John Connolly Joins the Parker Institute as Chief Scientific Officer


The Parker Institute for Cancer Immunotherapy tapped Tessa Therapeutics veteran John Connolly as its new chief scientific officer. Connolly, who has more than 20 years of experience in immunotherapy, will design the Institute’s overall research strategy and forge new partnerships between the institute and the industry.

Connolly, who served as CSO of Tessa Therapeutics, had been focused on developing next-generation T cell therapy treatments for cancer patients. He began collaborating with the Parker Institute in 2017 through its partnership with Tessa to develop novel cellular therapy and immuno-oncology combination treatments. As a human immunologist, his research interests focus on immune monitoring and immunometabolism.

“The field of immunotherapy is at a maturity point with technology right now, which gives us the opportunity to create long-term, durable treatments that wouldn’t have been possible five years ago,” Connolly said in a statement.

Sean Parker, who founded the institute in 2016, said it was critical the team at the Parker Institute identify and target the most promising areas of cancer immunotherapy and collaborate with the right industry partners to advance its mission. Connolly is the right man to carry out that vision, Parker said.

“John is a globally recognized scientific leader in immuno-oncology, with a background spanning academic research and executive roles in biotechnology. I’m convinced he has the experience and energy to build on our success in bringing immunotherapy treatments from bench to bedside to market for the benefit of all cancer patients,” Parker said in a statement.

Connolly succeeds Fred Ramsdell as CSO of the institute. Ramsdell left the Parker Institute alongside former Chief Executive Officer Jeffrey Bluestone in February to launch Sonoma Biotherapeutics. Connolly said he was attracted to joining the institute team due to Sean Parker’s “powerful vision” for the institute and its mission.

“I am most looking forward to collaborating with PICI’s network of world-class investigators to find the fastest path forward to cure patients,” Connolly said.

Connolly is also an associate professor at National University of Singapore and an adjunct associate professor of Immunology at Baylor University, where he served on the Board of Governors for the Institute of Biomedical Sciences.

In April, the Parker Institute added Frederic Pla as its chief operating officer. Pla is expected to lead day-to-day operations and work with the institute’s leadership team to establish comprehensive goals for performance, expansion and sustainable growth of the organization. He most recently served as COO at breast cancer-focused Genomic Health.

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