It starts with the first step
STS alumnus Peter Hoang ’90 has come full-circle in his life. But if you had told him 25 years ago where he’d be today, he wouldn’t have believed you.
It was a few chance moments that led Peter to where he is. “I took a really strange route in life. It is so wildly improbable that those stars would align,” said Peter. “This whole story all started at STS.”
Peter and his family are first-generation immigrants to Canada. He was born in Vietnam during the Vietnam war, but he and his family fled to a refugee camp in Guam when he was three-years-old. After spending a year there, Peter and his family immigrated to Canada, where his father set up a medical practice in the small town of Oyen, Alberta.
As Peter grew older, his father decided that he needed a more fulfilling education and made the decision to move Peter to Calgary so he could attend STS in Grade 8.
“STS was the first step. A lot of what STS meant to me was figuring out my place in the world. I was figuring out who I was and what I could be,” said Peter.
Peter’s father was a doctor and he believed that he too, would grow up to be a doctor. After graduating from STS in 1990, he headed to Yale University with the intent to move on to medical school.
“In my mind, there were two jobs in the world. I could be a doctor or be a lawyer,” Peter joked.
One summer during his time at Yale, Peter’s roommate suggested he check out an internship with the investment banking firm, Goldman Sachs.
“I was probably terrible at it but it stuck. It turned into a 16-year career,” Peter explained.
After those 16 years on Wall Street, Peter knew it was time to move on. “It was a great professional experience – what I learned in investment banking made everything possible that I’ve done since. I took up a very eclectic niche within the profession, focusing on contested situations and hostile transaction defense, but I got some really cool deals done,” said Peter.
He went into venture capital focusing on cancer therapy, and ended up working in the same area as his wife, who is a cancer research scientist. Eventually, the couple ended up working together at MD Anderson Cancer Center before moving together to Bellicum Pharmaceuticals, a company Peter helped take public through an IPO.
“It turns out that we make a pretty good team,” laughs Peter.
During this time, Peter became a subject expert in cancer care, which helped him prepare for his current role as CEO of a publicly traded company, TapImmune. TapImmune focuses on developing cancer treatments using immunotherapy, and recently acquired a new cell therapy technology that he believes may be the next great leap beyond CAR-T therapy.
“CAR-T therapy has amazing results. It has transformed cancer care for patients, generating an amazing rate of complete remissions for patients who have failed every other option,” said Peter. “However, it’s extremely toxic and mind-bogglingly expensive, and we see too many patients who initially respond to the therapy later relapse. With our new therapy, we are seeing early clinical results in patients that make us think we may be able to fix each of those challenges with CAR-T therapies.”
TapImmune, which will be changing its name to Marker Therapeutics after the closing of its acquisition in the fall, now has the backing of some of the most respected investors in the field, including New Enterprise Associates, Aisling Capital and Perceptive Advisors and has enlisted the scientific support of many of the leading scientists in the field. Most importantly to Peter, it has set the stage to re-unite with his wife, professionally speaking – she is set to join the company as its new head of research and development.
“I believe our therapy could really change patients' lives. We still have a ton of work left to do in cancer care, but I think the results we’re seeing in patients are nothing short of transformational,” said Peter.