Scientific Advisory Panel


The Scientific Advisory Panel advises the MRA leadership team on scientific matters and policies of MRA including research needs and opportunities that may be targeted for funding and planning scientific symposia.


Suzanne Topalian, M.D., Chair

Professor of Surgery and Oncology, Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine
Director, Melanoma Program, Sidney Kimmel Comprehensive Cancer Center

Dr. Topalian received her medical degree from the Tufts University School of Medicine, and completed a general surgery residency at the Thomas Jefferson University Hospital in Philadelphia.  She was a research fellow in Pediatric Surgery at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, and subsequently completed a fellowship in Surgical Oncology at the National Cancer Institute, NIH.  After 17 years as a Senior Investigator at the NIH, Dr. Topalian joined the Johns Hopkins faculty in 2006 to direct the Melanoma Program in the Kimmel Cancer Center.

Dr. Topalian is a physician-scientist who has published over 100 original research articles on cancer immunology and immunotherapy.  Her studies of human anti-tumor immunity have provided a foundation for the translational development of cancer vaccines, adoptive T cell transfer, and immuno-modulatory monoclonal antibodies.  Her current research focuses on modulating immune checkpoints such as PD-1 in cancer therapy, and discovering biomarkers predicting clinical outcomes.  These efforts have opened new avenues of scientific interest and clinical investigation in cancer immunology and immunotherapy, and have established the importance of this approach in oncology.
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James P. Allison, Ph.D.

Professor and Chair of Immunology

University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center

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Christopher P. Austin, M.D.

Director, National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences, NIH


In September 2012, Christopher P. Austin, M.D., was appointed the first permanent director of the National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences (NCATS) by NIH Director Francis S. Collins, M.D., Ph.D. Austin, who served as director of the NCATS Division of Pre-Clinical Innovation since the creation of the Center in December 2011, is leading NCATS in its mission to catalyze the generation of innovative methods and technologies that will enhance the development, testing and implementation of diagnostics and therapeutics across a wide range of human diseases and conditions. Currently, many costly, time-consuming bottlenecks exist in the translational process. Austin is applying his experience across the spectrum of the research pipeline to develop, demonstrate, and disseminate innovative technologies and paradigms that increase the efficiency of translation, and thus speed the discovery and delivery of interventions that improve human health. Austin came to NIH in 2002 from Merck, where his work focused on genome-based discovery of novel targets and drugs. He began his NIH career as the senior advisor to the director for translational research at the National Human Genome Research Institute, where he initiated the Knockout Mouse Project and the Molecular Libraries Roadmap Initiative. Other NIH roles have included serving as director of the Therapeutics for Rare and Neglected Diseases program as well as the NIH Chemical Genomics Center and as scientific director of the NIH Center for Translational Therapeutics. Austin earned an A.B. summa cum laude in biology from Princeton University and an M.D. from Harvard Medical School. He completed clinical training in internal medicine and neurology at Massachusetts General Hospital, and a research fellowship in genetics at Harvard.

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Boris Bastian, M.D.

Clinical Professor, Department of Dermatology

University of California, San Francisco

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Paul Billings, M.D., Ph.D.

