Our Team

Western Oncolytics is led and advised by a distinguished group of company-builders and pioneers in the field of oncolytic viral immunotherapy

Leadership

Helena Chaye, Ph.D., J.D.
CEO

Helena has over 20 years of experience in biotechnology industry having held leadership positions in operations, corporate affairs, business development and IP management primarily in oncolytic virotherapy development. Most recently, Helena served as Chief Business Officer at SillaJen Biotherapeutics, Inc. where she managed all operations including corporate and business development strategies, R&D strategy and intellectual property. Prior to joining SillaJen, Helena was the VP of Corporate Affairs & IP at Jennerex Biotherapeutics where she held a variety of leadership positions including head of Op Tech where she oversaw first GMP production of Pexa-Vec (currently in Phase 3). Helena received her B.S. Biochemistry and her Ph.D. in Genetics from the University of British Columbia and her J.D. from Dalhousie University.

Stephen H. Thorne, Ph.D.
Chief Scientific Officer

Steve Thorne co-founded Western Oncolytics in 2014 and currently serves as Chief Scientific Officer. He is a leader in the field of oncolytic viral immunotherapy and previously co-founded Jennerex, which is currently advancing Pexa-Vec through late-stage clinical trials. Steve was previously a Professor of Cell Biology and Immunology at the University of Pittsburgh and received his B.A. from Oxford University, UK and Ph.D. from Imperial College of London. Steve has served in post doctorate roles at Surrey University, Cancer Research UK, and Stanford University and has authored more than 65 scientific publications in the field.

James M. Burke M.D.
Acting CMO

Dr. James Burke is a UCSF trained hematologist and oncologist who has led clinical development of gene therapy and oncolytic viruses for cancer for over 15 years including multiple first in human studies. Most recently, Dr. Burke served as CMO of Sillajen leading phase 1-3 global development of a vaccinia virus platform for multiple cancers including HCC, RCC, and CRC. The global phase 3 registration trial targeting advanced HCC represents one of the largest oncolytic studies conducted to date spanning four continents. Aside from Sillajen, Dr. Burke led clinical development at Turnstone including the maraba virus prime-boost oncolytic virus program as CMO. Earlier, Dr. Burke was at gene therapy and immunology pioneer Cell Genesys where he led development of the oncolytic adenovirus program as well as lentivirus, AAV, and tumor vaccine programs. Throughout his career he has had extensive interaction with global regulatory authorities and key academicians, led clinical development of numerous agents, built expert research teams, presented his research findings in key scientific journals and symposia, and led medical discussions and negotiations with external financing entities including venture capital and pharma.

Georg Roth, Ph.D.
Acting CTO

Georg Roth, PhD advises the company on process development and manufacturing. Georg served as Chief Operating Officer and Senior Vice President of Technical Operations at SillaJen Biotherapeutics, where he was responsible for managing U.S. operations and heading all technical functions for the development of oncolytic viruses. Prior to SillaJen, he worked as Vice President of Technical Operations at Jennerex, with responsibilities in process development, analytical development and manufacturing of oncolytic viruses. Georg was Director of Technical Affairs at Dynavax and also established an international consulting company specializing in bioprocess technology. He also held positions of increasing responsibility at Berlex Laboratories. Altogether Georg has over 30 years of experience in the pharmaceutical industry. Georg earned a diploma and PhD in Chemical Engineering from Technical University Berlin, Germany.

Ursula Fritsch, PharmD
Acting Chief Regulatory Officer

Ursula Fritsch, PharmD advises the company on regulatory affairs, quality and compliance issues. Ursula served as Senior Vice President of Regulatory Affairs and Quality Assurance at SillaJen Biotherapeutics where she was responsible for managing regulatory and quality compliance. Ursula led SillaJen’s global regulatory strategy and worldwide regulatory negotiations for the company’s lead Phase 3 product (Pexa-Vec) and other projects at various stages of development. Prior to her position at SillaJen, she served as Vice President of Regulatory Affairs and Quality Assurance at Jennerex. She led the regulatory function at Onyx Pharmaceuticals, Anthera Pharmaceuticals and Peninsula Pharmaceuticals and had positions of increasing responsibility at Genentech. She has over 25 years of experience in managing regulatory affairs, compliance and quality. Ursula earned a BA from University of Nebraska and PharmD from Creighton University.

