Team

Dr. Claudia A. Penafuerte Diaz, PhD
Co-Founder / CEO

Dr. Claudia A. Penafuerte Diaz (inventor of FIST) is an immunologist with 20 years of experience in cancer immunology and immunotherapy. In 2010, she obtained her Ph.D. degree at McGill University (Experimental Medicine Department). During this period, she worked under the supervision of Dr. Jacques Galipeau conducting several research projects aiming to potentiate the immune system response against tumor progression and metastases. Specifically, she developed several chimeric proteins with anti-cancer properties and published important studies as the first author in journals specialized in cancer immunology as well as obtained a US patent for FIST technology.

In 2016, she concluded her post-doctoral studies at the Goodman Cancer Research Centre, in the laboratory of Dr. Michel L. Tremblay, an internationally recognized expert in the field of protein tyrosine phosphatases (PTP) and signaling. During this period, she conducted two significant projects: the first one was to identify early blood biomarkers of cancer cachexia. This work provides the first indication in human that cachexia can be detected early and could potentially rapidly be treated with existing pharmacological means. In the second project, she developed a new approach to potentiate dendritic cell (DC) maturation and activation by modulating the activity of PTP1B and TC-PTP. Her findings led to a new generation of dendritic cell-based vaccines that is complementary to existing immunotherapies. This technology is so promising that it led to the establishment of a novel biotech company named Kanyr Pharma.

During her career, she has obtained a number of research grants, research awards, and fellowships including US Army Award, CIHR fellowship; High fatality cancer grant, PSVT University and Industry grant in Immunotherapy among others.


Dr. Moutih Rafei, PhD
Chief Scientific Advisor Immuno-Oncology

Dr. Rafei is an associate professor at the Department of Pharmacology and Physiology at Université de Montreal. Since the beginning of his graduate studies in 2004, he has been interested in T-cell ontogeny and modulation. He completed a PhD in Experimental Medicine at McGill University in the laboratory of Dr. Jacques Galipeau, a leader in the development of immune-related therapies for catastrophic illnesses. His research led to many seminal discoveries. Amongst these, Dr. Rafei developed and characterized a novel type of biopharmaceuticals, termed fusokines, which exhibited potent efficacy in murine models of multiple sclerosis and rheumatoid arthritis. He then pursued a post-doctoral training at Université de Montréal in the laboratory of Dr. Claude Perreault, a pioneer in antigen presentation, where he tackled fundamental questions regarding T-cell development. During his post-doctoral training, he identified a novel function for IL-21 in thymopoiesis, a discovery that his current team is actively developing as a next generation therapy for stem cell transplantation. Overall, Dr. Rafei accumulated profound knowledge and insight in the fields of T-cell development, stem cell biology, cancer immunotherapy and autoimmune diseases. He is also actively involved in the discovery and development of novel anti-cancer therapeutics. The results of his research were manifested in concrete academic and professional achievements including 23 awards and recognitions, 20 high impact peer-reviewed publications, 5 reviews, 2 book chapter, 1 monograph, and 4 patents.


Collin Horner 
Co-Founder / Business Development

Collin Horner has over 20 years in the field of business development, marketing & communication. After working for 20 years in the industry developing projects for healthcare, real estate development, and product branding has launched numerous successful marketing and advertising campaigns for global brands as well as early-stage startups. Now focusing on the business development side of projects is working with Cura Therapeutics to raise their first seed round and series A to advance our technology towards clinical trials.


Dr. Jacques Galipeau M.D.
Scientific Advisor

Jacques Galipeau, M.D. FRCP(C) obtained his Medical Degree from the University of Montreal and completed specialty training in internal medicine at McGill University. He went on to the New England Medical Center in Boston for subspecialty training in Hematology & Medical Oncology followed by a two-year scientific fellowship in gene Therapy at St-Jude Children’s research hospital in Memphis Tennessee. 

Starting in 1997, Dr. Galipeau served as faculty at McGill University before joining Emory University in 2009 as a Professor of Hematology & Oncology and Director of the Emory Personalized Immunotherapy Center. Since September 2016, he has been the Don and Marilyn Anderson Professor of Oncology within the Department of Medicine and UW Carbone Comprehensive Cancer Center at the University of Wisconsin in Madison, and is the inaugural Associate Dean for Therapeutics Development at the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine & Public Health.

Dr. Galipeau has an NIH-funded research program in the study and use of mesenchymal stromal cells and B-regulatory cells. He is an internationally recognized expert in translational development of cell therapies and was the sponsor of a series of FDA-sanctioned clinical trials examining the use of autologous marrow-derived mesenchymal stromal cells for Crohn's disease and GvHD. At UW, he has sponsored two new clinical trials examining the use of allogeneic CMV-specific T-cells for drug resistant viral reactivation in the setting of BMT and kidney transplantation. He has also developed the field of fusion engineered cytokines known as fusokines, as a novel pharmaceutical means of treating immune disorders and cancer. 

He is the director of the University of Wisconsin Advanced Cell Therapy Program whose mission is to develop personalized cell therapies for immune and malignant disorders and to promote and deploy first-in-human clinical trials of UW cell therapy innovations to improve outcomes for children and adults.