2019 Confirmed Speakers

Carl June

University of Pennsylvania

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Carl June is Director of both the Center for Cellular Immunotherapies at the Perelman School of Medicine, and the Parker Institute for Cancer Immunotherapy at the University of Pennsylvania. His research lab studies various mechanisms of lymphocyte activation relating to immune tolerance and adoptive immunotherapy for cancer and chronic infection. In 2011, his team published findings detailing a new therapy in which patients with chronic lymphocytic leukemia were treated with genetically engineered versions of their own T cells. The treatment is now also used with promising results to treat children with refractory acute lymphoblastic leukemia, and adults with refractory lymphoma. CTL019, the CAR T cell developed in his lab, was the first gene therapy to be approved by the US FDA in August 2017. He has published over 400 scientific articles and is the recipient of numerous prizes and honors, including election to the Institute of Medicine in 2012 and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 2014, the Paul Ehrlich and Ludwig Darmstädter Prize (shared with James P. Allison), the Novartis Prize in Immunology (shared with Zelig Eshhar and Steven Rosenberg), the Karl Landsteiner Memorial award.

Robert Schreiber

Washington University School of Medicine

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Robert D. Schreiber is Distinguished Professor in the Departments of Pathology and Immunology, and Molecular Microbiology at Washington University School of Medicine. His research focuses on two areas: elucidating the cellular and molecular mechanisms underlying natural and therapeutically induced immune responses to cancer, and interferon (IFN) biology and IFN receptor signaling. He pioneered the use of genomics approaches to define the antigenic targets of cancer immunoediting and elucidate the underlying mechanisms, which  support the development of individualized cancer immunotherapies. He is an extramural member of the Parker Institute for Cancer Immunotherapy, a member of the Scientific Advisory Boards of the Cancer Research Institute and the National Cancer Institute. He is a co-founder of three biotech companies: Igenica Biotherapeutics, Jounce Therapeutics and Neon Therapeutics, sits on the Scientific Advisory Boards for BioLegend, Meryx and NGM Biopharmaceuticals. 

Rafi Ahmed

Emory University School of Medicine

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Rafi Ahmed is the Georgia Research Alliance Professor of Microbiology and Immunology, and Director of the Emory Vaccine Center at Emory University School of Medicine in Atlanta, GA.  His research efforts are directed towards: 1. Understanding the mechanisms of immunological memory and using this knowledge to develop new and more effective vaccines. 2. Defining the mechanisms of T cell exhaustion during chronic viral infections and cancer and developing strategies for restoring function in exhausted T cells.  Rafi Ahmed is a member of the National Academy of Sciences and the National Academy of Medicine.

Mark Davis

Stanford University

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Mark M. Davis is the Director of the Stanford Institute for Immunology, Transplantation and Infection (ITI), a Professor of Microbiology and Immunology, and a Howard Hughes Medical Institute Investigator. He received his PhD from the California Institute of Technology before working as a postdoctoral and staff fellow at the Laboratory of Immunology at the National Institutes of Health (NIH). He later became a faculty member in the Department of Microbiology and Immunology at Stanford, where he remains today. He identified many of the T-cell receptor genes, which are responsible for the ability of these cells to recognize a diverse repertoire of antigens. His current research interests involve understanding the molecular interactions underlying T-cell recognition and the challenges of human immunology, specifically a “systems level” understanding of an immune response to vaccination or infection.

Karin de Visser

Netherlands Cancer Institute

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Karin de Visser obtained her PhD from the Netherlands Cancer Institute (NCI) in tumor immunotherapy. From 2003-2005, she worked as a postdoctoral fellow in Lisa Coussens’ lab at the University of California, San Francisco, where she studied the interplay between adaptive and innate immunity during cancer development. In 2005 she joined the lab of Jos Jonkers at the NCI, where she expanded her research into the field of inflammation and mammary carcinogenesis, using conditional mouse models. Currently she is group leader in the NCI’s Division of Tumor Biology & Immunology, alongside her appointments at the Oncode Institute and Professor of Experimental Immunobiology of Cancer at Leiden University Medical Center. The goal of her research is to understand the mechanisms by which the immune system influences metastasis and response to anti-cancer therapies, in order to design novel immunomodulatory strategies against metastatic breast cancer. She is the recipient of numerous grants and awards.