Chief Medical Officer, Life Technologies


Board certified internist and clinical geneticist Dr. Paul R. Billings serves as Chief Medical Officer of Life Technologies Corporation, a new position aimed at improving patient care through expanding the use of medically relevant genomic technologies in clinical settings. Dr. Billings brings extensive expertise and health care experience in the areas of genomics and molecular medicine. Most recently, he served as Director and Chief Scientific Officer of the Genomic Medicine Institute at El Camino Hospital, the largest community hospital in the Silicon Valley. He was a member of the United States Department of Health and Human Services Secretary's Advisory Committee on Genetics, Health and Society. He currently serves on the Scientific Advisory Board of the Food and Drug Administration, the Genomic Medicine Advisory Committee at the Department of Veterans Affairs, and the IOM Roundtable on Genomics. Dr. Billings has had a distinguished career as a physician and researcher. He has been a founder or chief executive officer of companies involved in genetic and diagnostic medicine, including GeneSage, Omicia and CELLective Dx Corporation. Previously, he was senior vice president for corporate development at Laboratory Corporation of America Holdings (LabCorp). He has held academic appointments at some of the most prestigious universities in the United States, including Harvard Medical School, U.C. San Francisco, Stanford University School of Medicine and U. C. Berkeley, and has served as a physician at a number of prestigious medical centers. He is the author of nearly 200 publications and books on experimental and clinical medicine. Dr. Billings holds an M.D. from Harvard Medical School and a Ph.D. in immunology, also from Harvard University.
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Gideon Bollag, Ph.D.

Chief Executive Officer, Plexxikon, Inc.


Dr. Bollag has served as chief executive officer since May 2013, and has more than 23 years of biotechnology drug discovery experience. More recently, he was the senior vice president of research since June 2008. Prior, he served as vice president of discovery biology since November 2004. He joined Plexxikon as senior director of drug discovery in June 2002. Dr. Bollag was instrumental in the discovery and development of Zelboraf®, Plexxikon’s first oncology drug now approved in the U.S. and many other countries, along with its companion diagnostic. Prior to Plexxikon, he helped build drug discovery capabilities at Syrrx, Inc., where he was director of cellular pharmacology. Before Syrrx, he held escalating positions at Onyx Pharmaceuticals, initially as one of the founding scientists and eventually senior director of small molecule therapeutics. While there, Dr. Bollag was involved in the Onyx collaboration with Bayer to discover BAY 43-9006 (Nexavar), now an approved cancer treatment. Prior to Onyx, Dr. Bollag held various scientific positions at Cetus, Inc. Dr. Bollag earned his Ph.D. in biochemistry from the University of California, Berkeley. 

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Lynda Chin, M.D.

Professor and Chair, Dept of Genomic Medicine

Scientific Director, Institute for Applied Cancer Science
University of Texas M.D. Anderson Cancer Center

Lynda Chin, M.D., joined MD Anderson in September 2011 as chair of Genomic Medicine and as scientific director of the Institute for Applied Cancer Science. Chin received her M.D. from the Albert Einstein College of Medicine, followed by clinical and scientific training at Columbia Presbyterian Medical Center and the Albert Einstein College of Medicine, where she was chief resident of dermatology.

For 14 years prior to joining MD Anderson, Chin was a member of the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute and Harvard Medical School community in Boston. She was professor of Dermatology at Harvard Medical School, member of the Department of Medical Oncology at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, and senior associate member of the Broad Institute, where she was principal investigator of the Genome Data Analysis Center in The Cancer Genome Atlas (TCGA). Chin also served as scientific director of the Belfer Institute for Applied Cancer Science and co-leader of Dana-Farber/Harvard Cancer Center’s Melanoma Program and the Specialized Programs of Research Excellence (SPORE) grant for skin research. She serves on the scientific steering committee of the International Cancer Genome Consortium.

Chin co-founded AVEO Pharmaceuticals in 2002, a cancer biotechnology company that emphasizes cancer biology and genetics to identify new targets with tumor maintenance roles. Most recently, she founded Metamark Genetics, a cancer diagnostic company that will develop function-based prognostic determinants that can guide customized care of cancer patients who have early-stage disease, including melanoma and prostate cancer.
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Richard Gaynor, M.D.

Vice President, Oncology, Product Development and Medical Affairs, Eli Lilly

Dr. Richard B. Gaynor received a bachelor of science degree in biology from Texas Tech University and a medical degree from the University of Texas Southwestern Medical School. Dr. Gaynor went on to do his residency in internal medicine at Parkland Memorial Hospital in Dallas, Texas and completed a fellowship in hematology-oncology at the University of California at Los Angeles (UCLA) School of Medicine where he served on the faculty for 10 years.

