Laura E. Benjamin, Ph.D.
Executive Board Chair
Laura is an expert in cancer research and development, building and leading high performing teams to advance the field and address unmet needs of cancer patients. She is a passionate and thoughtful enterprise-wide leader. Laura takes a creative and innovative approach to pushing the boundaries of what is possible to overcome complex challenges.
Following a 20+ year career in academic research and pharmaceutical R&D, Laura followed her mission to driving change in cancer drug development and was the sole founder of OncXerna Therapeutics, a global precision medicine company with headquarters in Boston. The company is aiming to deliver next-generation precision medicine strategies for cancer patients currently underserved by today’s approaches. OncXerna has raised over 100M in venture capital-backed financing and advanced 2 clinical programs with a companion diagnostic platform. By leveraging new scientific and computational technologies, Laura has built OncXerna to be a recognized leader in the field of precision medicine.
Prior to founding OncXerna, Laura joined Eli Lilly in 2009 as a VP in Oncology at the NYC site shortly after the Lilly-ImClone merger, where she led cancer discovery and translational initiatives in NY and Indianapolis. During her tenure she built a high-functioning cross-company team between the Imclone and Eli Lilly staff. As the scientific leader for ramucirumab, Laura was a leading internal and external voice and was considered the scientific face of that program from Phase 2 to launch in lung, colon, gastric cancer, and others. Her experience with the challenges of biomarker-driven clinical development during these years fueled her desire to build OncXerna.
Previously, Laura spent 13 years on the faculty of the Department of Pathology at Harvard Medical School. Her academic research at Harvard focused on cellular and molecular mechanisms driving cancer, with a particular interest in the role of the microenvironment on cancer progression and response to targeted therapies. Her research was supported by multiple NIH and foundation grants and supported a large laboratory of students, postdoctoral fellows and residents. She was the Associate Director of the Center for Vascular Biology at the Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center and was recognized by Harvard Medical School in 2009 for excellence in mentoring students, postdocs, and junior faculty.
Laura received a PhD in Molecular Biology at the University of Pennsylvania in 1995, and B.A. in Biology from Barnard College, Columbia University in 1987. For her PhD thesis, she characterized a pediatric cancer-driving fusion protein and methodologies to extract and amplify that chromosomal fusion from paraffin-embedded tissues, an early foray into molecular pathology. Additionally, Laura was a senior editor for Cancer Research, the fundamental cancer research journal of the AACR for 10 years. At Lilly, Laura was a founder of the R&D NY-NJ women’s network and continues to be a mentor and advocate for advancing women in science. Laura and her family live on a farm raising animals and vegetables and enjoy making “farm to table” meals for family and friends.