Ignacio Melero

Clinica Universidad de Navarra

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Ignacio Melero started his career in biomedical research as a resident in the Immunology Department of the Hospital Universitario de la Princesa (Madrid). He completed his doctoral thesis with Miguel López-Botet, identifying and functionally studying NK cell receptors. In 1994, he joined Bristol-Myers Squibb as a researcher in cancer immunotherapy in Seattle. During this time he published pioneering work on the costimulation of antitumor immune responses and the use of immunostimulatory monoclonal antibodies. In 1998, he returned to Spain to work at CIMA and Clínica Universidad de Navarra, where he leads a multidisciplinary team working on cell therapy, gene therapy and monoclonal antibodies for cancer treatment. He is Professor of Immunology at the University of Navarra and recipient of various awards, including the BIAL Medicine award and the Conde de Cartagena Award of the Royal Academy of Medicine. He was appointed Director of the Immunology and Immunotherapy department of the Clínica Universidad de Navarra in 2015, and is a member of the Royal National Academy of Medicine.

Sergio Quezada

University College London

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Sergio Quezada is Professor of Cancer Immunology and Immunotherapy at University College London’s Cancer Institute. He earned his PhD from Dartmouth Medical School before joining James Allison’s lab at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in 2004, where he studied mechanisms of anti-tumor T-cell immunity.  Following his postdoctoral training, he joined the Cancer Institute, heading the Immune Regulation and Tumor Immunotherapy group. His work focuses on cancer immunology, tumor microenvironment, regulatory T cells and immune checkpoint blockade. His team unveiled the critical role of Fc receptors and the tumor microenvironment in the mechanism of action of anti CTLA-4 antibodies. Another focus is the immune reactivity within the microenvironment of melanoma, lung and kidney cancers, which has elucidated mechanisms of response and resistance to immunotherapy. He is a recipient of Dartmouth’s John W. Strohbern Medal for excellence in biomedical research, the Cancer Research Institute new investigator award and a CRUK Senior Cancer Research Fellowship.

Michael Hudecek

University Medical Center Würzburg

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Michael Hudecek completed his medical training at the University of Leipzig, where he also did his specialist training in hematology and oncology. In 2007, he joined the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle as a postdoctoral fellow, working to identify and validate novel tumor antigens in hematologic malignancies, design and functionally optimize chimeric antigen receptor (CAR) constructs, and define optimal cellular compositions of CAR T-cell products in the lab of Stanley Riddell. In 2012, he was recruited by the University Medical Center in Würzburg, where he established a translational research program in CAR T-cell immunotherapy. This program now comprises physicians, scientists, doctoral and master students and technicians in a multidisciplinary, international team performing cutting-edge research on novel transformative CAR technologies, and first-in-man clinical application of these products. He is a member of the Bavarian Academy of Sciences and recipient of the Artur Pappenheim Award of the German Society for Hematology and Medical Oncology.

Christian Ottensmeier

University of Southampton

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Christian Ottensmeier is Professor of Experimental Cancer Medicine. He graduated and began training in Münster, Germany. After a 3-year fellowship at the Dana Farber Cancer Institute, Boston, he moved to Southampton where he completed his oncology training and undertook his PhD. He has been a consultant in medical oncology since 2000. His clinical interests are thoracic malignancies and melanoma, and he has co-developed a number of national studies in lung cancer. He manages a broad portfolio of clinical trials in lung cancer and melanoma. The overarching aim of his lab is the preclinical development and early phase clinical testing of strategies to induce anti-tumor immune responses in patients. His work focuses on three linked but distinct areas: detailed immunological evaluation of the effect of immunological intervention in patients, assay development and validation, and mechanistic studies (murine models and human modeling) of responses to vaccination for cancer vaccine development.

