About Us

Our Vision

At Obsidian, we are pioneering controllable cell and gene therapies to deliver transformative outcomes for patients with intractable diseases.

Our Name

Obsidian is a geographically diverse volcanic glass that is used to make extremely sharp and precise blades. Reflecting our namesake, our approach to regulating proteins enables precise, elegant, and patient-specific tuning of cell and gene therapies. Like the diversity of obsidian sources, we value the diversity and unique talents of our people.

Scientific Advisory Board

Dan Anderson, Ph.D.

Dr. Daniel G. Anderson is the Samuel A. Goldblith Professor of Applied Biology, Associate Professor, Chemical Engineering and Institute for Medical Engineering and Science, and member of the Koch Institute for Integrative Cancer Research at MIT. He received his Ph.D. in molecular genetics from the University of California at Davis. At MIT, he pioneered the use of robotic methods for the development of smart biomaterials for drug delivery and medical devices. His work has led to the first methods for rapid synthesis, formulation, analysis, and biological evaluation of large libraries of biomaterials for use in medical devices, cell therapy and drug delivery. In particular, the advanced drug delivery systems he has developed provide new methods for nanoparticulate drug delivery, non-viral gene therapy, siRNA delivery, and vaccines. His work has resulted in the publication of over 230 papers, patents and patent applications. These patents have led to a number of licenses to pharmaceutical, chemical and biotechnology companies, and a number of products that have been commercialized or are in clinical development.

Michael Briskin, Ph.D.

Mike Briskin is Chairperson of the Scientific Advisory Board at Obsidian Therapeutics. Dr. Briskin brings more than 20 years of industry experience in multiple areas of drug discovery, including molecular biology, immunobiology, oncology and inflammation. Prior to Obsidian, Dr. Briskin founded and ran discovery research at Jounce Therapeutics, a company developing biotherapeutics for immune-oncology indications. Prior to Jounce, he was senior director of immunology at Merrimack Pharmaceuticals, where he led the company's efforts aimed at translational studies with a lead therapeutic compound in rheumatoid arthritis, as well as programs in inflammation and oncology. Prior to Merrimack, Dr. Briskin was a scientific consultant for Healthcare Ventures, one of the world's largest venture capital firms. Previously, he was director of inflammation – cell migration at LeukoSite and subsequently Millennium Pharmaceuticals, where his early discovery work led to the development and subsequent approval of a novel T Cell homing inhibitor, Entyvio® (vedolizumab), for Ulcerative Colitis and Crohn’s disease. Dr. Briskin also led efforts in target identification and validation for the Millennium/Aventis collaboration and led discovery efforts in the company's biotherapeutic and small molecule programs. Dr. Briskin holds a Ph.D. in molecular biology and a B.A. in biology from the University of California, Los Angeles.

Chris Klebanoff, M.D.

Chris Klebanoff is an assistant member, Center for Cell Engineering, Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, and a member investigator, The Parker Institute for Cancer Immunotherapy. Dr. Klebanoff is a cellular immunologist and medical oncologist with 17 years of experience in the pre-clinical and clinical development of T cell-based immunotherapies for the treatment of solid and hematologic cancers. Prior to joining Memorial Sloan Kettering, he was an assistant clinical investigator and a NIH-Howard Hughes Medical Institute Research Scholar at the U.S. National Institutes of Health in Bethesda, MD. As a member of the NCI Surgery Branch’s senior staff, he participated in the early phase clinical development of numerous T cell-based therapies which would later be licensed to commercial entities. These include the anti-CD19 28-zeta CAR that would become Yescarta® (axicabtagene ciloleucel), gene engineered TCR therapies targeting NY-ESO-1, MAGE-A3/6, and HPV E6, and neoantigen selected TIL therapies for a diverse range of solid cancers. Dr. Klebanoff’s laboratory investigations have contributed to the mechanistic understanding of how lymphodepletion enhances adoptive immunotherapies and how T cell differentiation status influences cellular persistence and clinical outcomes.

Lewis Lanier, Ph.D.

Lewis L. Lanier is an American Cancer Society Professor and the J. Michael Bishop MD Distinguished Professor and Chairman of the Department of Microbiology and Immunology at the University of California San Francisco and is Leader of the Cancer Immunity Program of the UCSF Helen Diller Comprehensive Cancer Center and Director of the Parker Institute for Cancer Immunotherapy at UCSF. Dr. Lanier received his Ph.D. in Microbiology and Immunology from the University of North Carolina – Chapel Hill. After postdoctoral studies, first at the Lineberger Cancer Center at the UNC – Chapel Hill and then as a Damon Runyon – Walter Winchell Cancer Research Fellow at the University of New Mexico, he joined the Research & Development Department at the Becton Dickinson Monoclonal Center in Mountain View, California, advancing to Associate Director of Research and was a Becton Dickinson Research Fellow. In 1990, he joined the DNAX Research Institute of Molecular and Cellular Biology in Palo Alto, California, where he advanced to Director of Immunobiology. In 1999, Dr. Lanier joined the faculty of UCSF. His research group studies Natural Killer (NK) cells, which recognize and eliminate cells that have become transformed or infected by viruses. In recognition of his scientific contributions, he was awarded the William B. Coley Award for Distinguished Research in Basic Tumor Immunology from the Cancer Research Institute in 2002, in 2005 was given the Rose Payne Award for contributions to the field of Immunogenetics by the American Society for Histocompatibility and Immunogenetics, in 2010 was elected to the US National Academy of Sciences, and in 2011 was named a Fellow of the American Academy of Microbiology and elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. He was awarded the 2017 Excellence in Mentoring Award from the American Association of Immunologists, served as President from 2006-2007, and named an AAI Distinguished Fellow in 2019. Dr. Lanier serves on the Scientific Advisory Board of several pharma and biotech companies and research institutes and Editorial boards of scientific journals.

