VC-backed Surface Oncology appoints chief scientific officer

Cambridge, Massachusetts-based Surface Oncology Inc, a developer of next-generation cancer immunotherapies, has named Dr. Vito J. Palombella as chief scientific officer. Previously, Palombella worked at Infinity Pharmaceuticals where he served as executive vice president and chief scientific officer. Surface’s backers include Atlas Venture, Lilly Ventures and New Enterprise Associates.


CAMBRIDGE, Mass.–(BUSINESS WIRE)–Surface Oncology, Inc. (Surface), a leader in the development of next-generation cancer immunotherapies, announced today the appointment of Vito J. Palombella, PhD, as Chief Scientific Officer. Dr. Palombella brings twenty years of scientific leadership and experience advancing first-in-class therapeutic programs, and a successful track record of building drug discovery and development organizations.

“Throughout his career, Vito has repeatedly demonstrated his tremendous scientific acumen and leadership in the pursuit of developing new drugs.” said Detlev Biniszkiewicz, PhD, President and Chief Executive Officer at Surface. “We could not be happier about Vito joining our already outstanding team as we aggressively prosecute our pipeline and build our R&D organization. Vito is the right person to lead our scientific strategy as well as drive our exciting collaboration with Novartis.”

Surface Oncology is developing a pipeline of drugs that inhibit the suppressive tumor microenvironment by targeting regulatory T cell populations, inhibitory cytokines, and immunosuppressive metabolites. It recently announced a worldwide collaboration and licensing agreement with Novartis, which includes $170M in upfront payments, significant clinical and commercial milestones, as well as double-digit royalties on product sales. In addition, Surface retains 100% of US development and commercial rights for half of partnered programs.

“This is an exciting time in the field of Immuno-oncology and I believe that with Surface’s unique pipeline, extraordinary commitment from its Scientific Advisory Board, and dynamic team of scientists, we will find new ways in which the immune system can be harnessed to help patients fight cancer,” said Vito Palombella, PhD.

Prior to joining Surface, Dr. Palombella was the Executive Vice President and Chief Scientific Officer at Infinity Pharmaceuticals, where he was responsible for drug discovery and preclinical development. Prior to his role as CSO, he was Vice President, Drug Discovery and Biology at Infinity. Previously, he was Director of Molecular Biology and Protein Chemistry at Syntonix Pharmaceuticals. Earlier in his career, Dr. Palombella was Senior Director of Cell and Molecular Biology at Millennium Pharmaceuticals, and also held a number of positions at LeukoSite and ProScript. Dr. Palombella was involved in the discovery and development of bortezomib (Velcade®), a proteasome inhibitor for cancer therapy.

Dr. Palombella earned his BS in Microbiology from Rutgers University and an MS and PhD in Viral Oncology and Immunology from the New York University Medical Center while working in the laboratory of Jan Vilček, MD, PhD He was a post-doctoral fellow in Dr. Tom Maniatis’ laboratory at Harvard University.

About Surface
Surface is creating the next generation of immunotherapies for cancer. To fully unlock the potential of cancer immunotherapy, Surface is targeting a broader set of immune processes by which cancer cells evade immune recognition and attack. Our programs are built upon emerging, proprietary insights about how to improve the immune system’s recognition and elimination of cancer cells. These include new approaches to improve the effectiveness of antigen presentation to the adaptive immune system, to block the activity of a variety of suppressor cells in the tumor microenvironment, and to counter the immunosuppressive environment that selectively accumulates in and around the tumor. By targeting the interface of innate and adaptive immunity, Surface hopes to expand the reach of cancer immunotherapy to all patients in need of better treatment. The company was founded by Atlas Venture in 2014. Current investors in the company include Atlas Venture, F‐Prime Capital, Lilly Ventures, and New Enterprise Associates, Inc. (NEA), as well as Novartis, Amgen Ventures, and Elliott Sigal, the former head of R&D at Bristol‐Myers.