George Coukos

Ludwig Institute for Cancer Research

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George Coukos is the Director of Ludwig Institute for Cancer Research Lausanne, Director of the Swiss Cancer Center Lausanne and Professor at the University of Lausanne.  He received his medical degree and PhD from the University Hospital of Modena and the University of Pennsylvania (UPenn), where he specialized in women’s oncology. In his 22 years at UPenn, he became Professor and Head of the Penn Ovarian Cancer Research Center. Some critical contributions to tumor immunology include: the observation that spontaneous immune responses in ovarian tumors can influence disease severity, a deeper understanding of how tumors exploit regulatory T cells to suppress immune responses, and the development of dendritic cell vaccines.  He has been honored with numerous awards including the Cèlso Ramon Garcia Endowed Chair (UPenn); the Judah Folkman Award, Alliance for Cancer Gene Therapy; and the Roadmap Transformative Award, National Institutes of Health.

Dolores Schendel

Medigene AG

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Dolores J. Schendel holds the positions of Chief Exectuive Officer/Chief Scientific Officer of Medigene AG, a publicly listed (Frankfurt) biotechnology company headquartered in Martinsried, Germany. She is also Managing Director of Medigene Immunotherapies GmbH, a subsidiary of Medigene that she and colleagues founded as a spin-off of the Helmholtz Center Munich in 2013, and was acquired by Medigene in January 2014. She served from 1998-2014 as Director of the Institute of Molecular Immunology of the Helmholtz-Center Munich - German Research Center for Environmental Health. She has also held a professorship in Immunology at the Ludwig Maximilian University of Munich since 1986.

Hy Levitsky

Century Therapeutics

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Hy Levitsky is President of Research and Development at Century Therapeutics, a recently launched biotech pursuing iPSC-derived cellular therapy of cancer. He was previously Executive Vice President and Chief Scientific Officer at Juno Therapeutics in Seattle, and Head of Cancer Immunotherapy Experimental Medicine at Roche Pharma Research and Development in Switzerland. He received an MD from Johns Hopkins School of Medicine where he trained in internal medicine and medical oncology.  He joined the Johns Hopkins faculty in 1991, became Professor of Oncology, Medicine and Urology in 2001, and since 2011 holds an adjunct professorship. He serves as Scientific Director of the George Santos Bone Marrow Transplant Program and is 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 and a member of the American Society for Clinical Investigation.

Josef Penninger

Life Sciences Institute, University of British Columbia

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Josef Penninger was recently appointed Director of the Life Sciences Institute (LSI) at the University of British Columbia (UBC), the largest such institute in Canada.  An MD by training, he was formerly a lead researcher at the Amgen Research Institute in Toronto. From 2002 until 2018 he was the founding and Scientific Director of the newly established Institute of Molecular Biotechnology of the Austrian Academy of Sciences in Vienna. Among his major achievements he can include pioneering insights into the molecular basis of osteoporosis and breast cancer, as well as the study of metastatic spread. He has received numerous major awards include the Descartes Prize, the Wittgenstein Prize of the Austrian Federal Government, the Ernst Jung Prize for medical excellence, an AAAS Award, the Innovator Award from Era of Hope/U.S. Department of Defense and a second ERC Advanced grant.

Ugur Sahin

TRON-Translational Oncology Mainz and BioNTech AG

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Ugur Sahin is a doctor of medicine, immunologist  and cancer researcher.  His key focus is translating novel scientific ideas into groundbreaking medical innovations that help individual patients, an interest that was originally prompted by his experiences as a physician. He has made key contributions in various fields of cancer immunotherapy covering the discovery of tumor-associated cancer antigens, development of novel monoclonal antibodies for treatment of solid human cancers and various classes of RNA-based immunotherapies. His team has pioneered the concept of individualized cancer immunotherapies and in particular the development of mRNA-based vaccines that are tailored to each patient´s cancer mutation profile. He holds a professorship at the University Medical Center, Johannes Gutenberg-University, is founder and scientific director of the non-profit research institute TRON and co-founder and CEO of BioNTech SE.