Prior to joining Lilly, Dr. Gaynor was a professor of medicine and microbiology at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center (UTSW) in Dallas and held several important leadership positions. He was chief of the division of hematology at UTSW and director of the Harold C. Simmons Comprehensive Cancer Center there in addition to his work as the Lisa K. Simmons Distinguished Chair in Comprehensive Oncology. He served on numerous NIH advisory committees and was elected to both the American Society of Clinical Investigation and Association of American Physicians. 

Gaynor is on the editorial board of scientific journals and has an extensive publication record totaling more than 140 scientific articles. He serves on the board of the Damon Runyon Cancer Research Foundation and the Walther Cancer Institute and on several committees for the American Association of Cancer Research. He is a member of the Scientific Advisory Committee for Stand Up to Cancer.
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Michael Giordano, M.D.

Senior Vice President Oncology and Immunosciences Developments
Bristol-Myers Squibb

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Allan Halpern, M.D.

Chief, Dermatology Service
Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center

Dr. Halpern is the Chief of the Dermatology Service and Co-Leader of the Melanoma Disease Management Team at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center. Dr. Halpern's research has focused on melanoma prevention and early detection. His work has included studies of barriers and facilitators of skin cancer screening and skin self examination, the utilization of whole-body digital imaging for melanoma surveillance in high-risk individuals, the development of novel imaging modalities for early detection of skin cancer, and studies of the evolution of nevi (moles) in adolescence. Dr. Halpern has been active in public health efforts in skin cancer prevention and early detection. He has held leadership positions in the skin cancer prevention efforts of many organizations including the Skin Cancer Foundation, American Academy of Dermatology, and American Cancer Society. Dr. Halpern is co-Chairman of the National Council for Skin Cancer Prevention. Dr. Halpern is a Board Certified Internist and Dermatologist with a masters of science degree in clinical epidemiology.

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Jeffrey Legos, Ph.D.

Medicines Development Leader

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Richard Marais, Ph.D.

Paterson Institute for Cancer Research

Dr. Marais received his BSc in Genetics and Microbiology at the University College, London and did his postdoctoral study in Comparative Studies on Protein Kinase C Isotypes at the Ludwig Institute for Cancer Research. Dr. Marais is internationally known for his work on Raf protein regulation, which includes demonstrating that the B-Raf gene is mutated in approximately 70% of melanomas and at a lower frequency in many other cancers. His laboratory is coupling this to development of novel signal transduction inhibitors for use in treating human cancer. He also has a longstanding collaboration with Dr. Caroline Springer of the Institute of Cancer Research on gene therapy approaches to treat cancer.

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Neal Rosen, M.D.

Enid A. Haupt Chair in Medical Oncology
Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center

Dr. Rosen is a Member of the Department of Medicine and the Program in Molecular Pharmacology and Chemistry at the Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center, where he serves as the Head of Developmental Therapeutics. He is also a Professor of Pharmacology, Cell Biology and Medicine at the Cornell University Medical School.

Dr. Rosen received his undergraduate degree in Chemistry from Columbia College and an M.D., Ph.D. in Molecular Biology from the Albert Einstein College of Medicine. He completed a residency in Internal Medicine at the Brigham and Women's Hospital and post-doctoral training and a fellowship in Medical Oncology at the National Cancer Institute. He was on the senior staff of the Medicine Branch at the U.S. National Cancer Institute prior to joining the faculty of Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center.
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Steven Rosenberg, M.D.

Chief, Surgery Branch
* National Cancer Institute

Dr. Rosenberg is Chief of Surgery at the National Cancer Institute in Bethesda, Maryland and a Professor of Surgery at the Uniformed Services University of Health Sciences and at the George Washington University School of Medicine and Health Sciences in Washington, DC. Dr. Rosenberg received his B.A. and M.D. degrees at The Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, Maryland and a Ph.D. in Biophysics at Harvard University. After completing his residency training in surgery in 1974 at the Peter Bent Brigham Hospital in Boston, Massachusetts, Dr. Rosenberg became the Chief of Surgery at the National Cancer Institute, a position he has held to the present time.

