Meet Jennifer Chow, the Chief Executive Officer and Managing Director of Chimeric Therapeutics, a cutting-edge biotech company revolutionizing the field of cell therapy. With a passion for developing life-saving treatments for patients in need, Jennifer has led Chimeric Therapeutics to become a leader in innovative cancer therapies. She is bringing the promise of cell therapy to life, with a singular focus on developing the most innovative and effective treatments for patients in need.
Under Jennifer’s leadership, Chimeric Therapeutics has developed a pipeline of groundbreaking treatments that utilize CAR-T cell technology to target a range of cancers. Her dedication to advancing science and improving patient outcomes has earned her widespread recognition in the industry, including being named one of “Australia’s Top 10 Influential Healthcare Leaders in 2023.” Jennifer is a true pioneer in the field of cell therapy, known for her ability to drive innovation and deliver results.
With a background in biotechnology and a deep understanding of the complexities of cell therapy development, Jennifer is uniquely positioned to lead Chimeric Therapeutics to new heights. She has a proven track record of identifying novel cell therapies with the potential to cure cancer and driving their discovery and development to commercialization. Jennifer is committed to building a world-class team of researchers, scientists, and clinicians who share her vision for developing transformative treatments that have the potential to change the lives of millions of patients worldwide and change the course of history for cancer patients.
As a leading figure in the biotech and pharmaceutical field, Jennifer also has experience leading commercial development for more than 15 pipeline cell therapies, including FDA-approved CAR T cell therapies, Abecma™, Breyzani™, Yescarta™, and Tecartus™. With over 20 years of hands-on professional experience in global marketing, analytics, and commercial operations, and having once been a Global Cell Therapy Commercial Lead, Jennifer possesses a wealth of knowledge and a clear understanding of global commercial strategies and operating models for developing efficient cell therapies.
Jennifer aligns these experiences, skills, and wealth of knowledge in leading Chimeric Therapeutics, a clinical-stage cell therapy company run by a world-class team of cell therapy pioneers and experts dedicated to changing the course of history for cancer patients.
Let’s dive in to learn about Jennifer’s thoughts on drug development for cancer and how she became an influential healthcare leader in the industry.
Jennifer’s Journey in Brief
After Jennifer’s parents immigrated from Australia, Jennifer was born and raised in Canada. Her parents both worked in the medical profession and inspired her career with their life-long commitment to providing the best in patient care. She studied biomedical ethics at the University of Toronto and then entered the pharmaceutical industry. Today, she has over 20+ years of drug development experience focused on oncology.
In the early days of Jennifer’s career, she had the opportunity to work at global pharmaceutical leaders Roche and Celgene where she had the opportunity to launch many meaningful cancer therapies including Avastin, Zelboraf, Abraxane and Revlimid.
Jennifer began her work in cell therapy at Celgene, during the early days of CAR T development, as the initial CAR T cell therapies were just entering the clinic. There she had the opportunity to build out the global commercial model for cell therapy, be part of the early development team for Abecma and Breyzani and lead a newly formed global commercial team. Jennifer then moved to Kite, a Gilead company, where she focused on development of their early-stage pipeline while building out their global commercial marketing, operations and analytic functions. During her time at Celgene and Kite, Jennifer worked on four of the six CAR T cell therapies that are currently approved by the US FDA.
Jennifer then joined Chimeric Therapeutics with the mandate to build a company that would bring the promise of cell therapy- the promise of curative outcomes in cancer to more patients around the world.
Source of Inspiration
Jennifer’s early inspiration comes from her parents and being inspired by how they both cared for their patients. Since that time, her inspiration has come from the patients that she has met over the course of her career. “Being able to meet someone that believes that they’re alive today because of a therapy I worked on is incredibly rewarding and what keeps me focused and driven,” said Jennifer. “I feel very privileged to have met patients that have shared their cancer journey with me. I’ve heard from patients that were told that they would only have months to live and then they received a CAR T cell therapy that I worked on and are still alive and thriving 2, 3, 5, 10 years later. There is no better source of inspiration”.
Jennifer’s Thoughts Behind Chimeric Therapeutics’ Inception
The mission of Chimeric — “To bring the promise of cell therapy to life for more patients.”— is built on the belief that cellular therapies have demonstrated the promise to cure cancer, not just delay disease progression.
Although traditional oncology therapeutics including chemotherapies, targeted therapies and immunotherapies focus on delaying cancer progression, cellular therapies focus on the goal of curing cancer. While this goal sounds incredibly ambitious it is a goal that has been realized as patients that received some of the CAR T cell therapies Jennifer has previously worked on have remained cancer-free 10 years later.
Being able to bring these curative outcomes to more patients has become the mission of Chimeric and has acted as the Northstar upon which the company has grown and developed. As Jennifer and her team discover, develop and move to commercialize new assets their focus has been on bringing the promise of curative outcomes to more patients.
Strategic Pillars at Chimeric Therapeutics
To bring the promise of cell therapy to life for more patients– or to achieve the Chimeric mission, Jennifer and her team have built the company on three strategic pillars; discovering innovative assets, being commercially conscious in their development and having the experience and expertise in their team to be successful.
- Innovative Assets:
The company has built a portfolio that reflects the best innovation in cell therapy today and assets that Jennifer believes to be the most promising for patients. This includes first-in-class autologous CAR T cell therapies designed for solid tumours and best in class allogeneic NK cell therapies designed for patients with both solid tumours and blood cancers.