Ian Magazine
Acting CFO

Ian Magazine is currently acting CFO of Western Oncolytics. Ian has extensive experience as a founder, investor and finance and operating executive for a host of enterprises as a serial entrepreneur in the life sciences and technology industry. Ian was an initial member of Nextel’s management team, leading the company through early strategic investments, intensive M&A growth, and ultimately acquisition in 2005 by Sprint for $35B. Ian has also led successful financing rounds and acquisitions of emerging companies as CFO of PNA Innovations, VP of Finance and Operations of 4DK Technologies, and COO of Reinheimer & Company. He holds a B.A. in Economics from SUNY at Binghamton and completed M.B.A. courses at Pace University.

Elizabeth Duckett, J.D.
General Counsel

Betsy joined Western Oncolytics as consulting General Counsel in 2017, managing the company’s legal affairs. She has more than 16 years of experience across all legal matters within the biotech and pharmaceutical industry. Betsy has held senior leadership roles with RainDance Technologies and Elan Pharmaceuticals, and has worked as a consulting in-house counsel for Sunovion, Accuray, Genentech, and Actelion. Prior to going in-house, she was an attorney in the life sciences tech licensing group at Morrison & Foerster and a patent litigation associate at Oblon Spivak. She is a registered patent attorney and holds a J.D. from the University of Pittsburgh School of Law and a B.S. in Chemistry from William & Mary.

Katy Wack, Ph.D.
VP, Development

Katy is the VP Development of Western Oncolytics, where she leads research, pre-IND and clinical programs for all pipeline products,and also directs the process development lab. Prior to joining Western Oncolytics, Katy was lead scientist and project manager at Omnyx, where she designed and managed their PMA clinical study for a class III medical device. Katy is well-published across several bioengineering applications and holds a Ph.D. in Cell Biology from University of Pittsburgh, an M.S. from MIT in Toxicology and Bioengineering, and a B.S. from Carnegie Mellon.

Scientific Advisory Board

Greg M Delgoffe, PhD
University of Pittsburgh

Jennifer Grandis, MD
University of California San Francisco

Joy A. Cavagnaro, PhD
Access BIO

Jon Wigginton, MD
Macrogenics

Lisa Butterfield, PhD
University of California San Francisco

Terry Hermiston PhD
Coagulant Therapeutics

Clinical Advisory Board

Jorge Nieva, MD
USC

Jonathan E. Rosenberg, MD
Memorial Sloan Kettering

Dmitriy Zamarin, MD, PhD
Memorial Sloan Kettering

Mitesh Borad, MD
Mayo Clinic

Hardev Pandha
University of Surrey

John Nemunaitis, MD
University of Toledo

Board of Directors

Stephen H. Thorne, Ph.D.
Director

Steve Thorne co-founded Western Oncolytics in 2014 and currently serves as Chief Scientific Officer and acting CEO. He is a leader in the field of oncolytic viral immunotherapy and previously founded Jennerex, which is currently advancing Pexa-Vec through late-stage clinical trials. Steve was previously a Professor of Cell Biology and Immunology at the University of Pittsburgh and received his B.A. from Oxford University, UK and Ph.D. from Imperial College of London. Steve has served in post doctorate roles at Surrey University, Cancer Research UK, and Stanford University and has authored more than 65 scientific publications in the field.

Kurt Rote, M.B.A.
Director

Kurt Rote co-founded Western Oncolytics and led the company through technology licensing from the University of Pittsburgh, seed and Series A fundraising, and Western’s partnership with Pfizer for WO-12. Kurt previously served as Head of Product Development and Marketing at BiognoSYS AG and in Strategy and Business Development roles at Holcim US Inc. He holds an M.B.A. from the International Institute for Management Development in Switzerland and a B.S.E from Duke University.

Richard Jones, M.B.A.
Director

Rick Jones is a seasoned executive and serves on the board of several companies in addition to Western Oncolytics, including Pegasystems, Inc. and Colo5 LLC. He was a former President, COO, and Vice Chairman at Pegasystems. Rick has positions of Chief Executive Officer of Fleet Investment Services, Inc., Executive Vice President for FMR LLC, Principal at Booz Allen Hamilton, Inc., European Head at Hewitt Associates, Inc. and Member-Operating Committee at Barnett Banks, Inc. Rick holds an M.B.A. from Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania and B.S. from Duke University.

Tom Leonard
Director

Tom Leonard is a serial entrepreneur with a successful track record of founding and leading companies in the tech space. In addition to Western Oncolytics, he serves on the boards of Caretta Data and DMEautomotive. Previously, Tom was COO and CIO of DMEautomotive. He has also co-founded and led several ventures including Clear Voice Research, Red Rocket Solutions, Encore Development, and TML Systems. Early in his career, Tom was a General Manager at Symantec and a Software Architect at Harris Corporation. He holds an M.S. and B.S. in Computer Sciences from Florida State University.