaceuticals; as well as various commercial and manufacturing roles at Sanofi, IDEC Pharmaceuticals and Amgen.

Steve holds a BS from the University of Oregon and an MBA from Cornell University.

Dr. Briggs Morrison brings with him over 25 years of leadership experience. Morrison served as Chief Executive Officer of Syndax Pharmaceuticals and as a member of the company’s board of directors since 2015. He also currently serves as a managing director of MPM Capital, a healthcare-focused venture capital firm, since June 2015. Prior to joining Syndax Pharmaceuticals and MPM Capital, Dr. Morrison held several leadership positions at AstraZeneca, Pfizer and Merck, overseeing the development of numerous biopharmaceutical products in multiple therapeutic areas, from first-in-human trials through to global regulatory approvals. He is also a board member of the Alliance for Clinical Research Excellence and Safety (ACRES), a non-profit organization dedicated to optimizing the global clinical research system.

Björn Odlander is a founder of HealthCap where he is Managing Partner. Previously, he pursued scientific research in the biochemistry of inflammation at Karolinska Institute and has headed the Health Care Equity Research Team at ABB Aros Securities. Dr. Odlander has served as advisor to the management of several major pharmaceutical and medical technology companies, and has extensive experience from multiple board assignments from listed and un-listed companies in the life-science sector.

Michael Torok is the co-founder and managing director of JEC Capital Partners, LLC, an investment company with offices in the United States and Germany founded in 2008. Prior to that, he served as Chief Financial Officer for Integrated Dynamics Engineering Inc, a semiconductor equipment technology company that was acquired by Aalberts Industries. Earlier in his career, Mr. Torok served in various positions for PricewaterhouseCoopers LLP, a multinational professional services network of firms. Mr. Torok currently serves on the board of directors of Liberated Syndication, Inc., a podcasting platform for creators and advertisers. He previously served on the board of directors of Photon Control Inc., which, prior to being acquired by MKS Instruments, Inc., designed and manufactured optical sensors and systems to measure temperature and position. In addition, he previously served on the board of Symbility Solutions Inc., which prior to being acquired by Corelogic, Inc, was a software company focused on the insurance industry. Mr. Torok received a B.S. in Finance and a Master in Finance from Boston College.

Chidozie Ugwumba serves as Managing Partner of SymBiosis, a venture capital firm focused on investments in biotherapeutics. At SymBiosis, Mr. Ugwumba leads sourcing, due diligence, and execution of investments, and serves as an advisor to SymBiosis’ portfolio companies. He has led numerous investments in therapeutics companies in the US and Europe, across disease areas including CNS, cardiac, dermatology, GI, infectious disease, and oncology, and across modalities such as precision medicine, and cell, gene, and regenerative therapy. Prior to SymBiosis, Mr. Ugwumba led the Direct and Impact Investment Group of WIT, LLC—an investment management entity affiliated with Walton Enterprises—and worked on the Private Credit and Infrastructure teams at Partners Group, a global private investment manager. Mr. Ugwumba earned an MBA from the Johnson Graduate School of Management at Cornell University, and a BA in Political Science from Amherst College.

Scientific advisory board

Carisma’s Scientific Advisory Board includes leaders in the field of cell therapy, immuno-oncology and drug development.

Dr. Gill is scientific co-founder of Carisma Therapeutics Inc. and currently serves as Chairman of the Scientific Advisory Board of the company. He is Assistant Professor of Medicine at the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania, Attending Physician, Hematologic Malignancies at the University of Pennsylvania Health System and Member of the Abramson Cancer Center at the University of Pennsylvania.

Gill obtained his medical degree from the University of Melbourne in Australia in 1999. He underwent internal medicine training at St Vincent's Hospital in Melbourne, followed by hematology training at the Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre and at the Royal Melbourne Hospital, which he completed in 2008. In 2008 he became a post-doctoral fellow at the laboratory of Robert Negrin at Stanford University, where he studied adoptive cellular therapy with NK cells.

