Press Releases

Press Releases December 7, 2022
Ankyra Therapeutics Appoints Leisha A. Emens, M.D., Ph.D., as Senior Vice President, Translational Research

Ankyra Therapeutics, a biotech company developing targeted immune activating agents for the treatment of cancer, today announced that Leisha A. Emens, M.D., Ph.D., has been appointed as senior vice president, translational research. Dr. Emens is an experienced oncologist who joins Ankyra after an extensive career in academia, most recently holding positions at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center.

“Leisha brings tremendous experience in oncology research to the Ankyra team at an important moment in our evolution as we prepare to enter the clinic with our lead asset, ANK-101, next year,” said Howard Kaufman, M.D., president and chief executive officer. “With a particular focus on immunotherapy and having held positions at some of the world’s leading academic institutions, Leisha is the ideal person to fill this role. We look forward to partnering with her to guide our clinical development, continue the build out of our platform and advance our emerging pipeline, all with the goal of bringing safe and effective immunotherapy treatments to more patients around the world.”

“Ankyra’s Anchored Immunotherapy platform has the unique opportunity to overcome the toxicity and dosing challenges of traditional systemic cytokines, and I have been impressed by the progress made in applying the platform to the advancement of our programs,” said Dr. Emens. “As we prepare to transition to a clinical-stage company in 2023, I couldn’t be more excited to join the team as we further our understanding of the potential impact our treatments may offer patients.”

Dr. Emens is a medical oncologist focused on breast cancer and is internationally recognized for her work in breast cancer immunotherapy. She developed and tested a vaccine for breast cancer patients, and more recently has played a key role in the development of the anti-PD-L1 agent atezolizumab for triple negative breast cancer and HER2+ breast cancer. Dr. Emens joins Ankyra from the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center (UPMC) Hillman Cancer Center where she has served as professor of medicine, director of translational immunotherapy for the Women’s Cancer Research Center and co-leader, Cancer Immunology and Immunotherapy Program. She received her M.D./Ph.D. in the Medical Scientist Training Program at Baylor College of Medicine and completed postgraduate training at the National Cancer Institute, the University of Texas at Southwestern and Johns Hopkins University. She joined the faculty at Johns Hopkins University in 2001, where she rose to the rank of associate professor of oncology before joining the UPMC Hillman Cancer Center. Dr. Emens is an active member of ASCO and AACR, currently serves as vice president of the Society for Immunotherapy of Cancer (SITC) and will ascend to the role of SITC president in 2023. Dr. Emens was a member of the FDA Advisory Committee on Cellular, Tissue, and Gene Therapies (CTGTC) and is a former member of the Cancer Immunology (CIMM) Steering Committee of the AACR. She has received the President’s Award by the YWCA of Greater Baltimore, the Maryland Governor’s Citation, the Sy Holzer Immunotherapy Research Award and the Stand Up to Cancer Laura Ziskin Prize in Breast Cancer Translational Research.

About Ankyra Therapeutics

Ankyra Therapeutics is a biotechnology company developing a novel approach to treating cancer, designed to expand the therapeutic window of cytokine drugs. Cytokine treatments have shown to be effective in treating cancer, but systemic dosing is limited by broad immune activation and toxicity. Using its proprietary Anchored Immunotherapy Platform, Ankyra has developed methods to localize cytokines specifically and persistently in tumor tissue, creating intense hot spots of inflammation that awaken an anti-tumor immune response. Using its platform, the company is building a pipeline of therapeutics designed to provide prolonged immune activation and potent local and systemic immunity with reduced systemic toxicity. For more information, please visit


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Alicia Davis, THRUST Strategic Communications

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