Meet the team: ITTC and Translational Science at UPMC Enterprises

March 20, 2018

UPMC Enterprises will play a key role in the new UPMC Immune Transplant and Therapy Center (ITTC), a $200 million project announced Feb. 13 that is harnessing the power of the human immune system to treat and cure a wide range of diseases.

The four-member ITTC team at Enterprises, which was formed last year and is headed by Executive Vice President Jeanne Cunicelli, is focused on commercializing immunotherapies and other leading-edge science developed by UPMC and University of Pittsburgh researchers.

“Accelerating the transfer of scientific advances from the lab to the bedside is a priority for UPMC Enterprises,” Cunicelli said. “Building on Pittsburgh’s strengths in medicine and technology, we can have a positive impact on the region’s economy by creating companies based on these exciting advances.”

The UPMC ITTC, which involves medical researchers focused on advancing the science of cancer care, transplantation, and aging-related diseases, will be housed in an eight-story innovation hub in Pittsburgh’s Bloomfield neighborhood. Over the next two years, a Pitt-led renovation project will convert the building, a former Ford Motor Co. factory and showroom at 5000 Baum Blvd., into a world-class space for labs, offices, startup companies, and industry partners.

At UPMC Enterprises, the strategic importance of the ITTC is reflected in the recent adoption of Translational Science as one of two primary focus areas for the organization:

  • Translational Science involves collaborating with Pitt to accelerate the application of scientific discoveries to deliver new models of care.
  • Technology Solutions, which incorporates our traditional domain teams working on business services, consumer applications, clinical tools, and population health.

The ITTC team at Enterprises is comprised of the following people:

Jeanne Cunicelli, executive vice president:

“I oversee the commercialization activities related to the ITTC initiatives. In this role, I work closely with the ITTC’s leaders, Steven Shapiro, MD, and Timothy Billiar, MD, to ensure that projects have defined commercialization pathways. My team and I dedicate a great deal of time to understanding each ITTC project and supporting the investigators of those projects in their efforts to form a company, strike a partnership, initiate a clinical trial or pursue another commercial pathway. In addition to my core team, Eliza Swann, Cynthia Church, and Amy Cook, to name a few, provide valuable intellectual property, marketing and branding, and human resources expertise. Finally, we coordinate frequently with Pitt as many of the principal investigators have Pitt appointments so we need to ensure we’re following Pitt guidelines.

“Prior to this role, I worked as a venture capitalist in the Bay Area where I invested in life sciences companies at varying stages from seed to more mature entities. I was fortunate to have UPMC as an investor in my funds which is how I met Tal Heppenstall. Between my work with UPMC and my ties to Carnegie Mellon University, I’ve been entrenched in Pittsburgh for a long time, which serves me well as we embark on making Pittsburgh a world leading Immune Transplant and Therapy Center.”

Matthias Kleinz, DVM, PhD, senior director:

“I joined the ITTC team in July 2017 to help UPMC build a team that invests in and commercializes innovative translational science, hoping to leverage my diverse background in science and business. Following training as a veterinary surgeon in Germany, I completed a PhD in Human Cardiovascular Pharmacology at the University of Cambridge, United Kingdom. After a short stint running a research lab at the Royal Veterinary College in London, I spent the last nine years as a management consultant at L.E.K. Consulting in Boston, working with hundreds of life science companies to develop and commercialize groundbreaking diagnostics and therapeutics that address critical unmet needs in human health and disease.

“My work at L.E.K. included leading a string of projects helping researchers at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia develop a business plan and spin out a gene therapy startup focused on curing inherited blindness. Today, that startup is Spark Therapeutics, which has the first approved gene therapy in the U.S. for reinstating vision in children with RPE65 mutations. The company is listed on NASDAQ with a valuation of $2 billion.”

Rob Lin, PhD, CFA, senior director:

“My background spans both the science and business worlds. I earned a PhD in Genetics at Harvard and then transitioned into business and corporate development at Millennium Pharmaceuticals (now Takeda Oncology). My next position was leading the finance and strategy activities for the Global Health Program at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. I joined the ITTC team in October 2017 and my role is to help commercialize the world-class immunotherapy research being done at UPMC.”

Mariel Shlomchik, associate business analyst

“I graduated from the University of Chicago last June with a degree in Biology. I joined the ITTC team in August to assist with market and business analysis for commercialization opportunities and to support of the immune transplant and therapy work that is being done at UPMC and Pitt.”