Dirk Jäger

National Center for Tumor Diseases (NCT)

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Dirk Jäger is the Managing and Medical Director of the National Center for Tumor Diseases (NCT) Heidelberg, Head of Medical Oncology at the Heidelberg University Medical Center, and Head of the Applied Tumor Immunity unit at the German Cancer Research Center. He studied medicine at the Universities of Lübeck and Freiburg. He began his scientific career at Cornell Medical Center with Yao Chen and Lloyd Old. Prior to his current position, he was head of the Tumor Immunology Laboratory at the University Hospital Zurich. At NCT, he is responsible for all counseling services and patient care programs. His research focuses on unmasking the full potential of the patient’s immune system to destroy tumor cells, in particular by modulating the tumor environment, and has authored over 200 publications. He has recently shown that combinatorial immunotherapies can lead to clinical responses in otherwise non-responsive tumors. He has set up strategic alliances with public institutions as well as with the pharmaceutical industry, and initiated several clinical trials.

Pablo Umaña

Roche Glycart AG

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Pablo Umaña holds a PhD from the California Institute of Technology and is Head of Oncology Discovery, Cancer Immunotherapies at Roche Pharma Research and Early Development (pRED), Roche, and Head of Research at the Roche Innovation Center Zurich. He led the team that discovered and initially developed GAZYVA, a novel Type II CD20 antibody for the treatment of B-cell malignancies. GAZYVA was approved in 2013 by the US FDA for 1L CLL and is the first ever medicine approved by the FDA under the Breakthrough Therapy regime. In 2001 he co-founded GlycArt Biotechnology AG, and has headed its research program since. He joined Roche when the company acquired GlycArt in 2005. Throughout this time, he has been leading research in the fields of cancer immunotherapy and protein engineering. He has co-invented and led the research group that generated Roche-pRED’s tumor-targeted T-cell bispecific antibody, immunocytokine and immunomodulator platforms and respective drug candidate pipeline in the field of cancer immunotherapy.

Evan Newell

Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center

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Evan Newell completed his BSc in Immunology at McGill University and PhD in Physiology at the University of Toronto. As a postdoctoral fellow at Stanford University with Mark Davis, he worked on biophysical aspects of T-cell antigen recognition and initiated the use of mass cytometry for the study of human T-cell responses. As a principal investigator at the Singapore Immunology Network (SIgN), his lab applied and developed novel approaches for identifying and thoroughly characterizing antigen-specific T cells. Now his lab has recently moved to the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in the Vaccine and Infectious Disease Division, where a major goal of lab is to identify useful biomarkers of clinical outcomes in the context of human chronic infection and cancer.

Cassian Yee

MD Anderson Cancer Center

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Cassian Yee is Professor of Melanoma Medical Oncology at the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center.  A trained MD, his lab has been engaged in the study of human T-cell biology and anti-tumor immunity, and has contributed to the development of translational strategies applied to several first-in-man studies of adoptive cellular therapy (ACT).  Specifically, his group pioneered Endogenous T Cell (ETC) therapy using peripheral blood as a source of T cells for ACT and the use of IL-21 for generating long-lasting central memory-type T cells. Additionally, several protocols using a combination of adoptive cellular therapy and immune modulation (immune checkpoint inhibitors, costimulatory agonists, oncolytic virotherapy) were established, demonstrating that durable clinical responses can be achieved in patients with refractory solid tumor malignancies. A second focus has been the development of an antigen discovery pipeline to identify and validate targets for cell therapy.