In 2011 Dr. Gill moved to the University of Pennsylvania where he did a Bone Marrow Transplant and Cellular Therapy fellowship under Dr. David Porter, and started working in the laboratory with Dr. Michael Kalos on chimeric antigen receptor T cells for the treatment of acute myeloid leukemia (AML). The Gill Laboratory at the Center for Cellular Immunotherapies at the University of Pennsylvania was established in 2013 with the overarching goals to produce effective and safe CAR T cells for the treatment of hematologic malignancies such as leukemia and lymphoma. Current interests in the Gill Laboratory include the development of next generation gene editing approaches for adoptive cell therapy.

Dr. Adusumilli, Deputy Chief of Thoracic Service at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, brings his extensive experience with the investigation of the tumor immune microenvironment and the development of CAR T-cell-mediated immunotherapies.

Dr. Bhardwaj brings extensive immunology experience: she is currently the Director of Immunotherapy, Medical Director of the Vaccine and Cell Therapy Laboratory, and Co-Director of the Cancer Immunology Program at The Tisch Cancer Institute and holds the Ward Coleman Chair in Cancer Research. She has made influential contributions to human dendritic cell biology, specifically regarding isolation, biology, antigen presenting function and use as vaccine adjuvants in humans.

Dr. Coussens is Chairwoman of the Department of Cell, Developmental & Cancer Biology, and Associate Director for Basic Research in the Knight Cancer Institute at Oregon Health & Sciences University, and holds the Hildegard Lamfrom Endowed Chair in Basic Science.

Dr. Coussens’ research is focused on revealing roles of normal immune cells in regulating various facets of solid tumor development, identifying leukocyte activities that are co-opted by early tumors to support ongoing cancer development, and responses to cytotoxic therapies. Utilizing mouse models of skin and mammary carcinoma, mesothelioma, and pancreatic adenocarcinoma, her research identified critical immune-regulated pathways for therapeutic targeting that are being translated in the clinic in combination with chemotherapy in women with metastatic triple negative breast cancer, pancreas cancer and head & neck squamous cancers.

In recognition of her research contributions to studying underlying mechanisms of cancer development, Dr. Coussens’ has been acknowledged with multiple awards including, a V Foundation Scholar Award (2000), the AACR-Gertrude B. Elion Award (2001), the AACR-Women in Cancer Research Charlotte Friend Memorial Lectureship (2012), the 13th Rosalind E. Franklin Award from the NCI (2015), a Doctor Honoris Causa from the University of Buenos Aires, Argentina (2018), and the AACR-Princess Takamatsu Memorial Lectureship (2018).

Dr. Guey is a leading expert in mRNA therapeutics and Moderna’s CSO of External Research Ventures. In this role, she oversees Moderna’s partnership with Carisma to develop in vivo CAR-M therapies. Dr. Guey brings nearly 15 years of drug development experience in program leadership, research, and nonclinical development. Prior to joining Moderna, Dr. Guey served in senior leadership roles for Tessera, Xilio, Shire, and Pfizer.

Dr. Guey received her PhD in statistics and BS in mathematics from Stony Brook University, and completed her postdoctoral research fellowship in genetic and molecular epidemiology at the Spanish National Cancer Research Centre.

Carl June, MD, is the Richard W. Vague Professor in Immunotherapy in the Department of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine. He is currently director of the Center for Cellular Immunotherapies and director of Translational Research in the Abramson Cancer Center of the University of Pennsylvania, and is an investigator of the Abramson Family Cancer Research Institute. He is a graduate of the Naval Academy in Annapolis and Baylor College of Medicine in Houston, 1979. He had graduate training in immunology and malaria with Dr. Paul-Henri Lambert at the World Health Organization, Geneva, Switzerland in 1978 and 1979, and post-doctoral training in transplantation biology with E. Donnell Thomas and John Hansen at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle from 1983 to 1986. He is board certified in Internal Medicine and Medical Oncology.