Kim Schluns, Ph.D.

Kimberly Schluns, Ph.D. is an Associate Professor at the UT MD Anderson Cancer Center. Dr. Schluns holds a B.S. in Physiology from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and a Ph.D. in Cell Biology from Loyola University Chicago. Dr. Schluns obtained her postdoctoral training in the laboratory of the late Leo Lefrancois, Ph.D. at the University of Connecticut Health Science Center, where she investigated the roles of IL-7 and IL-15 in T cell homeostasis. Her studies were the first to demonstrate the requirements for IL-7 in the generation of memory CD8 T cells and in lymphopenia-induced proliferation of T cells. She also described the importance of IL-15 in the generation and maintenance of viral-specific memory CD8 T cells and provided evidence for transpresentation of IL-15 in vivo. In 2004, she joined the department of Immunology at the UT MD Anderson Cancer Center where she has continued her research in the area of IL-15 biology, elucidating the cell types providing IL-15 to various lymphocytes and elucidating the mechanisms and functions of soluble IL-15 complexes during immunotherapy, viral infections, and inflammation. Currently, the lab is identifying mechanisms that regulate IL-15 responses in the tumor microenvironment as well as responses elicited by IL-15 agonists used in cancer immunotherapy. Ultimately, the insights Dr. Schluns gains by unraveling these mechanisms may be used to guide the development of new cancer vaccines and tumor immunotherapies.

Christina Smolke, Ph.D.

Christina Smolke is a Professor in the Department of Bioengineering at Stanford University. Dr. Smolke earned her B.S. degree in Chemical Engineering with Emphasis in Biology from the University of Southern California and her Ph.D. in Chemical Engineering from the University of California at Berkeley, where she also did her postdoctoral training in the department of Molecular and Cell Biology in the laboratory of Dr. Karsten Weis. Dr. Smolke’s laboratory develops foundational tools that drive transformative advances in our ability to engineer biological systems. The Smolke lab has pioneered the design and application of a broad class of RNA molecules, called RNA devices, that process and transmit user-specified input signals to targeted protein outputs, thereby creating genetic switches for programming cellular behaviors. Her laboratory is applying these technologies to address key challenges in cellular therapeutics, targeted molecular therapies, and green biosynthesis strategies.

Tom Wandless, Ph.D.

Tom Wandless is Obsidian’s Scientific Founder and a Professor of Chemical and Systems Biology at Stanford University and the Scientific Founder of Obsidian Therapeutics.  Dr. Wandless earned his Ph.D. in Chemistry from Harvard University and his B.S. in Biochemistry from Trinity University.  Following his undergraduate studies, he worked in the laboratory of Stuart Schreiber where he helped elucidate the molecular mechanisms of the immunosuppressive drugs, FK506 and cyclosporin.  Based on those studies he then developed the first chemical dimerizer system to control specific gene transcription in T cells.  He spent two years as a postdoctoral fellow with Chris Walsh at Harvard Medical School before starting his own lab at Stanford in 1995.  The Wandless Lab concentrates on the invention of molecules and techniques that enable better studies of biological processes, inventing tools and techniques that provide new experimental windows into mechanisms that cells use to maintain protein homeostasis.  In particular, his work over the last 15+ years on the use of small molecules to regulate protein folding and stability serves as the basis for Obsidian’s Drug Responsive Domain technology.

Cassian Yee, M.D.

Dr. Yee is Professor in the Departments of Melanoma Medical Oncology and Immunology, Co-Director of the Adoptive Cellular Therapy Platform and Director of Solid Tumor Cell Therapy at UT MD Anderson Cancer Center.  He received his medical training in Canada, residency at Stanford and fellowship at Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center. He is an elected member of the American Society of Clinical Investigators, recipient of Clinical Translational Scientist Award from Burroughs Wellcome Fund, CPRIT Clinical Investigator award, co-Leader of the Stand Up to Cancer- American Association for Cancer Research / Cancer Research Institute Immunotherapy Dream Team, and Member of the Parker Institute for Cancer Immunotherapy. Over the last 20+ years, Dr. Yee has pioneered a form of adoptive cell therapy, known as Endogenous T Cell (ETC) therapy, using peripheral blood to generate antigen-specific memory T cells for the treatment of patients with cancer. His lab has performed several seminal first-in-human studies using a well-defined, uniform population of ex vivo expanded antigen-specific T cells to delineate the requirements for effective immune-based therapies He is author of publications in top-tier journals including The New England Journal of Medicine, Nature, Science, Nature Medicine, Journal of Clinical Oncology and Journal of Experimental Medicine. He holds international patents and seeks to extend immunotherapy-based cancer treatments globally with collaborators. His work converges multidisciplinary approaches in bioengineering, metabolism, molecular immunology and cellular biology to develop effective immunotherapy strategies and adoptive cellular therapy, in particular, as a treatment modality for patients with malignant diseases.