Cancer-fighting Ottawa startup Turnstone Biologics bolsters executive ranks

Cancer

One of Ottawa’s most-lauded biotech startups is strengthening its leadership team with several veteran pharmaceutical executives as the company enters “a new phase” of business growth.

Turnstone Biologics was cofounded by three Ontario physicians including Dr. John Bell of the Ottawa Hospital and is developing cancer-fighting viruses. The startup grabbed headlines in late 2016 when it raised US$41 million in a series-B venture capital financing round to further develop its groundbreaking treatments that use the body’s own immune system to attack malignant tumours.  

More recently, it inked a deal with U.S. biopharmaceutical firm AbbVie to market and sell its products. Turnstone’s treatments are currently undergoing clinical trials.

This month, the Ottawa-based company announced several key executive hires, many of whom bring decades of leadership experience at pharmaceutical firms. They include:

  • Jane Pritchett Henderson, who joins as chief financial officer. Henderson was previously the chief financial officer and senior vice-president of corporate development with Voyager Therapeutics and has also served as chief financial and business officer of Kolltan Pharmaceuticals.

  • Kristin Gustafson is Turnstone’s new senior vice-president of human resources and facilities. She previously held the same role with Kite Pharma.

  • Steve Bernstein is joining the company as senior vice-president of clinical research and development. He was previously the chair of immuno-oncology translational research and development and head of integrated science at Bristol-Myers Squibb.

  • David Stojdl is Turntone’s senior vice-president and head of discovery research as well as a professor at the University of Ottawa. He was a cofounder and consultant to Jennerex Biotherapeutics.

  • Adina Pelusio is Turnstone’s vice-president of clinical operations and previously held the same position at SillaJen Biotherapeutics (formerly Jennerex).

“Each will play a critical role as we continue our relentless pursuit to bring forward important new viral immunotherapies to patients,” said Turnstone CEO Sammy Farah in a statement.

At last check, the startup was on pace to reach 50 staff between its offices in Ottawa, Hamilton and New York by the end of 2018.

In recent months, the local firm has been named one of the world’s top 15 biotech startups as well as one of the 50 most financially attractive firms in Canada.