Robert Rickert, PhD

SVP, Chief Scientific Officer, Cancer Immunology Discovery
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I joined the immuno-oncology efforts at Pfizer after 20 years in academia, initially as an Assistant Professor in the Division of Biological Science at the University of California, San Diego, and then at Sanford Burnham Prebys Medical Discovery Institute (SBP). At SBP, I was a Professor and Director of the Tumor Microenvironment and Cancer Immunology Program in the NCI-designated Cancer Center. Currently, I am the Chief Scientific Officer of the Cancer Immunology Discover (CID) Unit of Pfizer Oncology Research & Development, which is located in South San Francisco. Our driving interest is to understand how cells of the immune system are instructed or foiled in eradicating cancer cells within the tumor microenvironment. Understanding these cellular interactions at the molecular level holds the promise of developing novel immunotherapeutics that can confer durable anti-tumor responses.


The Cancer Immunology Discovery (CID) team in South San Francisco is focused on the generation of large molecule immunotherapeutics that promote anti-tumor activity or counter immunosuppression in the tumor microenvironment. To achieve this goal, protein engineers, immunologists and cancer biologists at CID combine talents to advance projects from concept to clinical compounds. Protein engineering efforts are supported by a world class antibody generation program, and a commitment to effective biotherapeutic design that stresses both ingenuity and simplicity. Our immunologists and cancer biologists take a holistic approach to understanding the interplay of tumor, stromal and immune cells in the tumor microenvironment, striving to define the axes of intercellular communication that could be leveraged to generate novel therapeutics.


  1. PDK1 regulates B cell differentiation and homeostasis. Proc. Nat. Acad. Sci. 2014 Jul 1;111(26):9573-8. doi: 10.1073/pnas.1314562111 Baracho, G.V., Zhu Z., Cato M.H., Jaren O.R., Hobeika E., Reth M., and Rickert, R.C.
  2. Essential Role for Survivin in the Proliferative Expansion of Progenitor and Mature B Cells. J Immunol. 2016 Mar 1;196(5):2195-204. doi: 10.4049/jimmunol.1501690. Miletic A.V., Jellusova J., Cato M.H., Lee C.R., Baracho G.V., Conway E.M., and Rickert R.C.
  3. Differing requirements for MALT1 function in peripheral B cell survival and differentiation. J Immunol. 2017 Feb 1;198(3):1066-1080. doi: 10.4049/jimmunol.1502518. Lee P., Zhu Z., Hachmann J., Nojima T., Kitamura D., Salvesen G.S., and Rickert R.C.
  4. GSK3 is a metabolic checkpoint regulator in B cells. Nat Immunol. 2017 Mar;18(3):303-312. doi: 10.1038/ni.3664 Jellusova, J., Cato M.H., Apgar J.R., Ramezani-Rad P., Leung C., Chen C., Richardson A.D., Conner E.M., Benschop R.J., Woodgett J.R., and Rickert R.C.
  5. Metabolic regulation of the humoral response. Immunity. 2017 May 16;46(5):743-755. doi: 10.1016/j.immuni.2017.04.009. Boothby M. and Rickert R.C.


University of Wisconsin, Madison, Biological Sciences, B.S., 1986
University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, Microbiology and Immunology, Ph.D., 1992
University of Cologne, Institute for Genetics, Postdoctoral Associate, 1997


Fellowship recipient, Kölner Verein zur Förderung der Immunologie, 1995 – 1997
Fellowship recipient, Hellman Fellows Program for junior faculty, 2001 – 2002
Recipient, Concern Foundation Award, 2004 – 2006
American Cancer Society Research Scholar Award, 2004 – 2008
Outstanding alumnus, Department of Microbiology & Immunology, UNC-Chapel Hill, 2013

The field of cancer immunology is in its infancy and yet we have already witnessed highly durable responses in some patients responding to check point inhibitors. While these treatments demonstrate the promise of immunotherapy, challenges remain to develop novel approaches that deliver effective, safe and durable treatments across tumor types. That’s the challenge we embrace every day and drives our discovery research.