He maintains a research laboratory that studies various mechanisms of lymphocyte activation that relate to immune tolerance and adoptive immunotherapy for cancer and chronic infection. In 2011, his research team published findings, which represented the first successful and sustained demonstration of the use of gene transfer therapy to treat cancer. Clinical trials utilizing this approach, in which patients are treated with genetically engineered versions of their own T-cells, are now underway for adults with chronic lymphocytic leukemia and adults and children with acute lymphoblastic leukemia. Early results in that group show that 90 percent of patients respond to the therapy, and more recently, trials of this approach have begun for patients with other blood cancers and solid tumors including pancreatic cancer, mesothelioma and the brain cancer glioblastoma. In 2014, it became the first personalized cellular therapy for the treatment of cancer therapy to receive the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s prestigious Breakthrough Therapy designation.

He has published more than 350 manuscripts and is the recipient of numerous prizes and honors, including election to the Institute of Medicine in 2012, the William B. Coley award, the Richard V. Smalley Memorial Award from the Society for Immunotherapy of Cancer, the AACR-CRI Lloyd J. Old Award in Cancer Immunology, the Hamdan Award for Medical Research Excellence and the Paul Ehrlich and Ludwig Darmstaedter Prize. In 2014, he was elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.

Hyam (“Hy”) Levitsky was most recently Executive Vice President and Chief Scientific Officer of Juno Therapeutics. Prior to joining Juno, Dr. Levitsky held the position of Head of Cancer Immunology Experimental Medicine at Roche Pharma Research and Development in Basel, Switzerland. Prior to that, Levitsky served as a Professor of Oncology, Medicine and Urology at The Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, and was also an active staff member in Oncology and Medicine at The Johns Hopkins Hospital.

Dr. Levitsky received a B.S. from the University of Pennsylvania School of Engineering and Applied Science and an M.D. from The Johns Hopkins School of Medicine. He trained in Medical Oncology as a Senior Clinical Fellow at Johns Hopkins Oncology Center, rising to full Professor in 2001, and taught in the School of Medicine until 2011. His areas of expertise include Oncology, Immunology, Hematologic Malignances / Bone Marrow Transplantation (serving as Scientific Director of the George Santos Bone Marrow Transplant Program), Cellular and Molecular Medicine, and Pathobiology.

Dr. Levitsky is also a founding Executive Committee member of the Cancer Immunotherapy Consortium of the Cancer Research Institute. He was a Stohlman Scholar of the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society of America (LLS) and a member of the American Society for Clinical Investigation (ASCI). He was a founding member of MIATA (Minimal Information About T cell Assays), advises the FDA on cancer immunotherapy issues and serves on the External Scientific Advisory Board of the Pasteur Institute’s Center for Human Immunology, has consulted on a number of industry scientific advisory boards and contributes and provides editorial support to several prestigious cancer, immunology, scientific and medical publications. Dr. Levitsky holds several patents.

Dr. Sharma is a nationally regarded cancer immunologist and professor in the departments of Genitourinary Medical Oncology and Immunology, Associate Vice President of Immunobiology and the T.C. and Jeanette D. Hsu Endowed Chair in Cell Biology at the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center. She received her undergraduate training in biology and biotechnology at Boston University and earned her M.D. and Ph.D. degrees from Pennsylvania State University. She then completed an internal medicine residency at New York Hospital Cornell University as well as a medical oncology fellowship at Memorial-Sloan Kettering Cancer Center.

Dr. Sharma’s research focuses on the mechanisms and pathways within the immune system that facilitate tumor rejection or elicit resistance to immune checkpoint therapy. She has written and conducted multiple innovative immunotherapy clinical trials, with an emphasis on obtaining patients’ tumor samples for in-depth laboratory studies. The data from her work has led to new research studies focused on developing rational combination immunotherapy strategies for the treatment of cancer patients.

As a result of her contributions to the field of cancer immunotherapy, Dr. Sharma was selected as a member of the American Society for Clinical Investigation (ASCI) and was awarded the Emil Frei III Award for Excellence in Translational Research in 2016, the Coley Award for Distinguished Research for Tumor Immunology in 2018, the Women in Science with Excellence (WISE) Award in 2020, the Heath Memorial Award in 2021 and the Randall Prize for Excellence in Cancer Research in 2021.