Therapeutics that Teach
the Immune System
to Recognize Cancer

Sensei Biotherapeutics is an innovator in the field of next-generation cancer immunotherapies. Sensei has pioneered a proprietary immuno-oncology technology platform to aid the immune system in the detection and elimination of cancer. Our name, Sensei – or teacher – conveys how our therapeutics ‘teach’ the immune system to recognize and attack cancer, overcoming the ways that cancer disables immune recognition.

About Us

Our mission is our passion – to develop innovative immuno-oncology medicines that have potential for a positive and profound impact on the health and quality of the lives of patients with unmet needs.

Sensei Biotherapeutics is an innovator in the field of next-generation cancer immunotherapies.

Sensei has pioneered a proprietary immuno-oncology technology platform, called SPIRIT, to aid the immune system in the detection and elimination of cancer. The presence of subtle differences in antigen expression between cancer and normal is key to this process

The SPIRIT platform overcomes disabled immune recognition caused by cancer. The immune system has evolved to protect its host from foreign pathogens, effectively distinguishing healthy ‘self’ tissues from ‘non-self’. Cancer is a unique challenge to the immune system. It arises from ‘self’ making immune recognition challenging, yet it is known to be altered. Immune recognition of the subtle differences between ‘self’ and ‘non-self’ is key to effective cancer immunotherapy.

Headquartered in Gaithersburg, MD, Sensei has built a unique and proprietary approach in-house and in collaboration with key academic collaborators at Brown University.

Our Approach & Therapeutics

 

Our SPIRIT platform enables the development of immuno-oncology therapies that teach the immune system to recognize and attack cancer, and also use a precision medicine approach that leverages companion diagnostics. Our precision cancer therapeutics have the following unique features:

Targeting of neoantigens or altered self-antigens: The majority of non-pathogenic antigens induce central tolerance in the thymus, effectively eliminating most high-affinity self-reactive T-cells. Overcoming central tolerance is the key to effective targeting of over- and selectively-expressed self-antigens or neoantigens.
Elicit a potent cellular and humoral immune response: Antigens are presented to the immune system using an engineered immunogenicity-optimized vaccine technology that intensifies the antigen-specific immune response. Sensei optimizes the vaccine for the optimal T-cell and/or B-cell response.
Precision medicine approach: Sensei is leveraging companion diagnostics from the outset of our clinical development programs using an effective serum-based diagnostic platform.
Simple intradermal injection: Our therapeutics are designed to be generally safe and well-tolerated and can be administered in minutes with an intradermal injection system.

Our lead drug candidate, a first-in-class cancer vaccine, targets a novel embryonic self-antigen. This clinical candidate has successfully completed a Phase 1 clinical study and demonstrated promising clinical results, including:

  • A robust antigen-specific immune response, including both B-cell and T-cell responses
  • A reduction in disease-specific markers
  • A safe and well-tolerated profile in the Phase 1 study

Sensei is advancing a new class of immuno-oncology therapies, offering a powerful way to stimulate the immune system to recognize cancer-specific antigens and attack cancer cells.

SENIOR LEADERSHIP

 
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John K. Celebi, MBA
President and CEO

John Celebi has over 20 years of experience building innovative entrepreneurial biotechnology companies.  Previously, Mr. Celebi served as the Chief Operating Officer of X4 Pharmaceuticals where he established and oversaw the company’s oncology business strategy.  He also served as Chief Business Officer of Igenica Biotherapeutics, Inc., an immunotherapy company formed by The Column Group, 5AM Ventures, Orbimed and Third Rock Ventures, where he established key academic and industry relationships, including with MedImmune.  He has extensive transactional and alliance management experience. Previously, he served as Vice President of Business Development, New Product Planning and Alliance Management at ArQule, Inc., where he played a central role in the formation of alliances with Roche, Daiichi-Sankyo, and Kyowa Hakko Kirin.  Mr. Celebi was one of the early employees at Tularik, Inc., where he conducted drug discovery and basic research for an anti-viral drug program. Mr. Celebi received an M.B.A. from Carnegie Mellon University and a B.S. in Biophysics from the University of California, San Diego.

Pauline Callinan, PhD
Vice President, Business Development

Pauline Callinan has over a dozen years of experience forming partnerships between biotechnology companies, sources of venture capital and academic groups. Prior to joining Sensei, Dr. Callinan served in MedImmune’s Partnering and Strategy Group within the oncology therapeutic area, where she engaged in business development activities covering licensing of innovative assets, technologies and strategic partnerships. Prior to MedImmune, Dr. Callinan held various positions at Johns Hopkins Technology Transfer, most recently as Portfolio Director, Life Sciences, where she managed the Life Sciences Intellectual Property portfolio with a team of Technology Transfer Associates.  Dr. Callinan completed a post-doc at the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine where she studied the epigenetics of human disease.  She has published a book chapter, review articles and first authored publications in peer reviewed journals. Dr. Callinan holds a PhD degree in Biochemistry from the Louisiana State University, and a BSc Human Biology (with honors) from Loughborough University, U.K.