The company’s two autologous CAR T cell therapies are both first-in-class assets—meaning that Jennifer and her team are the very first people to develop these assets. For them, they did not want to develop the 43rd CD19 CAR T or 55th BCMA CAR T —but instead, they wanted to focus on novel CAR T cell therapies for patients with true unmet medical needs.
CHM 1101, the company’s first asset to be investigated in clinic is a first-in-class CAR T cell therapy that uniquely utilizes Chlorotoxin as its tumour-targeting domain. CHM 1101 is already showing promising safety and efficacy in recurrent/ progressive glioblastoma patients—one of the most deadly and challenging tumours to treat. 70%+ of patients treated at the initial two dose levels of the Phase 1A trial currently underway achieved disease stability with no dose-limiting toxicities. Jennifer and her team are looking forward to the end of 2023 when they expect to be able to look at a larger data set from the Phase 1A trial.
CHM 2101, is a first in class CAR T cell therapy that targets CDH17, an antigen target broadly expressed on gastrointestinal tumours. CHM 2101 has shown incredible promise in preclinical models published in the prestigious Nature Cancer journal showing complete tumour eradication across 7 different types of Gastrointestinal and Neuroendocrine tumours. Jennifer and her team are incredibly excited about seeing how patients will potentially benefit from this therapy as it heads to clinic over the next 12 months.
Chimeric’s allogeneic NK cell platform (CHM 0201) is truly a best-in-class platform that has already demonstrated promising outcomes in a Phase 1A clinical trial. 100% of the blood cancer patients and 66% of the solid tumour patients achieved disease stability, with one Acute Myeloid Leukemia patient achieving a CR (complete response) that has been sustained for over 24 months now. The Phase 1A clinical trial also showed that the CHM 0201 platform has already solved many of the key challenges seen in NK cell development. In the Phase 1A clinical trial, the CHM 0201 cells were shown to be safe with no Graft versus Host Disease (GvHD) utilizing a healthy donor with no HLA matching, to have robust and sustained proliferation of highly cytotoxic cells and to persist for up to 28 days.
- Commercially Conscious Development: A Unique Approach to Cancer Development
Jennifer’s approach to cell therapy development is unique in that the focus is on what she refers to as Commercially Conscious Development. For Jennifer and the team at Chimeric this means that they approach development by focusing on the patient that is waiting for the therapy. The question that Chimeric asks at every stage of development is what do we need to do now and next to take our great scientific ideas and develop them into approvable cancer therapies so that we can get them to the patients that need them as soon as possible?
While many biotech companies are founded on a great scientific idea, they often fail to think past that first stage of development- getting into an initial clinical trial. As a result companies can find themselves stuck in early stages of development for longer than necessary or delayed from moving forward to later stages of development as their operations may not be ready. For Chimeric the focus is on the longer term. The plan from early stage development through to commercialization is developed at the earliest possible stage enabling the Chimeric team to move their assets forward, towards patients, as rapidly as possible.
To this, Jennifer adds, “Ultimately, it is only if you can gain commercial approval that you can actually provide true patient benefit. If you stay in early phase development, by design or because you have not built your path forward, you may benefit a few patients in a clinical trial but the vast majority of patients that need and would benefit from your science will never be able to access it.” “By focusing on the patient, we remain commercially conscious during all aspects of our development, driving our science and technical operations forward towards commercial approval.”
- Cell Therapy Experience and Expertise:
Jennifer believes that Chimeric’s ability to be commercially conscious in development of their innovative scientific assets is dependent upon having a team with the unique experience and expertise that cell therapy development demands.
Jennifer highlights that developing cellular therapies is not like developing antibodies or other drugs. It is very different. Jennifer fully supports the belief that “Cell and gene therapies have the potential to fundamentally reshape the treatment landscape for life-threatening disorders; however, there are many unique considerations about developing and commercializing these agents that cannot be learned from standard small molecules or biologics” (key Lessons for Cell and Gene Therapies, Clarion, April 2021)
With this recognition and appreciation for how critical cell therapy experience and expertise is, many companies specifically try to recruit people that have cell therapy experience. However, there are only a limited number of people out there today with that experience. There just aren’t enough people with expertise in cell and gene therapy to fill all of the roles. This starts at the bench, at the entry-level jobs, and it goes all the way up to the C-suite.” (Bruce Levine, President, International Cell and Gene Therapy Association)
As Jennifer built Chimeric, the recruitment factor was one of the primary things that she focused on, alongside discovering the best science. It was crucial for Jennifer that each role in the company be filled with the best, brightest and most experienced cell therapy people out there. Today, Jennifer believes that one of the things that strongly differentiates Chimeric from other companies that have cell therapy assets in development is the highly experienced team of cell therapy pioneers and experts that they have at the company today.
Although small, the team at Chimeric has over 85 years of experience in developing cell therapies that utilize different cell sources and cell types. The team has worked across many of the leading cell therapy organizations in the world including Celgene, Kite, BMS, Juno, Artiva and Fate and have proven their ability to take assets from early stage development to commercialization being part of the teams’ responsible for the commercial approval of four of the six FDA approved CAR T cell therapies.
This experience combined with a passion to help patients allows the company to stay small, go faster, and avoid many of the pitfalls that other companies in this space face.
In 2023, Jennifer’s goals for the company are simple—to advance the mission to bring the promise of cell therapy to life for more patients with cancer. To attain this, the entire team is focused on continuing to advance the development of Chimeric’s assets towards the patients that need them the most.
“In 2022 we spent a lot of time building our foundation and infrastructure to support clinical development. Now in 2023, we look forward to advancing all of our clinical programs by taking the next steps to bring our therapies closer to patients,” concludes Jennifer.
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