PANEL 2  •  10:35 – 11:30am

Investing In Patient Outcomes

Early Investments to Empower Innovation


John Higgins, Managing Director, Brain Tumor Investment Fund

John is Managing Director at the Brain Tumor Investment Fund (BTIF), a Boston-based venture philanthropy fund launched in 2019, which makes equity investments in companies to accelerate development of therapies and diagnostics focused on improving outcomes for adults and children with deadly brain tumors. BTIF is a subsidiary of the National Brain Tumor Society (NBTS), the largest brain tumor patient advocacy organization with a 30-year history dedicated to curing brain tumors through research funding and numerous legislative and regulatory accomplishments.

John’s experience has been largely focused on corporate and commercial development in the biotechnology industry in companies large and small, ranging from Astra Zeneca and Baxter Healthcare to Kiowa Kirin and most recently, Istari Oncology.


Robert Bell, PhD, Founder & CEO, Telo Therapeutics

Robert Bell is the co-founder and CEO of Telo Therapeutics Inc., an oncology therapeutics company developing next-generation targeted protein degraders for solid and Hematological cancers. Dr. Bell earned his PhD in Biomedical Sciences from UCSF and holds a bachelor’s degree in Biology from Boston College. During his time in graduate school, Rob joined Professor Joseph Costello’s laboratory in the department of Neurosurgery. There, he played a key role in identifying common genetic drivers of Glioblastoma and other central nervous system tumors. Telo Therapeutics, building off Dr. Bell’s graduate research, is currently incubated at MBC Biolabs in San Francisco.

Robert Blazej

Robert Blazej, PhD, Partner, Mission BioCapital

Robert Blazej, PhD is a Partner based in our San Francisco office. He invests in early stage life science companies and is responsible for coordination of firmwide diligence efforts on new investment opportunities. Robert currently holds board roles at Telo Therapeutics, Photoswitch BioSciences, and Dren Bio. Robert is a passionate biotechnologist with a diverse skill set spanning business, life science, engineering and intellectual property. He brings more than 10 years of small and big company operational experience to our team. As an entrepreneur, he co-founded Allopartis Biotechnologies out of QB3’s original “garage” incubator at UCSF and has been hooked on entrepreneurship ever since. Allopartis was acquired by Novozymes in 2013, becoming Novozymes’ Digital Biotechnology research site in San Francisco which Robert directed before joining Mission BioCapital in 2017.  He holds a B.A. in Molecular Cell Biology from the University of California, Berkeley and a Ph.D. in Bioengineering jointly from the University of California, San Francisco and Berkeley.

Stephanie Oestreich

Stephanie Oestreich, PhD, MPA, Managing Director, Multiple Myeloma Investment Fund

Stephanie Oestreich is Managing Director of the Myeloma Investment Fund and serves on the boards of the German American Business Council and the Harvard Kennedy School’s Women’s Network. She is also on the faculty of MIT, a member of the Launchpad Venture Group, an advisor at grIP Venture Studio, to Biognosys (a Bruker company), Invitris, CART company CelineTx and to OrangeGrove Bio and a member of the W20 Entrepreneurship task force, the official engagement group of the G20.

Previously she was Chief Business Officer at Galecto, Vice President at cell therapy company Mnemo Therapeutics, Venture Partner at RA Capital and Executive Vice President at Evotec where she built its North American investment arm and an incubator with Samsara BioCapital

Luke Gruenert

Luke Gruenert, Associate Director, Strategic Innovation, Chiesi Global Rare Diseases

Luke Gruenert is a biotech entrepreneur, consultant, and innovator with a passion for translating pioneering bench science into life-changing therapies. He has worked in various capacities in the life sciences industry, from experimenting in the lab to founding and supporting startups and entrepreneurs. In his current capacity as Associate Director, Strategic Innovation at Chiesi Global Rare Diseases, Luke develops strategies for translating the most innovative scientific advancements into therapies that support rare disease patients. Luke has served as founder of startups pioneering at the forefront of gene therapy technologies for both cancer and rare diseases, participating in various accelerator programs for life science startups. In addition to his roles in pharma and entrepreneurship, Luke actively advises industry leaders, entrepreneurs, and students working to translate their science.