Neuro-Oncology Innovation Challenge


Neuro-Oncology Innovation Challenge
Minneapolis, MN 
April 22-23, 2024


Register Today

Join lead researchers, clinicians, scientists and industry representatives for a two-day in-depth discussion on the root challenges for treating brain cancer.

What is an Innovation Challenge? An Innovation Challenge is a unique alternative to traditional symposiums which encourages collaboration and creative problem-solving in a chosen field. This is going to be a fast paced, energetic and fantastic opportunity to collaborate with others within the neuro-oncology sphere. 

What to Expect: Each attendee will be assigned to a pre-arranged group. Each group will consist of participants from various backgrounds within the neuro-oncology field. The challenge will be divided into three sections with each section being introduced by the various speakers provided below. Each group will present their unique solutions on the second day and the winning group will be presented with a prize!

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Monday, April 22, 2024




8:00 a.m. to 8:15 a.m. 

Welcome and Introduction

David Largaespada, UMN


Session One


Moderated by

 David Largaespada, Ph.D.


8:15 a.m. to 8:30 a.m.

Progress and Challenges in Neuro-Oncology

Jianfang Ning, UMN

8:30 a.m. to 8:45 a.m. 

Genetic Engineering and Cell Based Therapies

Ted Hinchcliffe, Hormel Institute

8:45 a.m. to 9:00 a.m. 

Peptides and Antibodies

Jann Sarkaria, Mayo Clinic

9:00 a.m. to 9:15 a.m.

Cell Engagers

Rick Wagner, UMN

9:15 a.m. to 9:35 a.m.

Brief Overview/Panel Discussion

20 Minutes

9:35 a.m. to 9:50 a.m.

“Flash Talk” Group Introductions

15 Minutes

9:50 a.m. to 10:50 a.m.

Breakout Session

1 Hour

10:50 a.m. to 11:00 a.m.


10 Minutes


Session Two 


Moderated by 

David Odde, Ph.D.


11:00 a.m. to 11:15 a.m. 

Device Development

Brian Berger, Novocure

11:15 a.m. to 11:30 a.m.

Device Development: Pitfalls & Lessons Learned

Vijay Agarwal, Albert Einstein School of Medicine

11:30 a.m. to 11:45 a.m.

Device Development and Clinical Challenges in Recurrent GBM

Michael Heier, Boston Scientific

11:45 a.m. to 12:15 p.m.


30 Minutes

12:15 p.m. to 12:35 p.m.

Brief Overview/Panel Discussion

20 Minutes

12:35 p.m. to 1:35 p.m. 

Breakout Session

1 Hour

1:35 p.m. to 1:45 p.m.


10 Minutes


Session Three


Moderated by

 Lindsey Sloan, M.D.


1:45 p.m. to 2:00 p.m.

Clinical Trial Design

Jamie Holloway, Caris

2:00 p.m. to 2:15 p.m.

Bench to bedside and back – Supporting research in clinical radiation therapy

Zsofia Tallos, Xstrahl

2:15 p.m. to 2:30 p.m.

Clinical Trial Design

Terry Burns, Mayo Clinic

2:30 p.m. to 2:50 p.m.

Brief Overview/Panel Discussion

20 Minutes

2:50 p.m. to 3:50 p.m.

Breakout Session

1 Hour

3:50 p.m. to 4:00 p.m.

Announcements & Evening Agenda

Elizabeth Neil, UMN

4:00 p.m. to 5:00 p.m.

Happy Hour and Exhibitors

1 Hour

5:00 p.m. to 6:00 p.m.


1 Hour

6:00 p.m. to 7:00 p.m.

Ohlfest Lecture & Award

Dr. Gelareh Zadeh, University of Toronto 


Tuesday, April 23, 2024




8:00 a.m. to 8:15 a.m.

Introduction and Welcome

Elizabeth Neil, UMN

8:15 a.m. to 8:45 a.m.

Group Breakout/Presentation Planning

30 Minutes

8:45 a.m. to 10:45 a.m. 

Group Presentations

15 Minutes x 8

10:45 a.m. to 11:15 a.m.

Final Networking Opportunity

30 Minutes

11:15 a.m. to 11:30 a.m.

Winning Group Announced 

15 Minutes

11:30 a.m. to 11:45 a.m.

