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Puja Sapra, PhD

Vice President and Chief Scientific Officer, Targeted Therapeutics Unit, Oncology Research

I am Vice President and Chief Scientific Officer of the Targeted Therapeutics Discovery Unit at the Oncology Research and Development, Pfizer. In this role, I lead the research group responsible for preclinical development of tumor-targeted therapeutics including antibody drug conjugate (ADCs), nanomedicines and bispecific T cell redirecting molecules. I joined Pfizer in 2009 as Associate Director, Oncology research Unit. Since 2009, in Pfizer, along with my colleagues, I built industry leading platforms and pipeline in targeted oncology arena and brought in several new technologies.

Prior to joining Pfizer, I led Pharmacology groups at Enzon Pharmaceuticals, NJ and Immunomedics Inc., NJ and developed several oncology-based drugs that are undergoing clinical evaluation. I have broad expertise in tumor-targeting strategies and biotherapeutics including immunotherapeutics, liposomal drug delivery system, nanoparticles, antisense oligonucleotide delivery and pegylation technologies. I am a well-recognized expert in the targeted therapeutics field and have given numerous lectures at national and international meetings.

I received my Bachelor's degree from the premier medical college of India, All India Institute of Medical Sciences. I was one of the two Indians selected to be awarded the prestigious British Chevening scholarship to pursue MS in Pharmacology from UK. I received my PhD in Pharmacology from University of Alberta on an AHFMR scholarship, in the lab of Theresa M Allen who pioneered the concept of Stealth liposomal technology that ultimately resulted in the development of Doxil®. My doctorate work focused on development of novel antibody-targeted liposomal drugs. I am an author of >50 scientific publications, book chapters and inventor/ co-inventor on >25 patents and have been a recipient of NIH SBIR grant. In 2017, I was recognized as one of the Healthcare Business Women Association Rising Star for Pfizer.

RESEARCH AREA(S)

I am the Chief Scientific Officer of the Targeted therapeutics Discovery group. The group is advancing the frontiers of cancer biology with a “toolbox” of differentiated technologies and targeted cancer therapies that selectively attack cancer cells while sparing normal healthy tissues. The group has deep expertise in the areas of various cancer-targeted modalities including nanomedicines, bioconjugates, antibody-drug conjugates (ADCs) and redirected T-cell bispecifics. Importantly, the group has contributed to the development of approved ADCs such as Mylotarg and Besponsa and advanced several other ADCs and redirected T-cell bispecifics in to early and late stage clinical development. The group has a deep biology focus on understanding innate immune sensing pathways and is combining the fields of immune-oncology and nanomedicine to develop novel platforms for delivering cancer immunotherapies.

PUBLICATIONS

  1. Gemtuzumab Ozogamicin (GO) Inclusion to Induction Chemotherapy Eliminates Leukemic Initiating Cells and Significantly Improves Survival in Mouse Models of Acute Myeloid Leukemia. Neoplasia. 2018 Jan;20(1):1-11. Zhang CC, Yan Z, Pascual B, Jackson-Fisher A, Huang DS, Zong Q, Elliott M, Fan C, Huser N, Lee J, Sung M, Sapra P.
    https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/29172076
  2. Targeting the 5T4 oncofetal glycoprotein with an antibody drug conjugate (A1mcMMAF) improves survival in patient-derived xenograft models of acute lymphoblastic leukemia. Haematologica. 2017 Jun;102(6):1075-1084. McGinn OJ, Krishnan S, Bourquin JP, Sapra P, Dempsey C, Saha V, Stern PL.
    https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/28341731
  3. A PTK7-targeted antibody-drug conjugate reduces tumor-initiating cells and induces sustained tumor regressions. Science Translational Medicine- 2017 Jan 11;9(372). Damelin M, Bankovich A, Bernstein J, Lucas J, Chen L, Williams S, Park A, Aguilar J, Ernstoff E, Charati M, Dushin R, Aujay M, Lee C, Ramoth H, Milton M, Hampl J, Lazetic S, Pulito V, Rosfjord E, Sun Y, King L, Barletta F, Betts A, Guffroy M, Falahatpisheh H, O'Donnell CJ, Stull R, Pysz M, Escarpe P, Liu D, Foord O, Gerber HP, Sapra P, Dylla SJ.
    https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/28077676
  4. Enhanced Antitumor Activity of an Anti-5T4 Antibody-Drug Conjugate in Combination with PI3K/mTOR inhibitors or Taxanes. Clin Cancer Res. 2016 Jan 15;22(2):383-94. Shor B., Kahler J, Dougher M, Xu J, Mack M, Rosfjord E, Wang F, Melamud E, Sapra P.
    https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/26319086
  5. Damelin M, etal, , Sapra P, Gerber HP, Dylla SJ. Anti-EFNA4 Calicheamicin Conjugates Effectively Target Triple-Negative Breast and Ovarian Tumor-Initiating Cells to Result in Sustained Tumor Regressions. Clin Cancer Res. 2015 Sep 15;21(18):4165-73.
    https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/26015513

EDUCATION

All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS) Delhi, India (Premier Medical Institute of India), B.Sc. Hons. Human Biology, 1998
University of Strathclyde, Glasgow, UK, M.Sc. Pharmacology, 1999
University of Alberta, Canada, Dept. of Pharmacology, Ph.D. Pharmacology, 2003

AWARDS & HONORS

Pfizer Individual performance awards, 2011 – 2016
Healthcare Business Women Association (HBA)
Rising Star for Pfizer, Featured on the cover page of the HBA Magazine “HBAdvantage”
Pfizer Pearl River Award, Pfizer 3R award
British Chevening Scholar awarded by the British Council and UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office
Alberta Heritage foundation for medical research award (AHFMR)

At Pfizer we work collaboratively with a single mission of making difference in patients' lives. Drug discovery and development requires a solid teamwork effort. I am fortunate to be surrounded by extremely talented colleagues who have deep expertise and knowledge in various aspects of drug discovery and development and work collaboratively to bring medicines to our patients.