Wolfgang Wick

Heidelberg University Hospital

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Wolfgang Wick is Chairman of the Neurology Clinic in Heidelberg, Director of the Neuro-Oncology Program at the National Tumor Center (NCT) and divisional head of Neuro-Oncology at the German Cancer Research Center. Active in basic, translational and clinical research with a focus on precision medicine, treatment resistance and immunotherapy, he conducts phase 1-3 multicenter randomized trials for the Neuro-Oncology Working Group (NOA) of the German Cancer Society, the European Organisation for Research and Treatment of Cancer (EORTC), the NCT Heidelberg, as well as several multicenter trials with the pharmaceutical industry.  Additionally, he serves as a member of the steering committees of NOA, the European Association for Neuro-Oncology (EANO) and the EORTC Brain Tumor Group, and is currently Chair of the NOA. He has authored more than 400 articles for peer-reviewed journals and is Editor of Neuro Oncology.

Ali Afghan

Patient Advocate

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Ali Afghan is a cancer survivor who joined Genentech/Roche in August 2015. He came out of retirement to make a difference in the world with the company that saved his life. Mr. Afghan is the Engineering Lead for Individualized Neoantigen-Specific Therapy (iNeST) Program, formerly known as Personalized Cancer Vaccine. He is an Iranian-born US citizen who moved to America in 1978, where he earned his BSc in Engineering. He is based in Portland, Oregon, where he has set down roots with family, friends and his professional accomplishments. Mr. Afghan is a registered professional engineer bringing over 30 years of experience in facilities design and engineering, construction project management, and organizational leadership to his role at Genentech/Roche. Prior to this, he held various leadership roles for 17 years at Intel. Mr. Afghan is a husband, father, brother, uncle, and friend. He and his wife Billy, have four children who are grown and on their way in the world.

Thorbald van Hall

Leiden University Medical Center

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Thorbald van Hall is faculty member of the Medical Oncology Department at the Leiden University Medical Center. He received his PhD in 2000 from Leiden University on tumor immunology and was visiting scientist at the Karolinska Institutet in 2005. His main research interest centers around immune escape mechanisms of cancers with the aim to counter these for improved efficacy of immunotherapy. His group identified a new category of cancer antigens: TEIPP. These CD8+ T-cell antigens are of non-mutated self-origin and emerge on tumors with deficiencies in their antigen processing machinery. He and his group are currently in the process to bring these novel targets forward for clinical testing. Another research focus is the role of HLA-E (a non-classical MHC) in cancer immune escape, and has recently reported that its upregulation in cancers might constitute a barrier for CD8+ T-cell immunity via NKG2A, an inhibitory receptor is expressed on NK cells and CD8 T cells.

Nicholas McGranahan

UCL Cancer Institute

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Nicholas McGranahan pursued post-graduate studies at University College London at the Centre of Mathematics and Physics in the Life Science and Experimental Biology (CoMPLEX). In 2011, he joined Charles Swanton’s group at the Cancer Research UK London Research Institute (now the Francis Crick Institute), completing a PhD in Cancer Genomics in 2015. As a Sir Henry Dale fellow, his research interests include using bioinformatics to dissect cancer genome evolution and the mechanisms of drug resistance, intratumoral heterogeneity and genomic instability. His team explores the evolutionary history of cancers by sequencing multiple regions of individual tumors. In particular, his research has focused on understanding the interface between cancer genome evolution and the immune microenvironment.

Klaus Cichutek


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After receiving his PhD in Biochemistry at the Westfälische Wilhelms-University Münster in 1984, Klaus Cichutek was granted a fellowship by the DFG (Deutsche Forschungsgesellschaft, German Research Society) and the University of California in Berkeley, USA, where he worked in the Virus Laboratory as a postdoctoral scientist from 1985 to 1988.  Since 1988, he has been working at the Paul Ehrlich Institute (PEI) as a scientist. From 1988 to 1994, he was the head of the Molecular Biology Research Group; he was then nominated to head the Medical Biotechnology Division in 1994, which he directed until 2011. In 1999, he took over as Deputy Director of the PEI and served as Vice President from October 2001 until November 2009.  Since December 2009, he has been the PEI’s Director.

