Press Release Details

Gritstone Announces Changes to Its Board of Directors

June 1, 2021
Drs. Naiyer A. Rizvi and Shefali Agarwal Join the Board

EMERYVILLE, Calif., June 01, 2021 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) -- Gritstone bio, Inc. (Nasdaq: GRTS), a clinical-stage biotechnology company developing next generation cancer and infectious disease immunotherapies, today announced changes to its Board of Directors. Naiyer A. Rizvi, M.D., newly appointed chief medical officer at Synthekine, a private biotechnology company, and until recently Price Family Professor of Medicine, director of Thoracic Oncology and co-director of Cancer Immunotherapy at Columbia University Medical Center, and Shefali Agarwal, M.D., M.P.H., executive vice president and chief medical and development officer at Epizyme, Inc., have joined the Board. Simultaneously, Tom Woiwode, Ph.D., managing director at Versant Ventures, and Nicholas Simon, senior managing director at Blackstone Life Sciences, have stepped down from the Board.

“I am thrilled to welcome Naiyer and Shefali to our Board of Directors,” said Andrew Allen, M.D., Ph.D., co-founder, president and chief executive officer of Gritstone. “Naiyer is a co-founder of Gritstone, member of our scientific advisory board, and a medical oncologist renowned for his expertise in immuno-oncology. Shefali is a physician who has spent over a decade leading the clinical development of breakthrough medicines, including PARP inhibitors (at Tesaro) and the only-in-class EZH2 inhibitor, tazemetostat, in her current role at Epizyme. She also sits on the board at Fate Therapeutics and has a front-row seat in the development of novel cell therapies for cancer. These additions to our Board reflect our commitment to pursuing science-based, operationally optimized programs to address unmet need with our innovative technologies, therapeutics, and prophylactic vaccines.”

Dr. Allen added, “Additionally, on behalf of the entire company, I would like to sincerely thank Tom and Nick for their years of dedication and service to the Board, starting in 2015 when they drove our Series A financing.”

Naiyer A. Rizvi, M.D.
Dr. Naiyer A. Rizvi is chief medical officer at Synthekine, a private, engineered and synthetic cytokine therapeutics company. Until May 2021, he was the Price Family Professor of Medicine, Director of Thoracic Oncology and Co-Director of Cancer Immunotherapy at Columbia University Medical Center He received an M.D. at the University of Manitoba in Winnipeg, Canada, and completed a fellowship in medical oncology at Beth Israel Hospital/Harvard Medical School. Dr. Rizvi was an attending physician in thoracic oncology and early drug development at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center where his translational research focused on immune-checkpoint blockade drug development. His research studies were integral to the approval of immune-checkpoint blockade in lung cancer, including approval of nivolumab in squamous lung cancer and pembrolizumab in non-small cell lung cancer. He authored a publication in Science of data from a landmark trial -- the first study to demonstrate a statistically significant correlation between mutations and neoantigens with durable benefit to immune-checkpoint blockade. Dr. Rizvi is a co-founder of Gritstone.

Shefali Agarwal, M.D., M.P.H.
Dr. Shefali Agarwal is executive vice president and chief medical and development officer at Epizyme, Inc., a fully-integrated, commercial-stage biopharmaceutical company developing and delivering novel epigenetic therapies. Prior to joining Epizyme in 2018, she held leadership positions across medical research, clinical development, clinical operations and medical affairs. Dr. Agarwal most recently served as chief medical officer at SQZ Biotech, where she built and led the clinical development organization, which included clinical research operations and the regulatory function. Before SQZ Biotech, Dr. Agarwal also held leadership positions at Curis and Tesaro. At Curis, she oversaw the Phase 2 study for its dual HDAC/PI3K inhibitor in diffuse large B-cell lymphoma, and the Phase 1 study in solid tumors for its oral checkpoint inhibitor. At Tesaro, she led the NDA and EMA submissions for ZEJULA® (niraparib) in ovarian cancer. Dr. Agarwal has also held positions of increasing responsibility at Covidien, AVEO Oncology and Pfizer.

In addition to receiving her medical degree, Dr. Agarwal holds a master’s of public health and a master’s of science in business. She currently sits on the Board of Directors of Fate Therapeutics.

About Gritstone
Gritstone bio, Inc. (Nasdaq: GRTS), a clinical-stage biotechnology company, is developing the next generation of immunotherapies against multiple cancer types and infectious diseases. Gritstone develops its products by leveraging two key pillars—first, a proprietary machine learning-based platform, Gritstone EDGETM, which is designed to predict antigens that are presented on the surface of cells, such as tumor or virally-infected cells, that can be seen by the immune system; and, second, the ability to develop and manufacture potent immunotherapies utilizing these antigens to potentially drive the patient’s immune system to specifically attack and destroy disease-causing cells. The company’s lead oncology programs include an individualized neoantigen-based immunotherapy, GRANITE, and an “off-the-shelf” shared neoantigen-based immunotherapy, SLATE, which are being evaluated in clinical studies. Within its infectious disease pipeline, Gritstone is advancing CORAL, a COVID-19 program to develop a second-generation vaccine, with support from departments within the National Institutes of Health (NIH), the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, as well as a license agreement with La Jolla Institute for Immunology. Additionally, the company has a global collaboration for the development of a therapeutic HIV vaccine with Gilead Sciences. For more information, please visit

Gritstone Forward-Looking Statements
This press release contains forward-looking statements, including, but not limited to, statements related to the potential of Gritstone’s therapeutic programs. Such forward-looking statements involve substantial risks and uncertainties that could cause Gritstone’s research and clinical development programs, future results, performance or achievements to differ significantly from those expressed or implied by the forward-looking statements. Such risks and uncertainties include, among others, the uncertainties inherent in the drug development process, including Gritstone’s programs’ early stage of development, the process of designing and conducting preclinical and clinical trials, the regulatory approval processes, the timing of regulatory filings, the challenges associated with manufacturing drug products, Gritstone’s ability to successfully establish, protect and defend its intellectual property and other matters that could affect the sufficiency of existing cash to fund operations. Gritstone undertakes no obligation to update or revise any forward-looking statements. For a further description of the risks and uncertainties that could cause actual results to differ from those expressed in these forward-looking statements, as well as risks relating to the business of the company in general, see Gritstone’s most recent Quarterly Report on Form 10-Q filed on May 6, 2021 and any current and periodic reports filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission.

Dan Budwick
(973) 271-6085

Alexandra Santos
Wheelhouse Life Science Advisors
(510) 871-6161

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