Dr. Rosenberg has pioneered the development of immunotherapy that resulted in the first effective immunotherapies for selected patients with advanced cancer. He has also pioneered the development of gene therapy and was the first to successfully insert foreign genes into humans as treatment for cancer. He has been the recipient of numerous awards, is author of over 820 scientific articles.
* Dr. Rosenberg serves on the MRA Scientific Advisory Panel in his personal capacity.
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Mace Rothenberg, M.D.

Senior Vice President Clinical Development and Medical Affairs
Pfizer Inc

Mace L. Rothenberg, M.D., is Senior Vice President of Clinical Development and Medical Affairs for Pfizer’s Oncology Business Unit.  He is responsible for overseeing clinical research and development activities as well as post-marketing evaluation and monitoring for Pfizer’s oncology products.  Dr. Rothenberg received his BA magna cum laude from the University of Pennsylvania in 1978 and his MD from the New York University School of Medicine in 1982.  He received his post-graduate training in Internal Medicine at Vanderbilt University from 1982 to 1985 and in Medical Oncology at the National Cancer Institute from 1985 to 1988.  Dr. Rothenberg is a Fellow of the American College of Physicians and the American Society of Clinical Oncology.

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Eric Rubin, M.D.

Vice President, Oncology Clinical Development

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Joshua M. Sharfstein, M.D.

Secretary of Health & Mental Hygiene, State of Maryland

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Ellen Sigal, Ph.D

Chairperson and Founder, Friends of Cancer Research

Ellen V. Sigal, PhD, is Chairperson and Founder of Friends of Cancer Research(Friends), a cancer research think tank and advocacy organization based in Washington, DC.

Friends is a leader in developing partnerships and advocating for policies that will get treatments and therapies to patients in the safest and quickest way possible. Friends works with federal health agencies, Congressional leadership, academic research centers, and private sector industry producing real results.

Dr. Sigal is Vice Chair of the inaugural board of directors of the Reagan-Udall Foundation, a partnership designed to modernize medical product development, accelerate innovation, and enhance product safety in collaboration with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.  She serves on the Board of the Foundation for the National Institutes of Health where she chairs its Public-Private Partnerships Committee.

In 2010, Dr. Sigal was appointed to a six year term on the Board of Governors of the Patient Centered Outcomes Research Institute (PCORI) as a representative of patients and health consumers. She also holds leadership positions with a broad range of cancer advocacy, public policy organizations, and academic health centers including: the American Association for Cancer Research Foundation Board; Research!America Board; MD Anderson Cancer Center External Advisory Board, the Duke University Cancer Center Board of Overseers, and The Sidney Kimmel Comprehensive Cancer Center Advisory Council.

During her more than twenty year commitment to cancer research, Dr. Sigal has served in a number of critical public positions.  She served on the National Cancer Institute Board of Scientific Advisors from 2003-2009, and the National Institutes of Health Director’s Council of Public Representatives from 2003-2006.  She was a Presidential Appointee to the National Cancer Advisory Board from 1992-1998, where she chaired the Budget and Planning Committee that oversees the federal cancer budget.  In 1998, Dr. Sigal was named Vice Chairman of the Board of The March, a national grassroots advocacy group that brought thousands of volunteers to Washington to liaise with Congress and to set a new advocacy agenda for cancer research and treatment.  She is a past member of the American Society of Clinical Oncology Foundation Board.  Dr. Sigal has also been instrumental in harnessing the energies of Hollywood on behalf of cancer research, serving as President of The Creative Community Task Force for Cancer Research.>

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Steven Stein, M.D.

Head US Clinical Development and Medical Affairs
Novartis Oncology

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Michael Weber, Ph.D.

Director, Cancer Center, Weaver Professor of Oncology
University of Virginia

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