Ferry Ossendorp

Leiden University Medical Center

Lutz Nuhn

Max Planck Institute for Polymer Research

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Lutz Nuhn earned his diploma in biomedical chemistry from the Johannes Gutenberg-University Mainz, during which he gained his first research experience with Robert Langer and Daniel G. Anderson at MIT. He joined the groups of Rudolf Zentel (Mainz) and Kazunori Kataoka (Tokyo) to earn his PhD in 2014. Thereafter, he worked as a postdoctoral associate in the group of Bruno G. De Geest with Richard Hoogenboom at Ghent University, before joining  Tanja Weil at the Max Planck Institute for Polymer Science in 2017 as a junior group leader. He has received scholarships from the German National Academic Foundation (Studienstiftung des deutschen Volkes), the Max Planck Graduate Center (MPGC), the Fonds der Chemischen Industrie (FCI), the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation (AvH) and the Research Foundation Flanders (FWO). He is currently a Liebig fellow of the FCI and an Emmy-Noether group leader supported by the German Research Foundation (DFG).

Wilfried Roth

University Medical Center Mainz

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Wilfried Roth is Professor and Director of the Institute of Pathology at the University Medical Center in Mainz.  He trained in medicine at the University of Tübingen before a 3-year postdoctoral fellowship at the Burnham Institute in San Diego.  He returned to Germany to head his own research group at the German Cancer Research Center (DKFZ) in Heidelberg.  He was also head of the clinical cooperation unit Molecular Tumor Pathology at the DKFZ during which he also held a professorship.  Since 2015, he has held the directorship of the Institute of Pathology in Mainz.  His research interests include molecular tumor pathology, intracellular mechanisms of cell death resistance which might contribute to therapy resistance in cancer, signal transduction (in particular apoptotic signalling pathways), preclinical evaluation of apoptosis-based therapies, alternative cell death mechanisms  such as autophagy, necrosis and metabolic cell death, and the identification of tumor biomarkers.

Jan Kisielow

Institute of Molecular Health Sciences, ETH

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Jan Kisielow is a senior scientist at the ETH Zürich and co-founder of Tepthera Inc, an ETH spin-off founded 2018.  He studied at the Wrocław University of Science and Technology in Poland and at the University Basel Switzerland.  After a postdoctoral fellowship in the lab of Klaus Karjalainen at the Institute for Research in Biomedicine, Bellinzona, he joined Manfred Kopf at the ETH to study molecular mechanisms regulating lymphocyte development and function. His scientific interests lie in understanding both conventional αβT cells, as well as unconventional γδ or CD4-CD8- T cells, with a recent focus on the antigenic specificity of CD4+ T cells. Tepthera’s newly developed MCR platform, which was awarded the ETH Spark Award for the most promising invention of 2015, allows a detailed description of the antigenic reactivity and cross-reactivity of T cells.

Li Tang

École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne (EPFL)

Angela Krackhardt

Technical University Munich

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Angela Krackhardt is Professor of Translational Immunotherapy and senior physician at the department of Hematology and Oncology at the III. Medical Department, TU München, Germany. She studied Medicine in Berlin and accomplished her clinical training in Internal Medicine, Hematology and Oncology, in Berlin and Munich. She did her Postdoc at the Dana Farber Cancer Institute in Boston, USA. In 2005, she started her own Research Group at the Institute of Molecular Immunology, Helmholtz Zentrum München. In 2010, she was appointed as Professor at the TU Munich. Her scientific focus is the identification of target antigens, especially neoantigens,  most suitable for T-cell based immunotherapies, the genetic manipulation of T effector cells by tumor-reactive T cell receptors and the in vivo imaging of tumor-reactive T cells. Her clinical focus is the implementation and translation of novel immunotherapeutic approaches. She is additionally director of the apheresis unit and heads speciality clinics for patients with malignant melanoma and multiple myeloma.