Verismo Therapeutics Appoints Laura Johnson, Ph.D. as Chief Scientific Officer

20-year industry veteran will lead research and clinical development for innovative multichain CAR T technology
Published: Oct. 13, 2021 at 8:30 AM EDT

PHILADELPHIA, Oct. 13, 2021 /PRNewswire/ -- Verismo Therapeutics, Inc., a recent Penn spin-out behind a novel multichain KIR-CAR platform technology for CAR T-cells, today announced the appointment of a leading tumor-immunologist and gene-engineered T-cell therapy pioneer, Laura A. Johnson, M.Sc, Ph.D., as its Chief Scientific Officer. Dr. Johnson joins Verismo from GlaxoSmithKline Oncology, where she was head of preclinical translational research, and more recently, of clinical biomarkers for cell and gene therapy in the Experimental Medicine Unit.

"We are delighted to have Laura join the Verismo team," stated Bryan Kim, D.M.D., Chief Executive Officer at Verismo. "Laura brings over 20 years of leadership in the field of gene-engineered cell therapy research and development targeting solid tumors and stands among the scientific founders of the KIR-CAR platform. Laura's focus and dedication to the project will help drive our successful clinical development and establish KIR-CAR therapy as a leading treatment for solid tumor indications. Her experience developing the KIR-CAR platform alongside Verismo co-founder, Dr. Michael Milone, at Penn is invaluable, and we look forward to seeing her make her mark at Verismo."

Prior to joining Verismo, Dr. Johnson was the first Head of Translational Medicine for the Oncology Cell Therapy Research Unit at GlaxoSmithKline Pharma (UK and US), where she founded multiple new teams in Preclinical Research before moving into Clinical Development where she headed up the first Oncology Cell Therapy Clinical Biomarkers division. In these roles, she oversaw asset development from target validation through strategy and implementation for global clinical cell therapy trials, ranging from first-in-human through pivotal trials across multiple indications.

During her academic career, Dr. Johnson worked with Prof. Carl June at the University of Pennsylvania, where she built the Solid Tumor Immunotherapy Lab, one of the founding groups in the Penn Center for Cellular Immunotherapies and headed the preclinical translational research into development for clinical trials in glioblastoma (GBM) and other solid tumors. Earlier in her career, as Assistant Professor at Duke University and co-founder of the Brain Tumor Immunotherapy Program, Dr. Johnson developed both syngeneic immune-replete and immune-deficient preclinical models to test chimeric antigen receptor (CAR) T-cell therapies in GBM, which became leading in the field, and translated this work into clinical trials at the NIH NCI. With a Ph.D. in cellular and molecular immunology, Dr. Johnson did a fellowship at the NIH NCI under Dr. Steven Rosenberg, where she developed from concept through clinical trials some of the first clinically successful gene-engineered T cell therapies for cancer.

Based in Philadelphia, Verismo Therapeutics is a pioneer in multichain KIR-CAR T technology, on track to bring its first asset into First-in-Human clinical trials in 2023. Verismo is the only company developing the KIR-CAR platform, a revolutionary NK-like receptor designed to drastically improve persistence and efficacy against the most aggressive solid tumors. This technology was developed at Penn by the team behind Kymriah™, the first approved CAR T-cell therapy. The KIR-CAR platform technology was developed specifically for advanced solid tumors, the area of high unmet medical need where no other cell therapies have yet shown meaningful efficacy in clinical trials. Verismo raised $16 million in seed funding, led by HLB Pharmaceuticals and HLB, Ltd., a biopharma conglomerate in Korea. For more information, visit:

The KIR-CAR platform is the first multichain CAR T cell therapy, capable of maintaining antitumor T-cell activity even in the most challenging solid tumor environments. Based on Natural Killer Cell receptors, KIR-CAR provides a natural on-and-off stimulation to the T-cell, without triggering T cell exhaustion. DAP12 costimulatory chains aid additional T-cell stimulating pathways, further improving cell persistence. This continued function and persistence can lead to ongoing regression of solid tumors, including those refractory to traditional CAR T-cell therapies. Furthermore, the KIR-CAR platform can be partnered with many additional emerging technologies, such as in-vivo gene editing, advanced T cell selection, combination therapies, and even allogeneic cellular therapies to provide an adaptable tumor-targeting therapy for patients in need.

Alyson Kuritz

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