Ildiko Csiki, MD, PhD
Chief Medical Officer

Ildiko Csiki has recently joined Sensei in August 2018.  She has both academic and industry experience in immune-oncology.  Dr. Csiki comes to Sensei from Inovio Pharmaceuticals where she had been Vice President Immuno-Oncology Clinical Development since 2016.  She also served for two years at Merck as Immuno-Oncology Clinical Lead and Senior Director of Clinical Research for Keytruda.  She was global lead for a large phase III gastric pivotal study.  Prior to that, Dr. Csiki was at GlaxoSmithKline in a blended role with medical monitor responsibilities on phase I, II, and III oncology clinical trials.  Dr. Csiki received both her BA and BS degrees from the University of Arkansas and her MD/PhD degrees in the medical scientist program at Vanderbilt University.  She completed sub-specialty training and residencies at Vanderbilt in Internal Medicine and Radiation Oncology.  She then served for two years as Assistant Professor of Radiation Oncology at the University of Pennsylvania.  Currently, Dr. Csiki is also pursuing a degree in general management from the Wharton Business School with a focus on Executive Coaching/Leadership and Strategic Innovation.

Steven A. Fuller, PhD
Chief Operating Officer

Steven Fuller has over 30 years of experience in the pharmaceutical and biotechnology industries working on a range of therapeutic and diagnostic products. Prior to joining Sensei, Dr. Fuller served as Vice President, Product and Process Development at Nabi Biopharmaceuticals, Inc. While at Nabi, he held positions of increasing responsibility in the development, GMP manufacture, quality control, quality assurance and clinical testing of vaccine and immune globulin products for infectious disease and drugs of addiction. Dr. Fuller was an integral part of a team that filed two biologics license applications for immunotherapeutic products and also filed numerous Investigation New Drug (IND) applications for vaccine products. At ADI Diagnostics, Inc., Toronto, Ontario, Dr. Fuller was Director of Operations for ADI’s diagnostics development and manufacturing of tests for cancer and infectious disease.  He is author of numerous peer-reviewed publications and multiple patents. Dr. Fuller received his B.S. degree in Biology from Wheaton College and his Ph.D. in genetics from Michigan State University.

Hossein A. Ghanbari, PhD
Chief Scientific Officer

Hossein Ghanbari is a co-founder of Sensei Biotherapeutics and currently serves as its Chief Science Officer and Board Chair.  He served as Chairman, CEO and CSO of the company until February 2018 during which he led the company into clinical studies with SNS-301 and was instrumental in raising significant financing for the company.  Dr. Ghanbari began his career in the pharmaceutical industry at Abbott Laboratories in Chicago, where he developed several pharmaceuticals and the first ever commercialized diagnostic test for Alzheimer’s Disease (AD).  He was part of the New Drug Application (NDA) team for Leupron, the successful prostate cancer drug, as well as for Survanta, the current drug of choice for preventing and treating respiratory distress syndrome in premature infants.  He directed the Analytical sections of the Investigational New Drug (IND) application for an antibody-based antiviral drug and was a member of Abbott’s Technical Advisory Board.  Dr. Ghanbari was inducted into the prestigious honorary organization, the Volwiler Society, established by Abbott to recognize the company’s most distinguished and accomplished scientists.  After nearly a decade with Abbott, Dr. Ghanbari left to form Molecular Geriatrics Corporation, (a biopharma company focused on developing drugs for neurodegenerative diseases) and served as its Senior Vice-President for R&D.  Subsequently, Dr. Ghanbari was instrumental in establishing Nymox Pharmaceutical Corporation (NASDAQ: NYMX), and served as Senior Vice-President for R&D and Strategic Planning as well as a Director on its board.  While with Nymox, he developed the first commercially available cerebral spinal fluid- and urine-based diagnostics tests for Alzheimer’s Disease (AD) and identified opportunities for complementary technologies that Nymox in-licensed, which together established the company’s international presence as a leader in AD diagnostics and therapeutics.  Prior to entering private industry, Dr. Ghanbari held professorships at Pennsylvania State University, University of Florida, and Arya-Mehr University of Technology (now Sharif University).  He was also on the academic staff of The George Washington University School of Medicine and Health Sciences as an Adjunct Professor.  He currently serves as a Board member of the Gastric Cancer Foundation.  Dr. Ghanbari received his Bachelor of Sciences degree, with distinction, from the American University in Beirut, and his master’s and doctorate degrees in Biochemistry from Pennsylvania State University.  He has authored over 70 peer reviewed publications, and is an inventor on nearly 100 patents and patent applications worldwide.

