EMERYVILLE, Calif.--(BUSINESS WIRE)--Gritstone Oncology, a next-generation personalized cancer immunotherapy company, today announced the appointment of Raphaël F. Rousseau, M.D., Ph.D., as chief medical officer. Dr. Rousseau, an experienced biotechnology drug developer in oncology and hematology, joins the Company from Genentech, where he was most recently global franchise head, pediatrics, in the Product Development Oncology division. Additionally, Gritstone recently promoted Roman Yelensky, Ph.D., to chief technology officer, where he will oversee the company’s genomics, proteomics and informatics programs.
“The addition of Raphaël to our executive team, as well as the promotion of Roman, come at a critical time for Gritstone Oncology. We have made significant inroads toward our goal of combining multi-omic tumor profiling and deep learning to create personalized neoantigen immunotherapies for patients with difficult-to-treat cancers,” said Andrew Allen, M.D., Ph.D., co-founder, president and chief executive officer of Gritstone Oncology. “Raphaël’s expertise in applying translational research to immunotherapy in oncology and hematology and his experience overseeing clinical trials of innovative therapeutic compounds will be invaluable as we advance our first neoantigen immunotherapy into the clinic in 2018.”
He added, “Since day one when Roman joined as our first employee, he has been instrumental in developing our cutting-edge neoantigen identification platform. Under Roman’s leadership, the Gritstone team has characterized large numbers of human tumors at the molecular level. These efforts have generated a tremendous amount of data, driving deep learning and the construction of a high-performance model that takes neoantigen prediction to the next level. Roman has been indispensable in building this unique and powerful tool, and will continue to be instrumental in our research and development program as chief technology officer.”
About Dr. Rousseau
Dr. Rousseau joins Gritstone with experience in both the biotechnology industry and academia. He has expertise in innovative study designs and in Phase 1-3 studies of targeted therapies, including small molecule inhibitors, monoclonal antibodies, gene-modified immune effector cells and vaccines, and nanosize vectors. Prior to Gritstone, he spent eight years at Genentech, a member of the Roche group, where he held positions of increasing responsibility. Dr. Rousseau created the innovative Pediatric Oncology Drug Development (iPODD) team and the pediatric franchise at Roche-Genentech, a unique approach to pediatric drug development in the pharma industry. As global franchise head, pediatrics, in the Product Development Oncology division, he managed a clinical team of physicians and scientists across sites as well as a cross-functional development and study management team of more than 60 people across several key functions, including clinical science, safety, regulatory, research, biomarkers, clinical pharmacology and operations. He served as chair of the Development Review Committee for pediatric oncology, reviewing and making decisions about early- and late-stage compounds across the Roche-Genentech oncology portfolio. He also launched the iMATRIX master trial concept, an innovative Phase 1-2 multi-tumor, multi-drug collaborative drug development platform for patients with high-risk pediatric malignancies. Before Genentech, Dr. Rousseau was international medical leader, hematology at Roche. Before joining Roche in 2009, Dr. Rousseau was a professor of medical and pediatric oncology at the Université Claude Bernard in Lyon, France. At the Léon Bérard Comprehensive Cancer Center in Lyon, Dr. Rousseau was head of the pediatric translational research program where he created and led the first European consortium for the conduct of an EMA-approved phase 1 study using CD19-targeting CAR T cells for the treatment of pediatric high-risk leukemias. Earlier in his career, he was a clinical fellow at Texas Children’s Cancer Center and a research fellow at the Center for Cell and Gene Therapy at Baylor College of Medicine in Houston, where he co-developed a translational, GMP-grade, FDA-approved antitumor approach using genetically-modified autologous and allogeneic tumor cells to treat high-risk pediatric acute leukemias, chronic lymphocytic leukemia and neuroblastoma. He earned a Ph.D. in therapeutic biotechnologies at the Université Denis Diderot and an M.D. from Université René Descartes, both in Paris. He is board certified in pediatrics and has a sub-specialty certification in pediatric hematology-oncology.
About Dr. Yelensky
Dr. Yelensky joined Gritstone at its inception in October 2015 as executive vice president of sequencing and bioinformatics. Prior to that, he was vice president of biomarker and companion diagnostic development at Foundation Medicine, which he joined at its inception. While at Foundation Medicine, he co-led sequence data analysis for FoundationOne™ and led validation studies supporting clinical laboratory accreditation and testing of >100,000 patients. Dr. Yelensky established Foundation Medicine’s FDA-regulated products program, leading to the FDA approval of FoundationFocus CDxBRCA, the first NGS-based companion diagnostic. He also contributed to key national initiatives on the clinical implementation of next-generation sequencing (NGS), leading the diagnostic implementation of Lung-MAP, a first-of-its-kind NCI-sponsored trial matching lung cancer patients to investigational treatments using comprehensive genomic testing. Prior to Foundation Medicine, Dr. Yelensky was a senior scientist in biomarker development at Novartis. He has co-authored more than 75 manuscripts on bioinformatics, statistical genetics, NGS biomarker and assay development and cancer genomics. He earned an M.S. in computer science from Stanford University and a Ph.D. in bioinformatics and integrative genomics from the Harvard-MIT Division of Health Sciences and Technology.
About Gritstone Oncology
Gritstone Oncology is a privately-held, next-generation personalized cancer immunotherapy company. Gritstone brings together distinguished scientific founders, an experienced and diverse management team, a seasoned and successful board of directors, and deep financial backing to tackle fundamental challenges at the intersection of cancer genomics, immunology, and immunotherapy design. The company’s initial goal is to identify and deploy therapeutic neoantigens from individual patients’ tumor to develop novel treatments for lung cancer. Gritstone Oncology is headquartered in the San Francisco Bay Area with certain key functions located in Cambridge, MA. The company launched in October 2015 with a Series A financing of $102 million from leading blue-chip biotechnology investors, including Versant Ventures, The Column Group and Clarus Ventures. More information can be found at www.gritstoneoncology.com.