Alliance for Cancer Gene Therapy Announces New CEO and President

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Barbara Netter and John Walter. Mr. Walter will lead the organization and be the successor to the co-founder and president, Barbara Netter.Contributed photo

Alliance for Cancer Gene Therapy (ACGT), the nation’s only nonprofit dedicated exclusively to cell and gene therapies for cancer, announced today that it has brought on John Walter as its new CEO and president.

Mr. Walter will lead the organization and be the successor to the co-founder and president Barbara Netter. Walter is the former CEO of the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society whose legacy at the Society included dramatically expanding research to focus on partnerships with biotech and academia. He is also credited with increasing the Society’s funding to more than $320 million annually. At ACGT, Walter will continue to support scientific cancer gene/cell and immunotherapy research, which has recently proven to be some of the most exciting advances in treating cancer.

Barbara Netter co-founded ACGT with her late husband Edward (1933-2011) in 2001 after their daughter-in-law’s death from breast cancer. They were inspired to create the nation’s only nonprofit dedicated to cell and gene therapies after attending a lecture on gene therapy by Dr. Savio Woo, chairman of the Department of Gene and Cell Medicine at Mt. Sinai Hospital in New York City. Dr. Woo went on to head and chair ACGT’s Scientific Advisory Council and held that position for 14 years, retiring last year.

“Edward Netter was the primary champion of gene therapy and what Edward envisioned is coming to pass,” noted Barbara Netter. “Prior to 2001, there were no gene therapy treatments. Now we are seeing gene therapy success with commercialization. Several companies are finding gene therapy as a significant platform for investment. Edward’s vision was ahead of his time. He passed away just six months before Dr. Carl June of the University of Pennsylvania and an ACGT grantee made his announcement in the New England Journal of Medicine that his discovery of using T-Cell Cart 19 successfully treated leukemia. Edward would be so pleased to know that humanity is now reaping the benefits of his forward thinking. As time has passed, I have concluded that it is my responsibility to the mission of ACGT, the legacy of Edward, and my vision as a co-founder, to take steps to provide an appropriate succession to my role at ACGT so that the organization will continue to grow as it is led into the future. I remain totally committed to ACGT’s mission and intend to continue to serve as an active member of the ACGT Board and executive committee.”

ACGT has accomplished many milestones during the past 15 years under the helm of Barbara and Edward Netter. The organization has funded 50 scientific grants in the U.S. and Canada to conduct and accelerate critically needed innovative cancer research. Since its inception, ACGT has awarded 34 grants to Young Investigators and 16 grants to Clinical Investigators, totaling more than $26.4 million in funding. ACGT was one of the initial funding partners for the pilot program on the breakthrough cancer research on successfully treating leukemia through gene therapy that was pioneered by Dr. Carl June at the University of Pennsylvania and Dr. Michel Sadelain at Memorial Sloan Kettering. This work has been touted in recent national documentaries on cancer on PBS and HBO featuring several ACGT scientists.

With the addition of John Walter as CEO and president of ACGT, it is Netter’s hope that ACGT will move to the next level in scientific funding of promising cancer research and possibly develop pivotal partnerships with important biotech companies that are now taking notice of cell, gene and immunotherapy treatments for cancer. Margaret Cianci will continue in her role as executive director.

Netter believes they have found the right person to succeed her. “I am very pleased to be able to turn over the mantle to John Walter who is coming to us with incredible qualifications. It is with confidence that I think John will grow our organization and move it forward. His skill sets and experience in fundraising, board development, operations, business and financial acumen, as well as his background with The Leukemia and Lymphoma Society and the overall cancer space, fits well with ACGT.”

“I am thrilled to be coming on board to lead the vision and direction of ACGT,” John Walter said. “ACGT’s focus in cell, gene and immunotherapy for uncovering treatments for all cancer, as well as the remarkable people that make up the board and scientific advisory council, were major considerations as to why I came on board. This is truly an incredible time to be working in cancer research with significant breakthroughs on the way for patients.”

Prior to joining ACGT, John Walter led The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society and was there for 18 years in several positions from CEO, COO, executive vice president of Strategic Alliances & Business Development, CFO, and senior vice president of Finance & Information Technology. Before to his time with The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society, he was the director of Financial Planning and Budgeting with the March of Dimes where he was responsible for managing the March of Dimes $200 million budget; he was also worked at t Donaldson, Lufkin & Jenrette, as well as with Bristol-Myers Squibb where he worked in more than 30 countries accessing business operations of companies ranging in size from $3 million to more than $1 billion. He holds a Bachelor of Science degree in economics from Southern Connecticut State University.

About Alliance for Cancer Gene Therapy (ACGT)

Established in 2001, ACGT is the nation’s only non-profit dedicated exclusively to cell and gene therapy treatments for all types of cancer. One hundred percent of contributions go directly to research. ACGT has funded 50 grants in the U.S. and Canada since its founding in 2001 by Barbara Netter and her late husband Edward, to conduct and accelerate critically needed innovative research. Since its inception, ACGT has awarded 34 grants to Young Investigators and 16 grants to Clinical Investigators, totaling more than $26.4 million in funding. ACGT is located at 96 Cummings Point Road, Stamford, Connecticut 06902; 203-358-5055. To learn more, visit acgtfoundation.org or join the ACGT community on Facebook, Twitter and YouTube at @acgtfoundation.

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