Michael S. Lebowitz, PhD
Vice President, Research

Michael Lebowitz has more than 20 years of experience in biomedical research within the biotech industry having previously served as the Director of Research at 20/20 GeneSystems, Inc. and Vice President of Research at Ariadne Diagnostics, LLC.  He was a leader in the research leading up to the IND approval of Sensei Bio’s lead vaccine candidate, SNS-301, and the commercial launch of six cancer diagnostic tests.  Dr. Lebowitz holds a Ph.D. from the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine in Biochemistry, Cellular, and Molecular Biology where he subsequently completed a three-year fellowship in immunology in the Department of Pathology, Division of Immunopathology. He is an adjunct Lecturer in the Advanced Academic Program in Biotechnology within the Krieger School of Arts and Sciences at JHU.

 

BOARD OF DIRECTORS

 
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John K. Celebi, MBA

John Celebi has over 20 years of experience building innovative entrepreneurial biotechnology companies.  Previously, Mr. Celebi served as the Chief Operating Officer of X4 Pharmaceuticals where he established and oversaw the company’s oncology business strategy.  He also served as Chief Business Officer of Igenica Biotherapeutics, Inc., an immunotherapy company formed by The Column Group, 5AM Ventures, Orbimed and Third Rock Ventures, where he established key academic and industry relationships, including with MedImmune.  He has extensive transactional and alliance management experience. Previously, he served as Vice President of Business Development, New Product Planning and Alliance Management at ArQule, Inc., where he played a central role in the formation of alliances with Roche, Daiichi-Sankyo, and Kyowa Hakko Kirin.  Mr. Celebi was one of the early employees at Tularik, Inc., where he conducted drug discovery and basic research for an anti-viral drug program. Mr. Celebi received an M.B.A. from Carnegie Mellon University and a B.S. in Biophysics from the University of California, San Diego.

Mark Lee Ford, PhD

Mark Lee Ford leads business turnarounds of companies in industries such as financial services and consumer products. Based in Tokyo and Hong Kong, he also educates young entrepreneurs in the region by serving as a business school professor. Dr. Ford’s scientific interests include fluid mechanics and oncology. He received his BSc degree in Astrophysics from Trinity College, University of Toronto, MS and Ph.D. degrees in Aerospace Engineering from Boston University, and MBA degree from Duke University.

Hossein A. Ghanbari, PhD

Hossein Ghanbari is a co-founder of Sensei Biotherapeutics and currently serves as its Chief Science Officer and Board Chair.  He served as Chairman, CEO and CSO of the company until February 2018 during which he led the company into clinical studies with SNS-301 and was instrumental in raising significant financing for the company.  Dr. Ghanbari began his career in the pharmaceutical industry at Abbott Laboratories in Chicago, where he developed several pharmaceuticals and the first ever commercialized diagnostic test for Alzheimer’s Disease (AD).  He was part of the New Drug Application (NDA) team for Leupron, the successful prostate cancer drug, as well as for Survanta, the current drug of choice for preventing and treating respiratory distress syndrome in premature infants.  He directed the Analytical sections of the Investigational New Drug (IND) application for an antibody-based antiviral drug and was a member of Abbott’s Technical Advisory Board.  Dr. Ghanbari was inducted into the prestigious honorary organization, the Volwiler Society, established by Abbott to recognize the company’s most distinguished and accomplished scientists.  After nearly a decade with Abbott, Dr. Ghanbari left to form Molecular Geriatrics Corporation, (a biopharma company focused on developing drugs for neurodegenerative diseases) and served as its Senior Vice-President for R&D.  Subsequently, Dr. Ghanbari was instrumental in establishing Nymox Pharmaceutical Corporation (NASDAQ: NYMX), and served as Senior Vice-President for R&D and Strategic Planning as well as a Director on its board.  While with Nymox, he developed the first commercially available cerebral spinal fluid- and urine-based diagnostics tests for Alzheimer’s Disease (AD) and identified opportunities for complementary technologies that Nymox in-licensed, which together established the company’s international presence as a leader in AD diagnostics and therapeutics.  Prior to entering private industry, Dr. Ghanbari held professorships at Pennsylvania State University, University of Florida, and Arya-Mehr University of Technology (now Sharif University).  He was also on the academic staff of The George Washington University School of Medicine and Health Sciences as an Adjunct Professor.  He currently serves as a Board member of the Gastric Cancer Foundation.  Dr. Ghanbari received his Bachelor of Sciences degree, with distinction, from the American University in Beirut, and his master’s and doctorate degrees in Biochemistry from Pennsylvania State University.  He has authored over 70 peer reviewed publications, and is an inventor on nearly 100 patents and patent applications worldwide.

Mehdi Hatamian, PhD

Mehdi Hatamian received his B.S.  degree in Electrical Engineering from Sharif University of Technology in 1977, and M.S. and Ph.D. degrees in Electrical Engineering from the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, in 1978 and 1982 respectively.  Most recently, Dr. Hatamian was Chief Scientist of Central Engineering and Fellow at Broadcom Limited, and Senior VP Engineering at Broadcom Corporation. Previously, Dr. Hatamian worked for NASA’s Space Shuttle program, developing hardware and software designs to support in-flight biomedical experiments. He was a member of the Visual Communications Research and the VLSI Systems Research departments of Bell Laboratories, where he was named Distinguished Member of the Technical Staff. He also served as Vice President of Technology at Silicon Design Experts (SDE), Inc., a company he co-founded. SDE was acquired by Level One Corp. which was later acquired by Intel Corp.  He has published 50 papers and holds 94 issued patents with several patents pending.  Dr. Hatamian has been inducted in the National Academy of Engineering for his contributions to the development of integrated circuits for video, communications, and digital signal processing. He is a Fellow member of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE). Dr. Hatamian received the “#1 Patent Holder” award from Broadcom Corp. and the Broadcom Fellow award. He received the University of Michigan’s ECE Division Alumni Merit Award for 2008. He served on the Engineering Advisory Council of the University of Michigan. He has participated in numerous national and international conferences and other professional activities in his field as keynote speaker, organizer, session chair, panelist, invited lecturer, and moderator. In addition to Sensei Bio, Dr. Hatamian has served on the board of directors of PharmacoKinesis, Inc.

Bob Holmen, JD

Mr. Holmen has over 25 years’ experience working in and advising technology, healthcare and financial services companies.  He has engaged at every phase of corporate development, from formation to financing to operations to exiting, and has served in diverse roles from electrical engineer (Hughes Aircraft) to an associate at major law firms (Latham &Watkins, Morrison & Foerster) to general counsel for a series of technology and financial services companies to co-founder and managing director for a family of venture funds (Miramar Venture Partners).

Currently, Mr. Holmen provides legal services to investors through his boutique law firm Investor Counsel, focused on the venture capital and private equity markets.  His work encompasses fund formation, financing and operations, structuring and negotiating investments, mergers and acquisition, and purchaser representation.  In addition, he continues to serve as a Managing Director for the legacy (fully invested) Miramar Venture Partners funds.  Mr. Holmen also has served as an adjunct professor, teaching “Venture Capital Law” at the UC, Irvine Law School and “Investing in New Ventures” at USC’s Marshall School of Business, in addition to writing about venture and M&A matters.  He received his B.S. in Electrical Engineering from Stanford University and his J.D. from UC Berkeley School of Law (Boalt Hall).

Tom Ricks, MBA

Tom Ricks has been a member of the Board of Directors since 2015. Mr. Ricks is the former Chief Investment Officer of H&S Ventures LLC, a private investment firm. Prior to taking this position with H&S Ventures, he was Chief Executive Officer of The University of Texas Investment Management Company. Mr. Ricks also served as Vice Chancellor for Asset Management for The University of Texas System and as Executive Director of Finance and Private Investments. He has been a director of Newfield Exploration Company (NYSE:NFX) since 1992 and is Chairman of its Audit Committee. He is a former director of BDM International, DTM Corporation, LifeCell Corporation and Argus Pharmaceuticals. Mr. Ricks also previously served on the Investment Committee of the University of California Foundation, Irvine and previously served on the board of the Ocean Institute.   Mr. Ricks holds a B.A. in Economics from Trinity College, an M.B.A. from the University of Chicago.

NEWS

 

CAREERS

 

Sensei Bio is an innovator positioned to build the next generation of immuno-oncology therapeutics. We have deep expertise in developing novel biologic therapies for cancer patients where unmet needs remain high.

Integrity
Excellence
Innovation
Teamwork
 

We are a patient-focused, team-oriented, and product-driven organization. Our diverse employee base is united by a common vision: to be a globally recognized leader in the discovery, development and commercialization of precision therapeutics that positively impact the lives of patients. Like our namesake, the sensei, we work hard to constantly improve our and create products that teach the immune system to recognize and attack cancer.

Please check back soon for new job openings.

CONTACT US

 

Sensei Biotherapeutics

620 Professional Drive

Gaithersburg, MD 20879

 

+1.240.243.8000

info@senseibio.com

 
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