Thanks and Dismissal

David Largaespada, UMN

Introduction Slides



Jianfang Ning, PhDUniversity of Minnesota 

Dr. Ning received her undergraduate degree in biological science from Central China Normal University, her PhD in microbiology from China's Wuhan University, and completed a fellowship in neurosurgical research at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston. She is a member of the editorial board of the Journal of Neurology and Experimental Neural Science.

Dr. Ning has made several presentations at professional association meetings and is the first or contributing author of numerous peer-reviewed articles published in professional journals. As a member of the Brain Tumor Research Center of Massachusetts General Hospital team, Dr. Ning contributed to discoveries that could potentially lead to more effective treatments for brain tumor patients.


Ted Hinchcliffe, PhD- The Hormel Institute

Edward H. “Ted” Hinchcliffe is a Professor of Cell Biology at the Hormel Institute. Dr. Hinchcliffe received his B.A. in chemistry from the University of Dayton, and his Ph.D. from the University of Minnesota in the lab of Richard Linck, where he worked on tektins and tektin-associated proteins. During that time, he was a student in both the Physiology and Analytical Quantitative Light Microscopy (AQLM) courses at the Marine Biological Laboratory in Woods Hole, Massachusetts. 

Dr. Hinchcliffe was an NIH NRSA post-doctoral trainee and American Cancer Society Senior research fellow in the laboratory of Greenfield “Kip” Sluder at the Worcester Foundation and University of Massachusetts Medical School, in Worcester, Massachusetts. There, he studied centrosome duplication and cell cycle regulation. 

In 2001, he joined the biology department at the University of Notre Dame as an Assistant Professor, where he received a Research Scholar Award from the American Cancer Society. In 2008, Dr. Hinchcliffe joined the University of Minnesota’s The Hormel Institute as an Associate Professor. 

In 2016, he became Professor of Cell Biology, Head of the TCBG Research Group, and Assistant Director of the Institute. In 2018, Prof. Hinchcliffe was named the I.J. Holton Endowed Professor of Cellular Dynamics. From 2002-2010, Dr. Hinchcliffe was an Instructor in the AQLM course at the MBL in Woods Hole, Massachusetts, where he taught digital image processing and live-cell imaging.


Rick Wagner, PhD, University of Minnesota

The Wagner Lab seeks to apply the principles of organic chemistry, enzymology analytical chemistry, molecular & cellular biology, biophysics and nanotechnology to the development of new methods for drug design and delivery, chemically engineered cellular therapies and tissue engineering. The laboratories primary therapeutic focus has been on the development of new anti-cancer and antiviral therapies, as well as novel non-opioid pain medications. Fundamentally, we are interested in understanding and applying the principles of enzyme catalysis and macromolecular and cellular interactions. Our hope is that by creatively applying our expanding knowledge of these areas, we will continue to impact the design of future more selective and powerful medicines.

In general the use of anticancer drugs is associated with a variety of toxic side-effects. To tackle this important problem, our laboratory is devoted to the development of approaches that will deliver anticancers drug, proteins and nucleic acids to cancer tissues and not normal tissues. This challenge is being met by exploiting discoveries from our laboratory in prodrug design and nanobiotechnology. The experimental approach taken by our laboratory is highly multidisciplinary, relying on the tools of synthetic chemistry, medicinal chemistry, enzymology, molecular biology, biochemical pharmacology, X-ray crystallography, molecular modeling and spectroscopy to address our goal.


Vijay Agarwal, MD, Albert Einstein College of Medicine

Dr. Agarwal is a fellowship trained neurosurgeon who offers comprehensive treatments for adult patients with benign and malignant brain tumors. He specializes in the treatment of patients with primary brain tumors such as gliomas, meningiomas and pituitary tumors, as well as skull base and metastatic brain tumors. In addition, Dr. Agarwal treats cerebrovascular disease, including intracranial aneurysms and arteriovenous malformations.

Dr. Agarwal's research focuses on the genetics and proteomics of brain tumors. Specifically, he studies the genetic modifications and overexpression of certain markers that have been implicated in brain tumor growth and development. He also has a keen interest in neuroinnovation and medical devices.


Jann Sarkaria, PhD, Mayo Clinic

The Translational Neuro-Oncology laboratory of Jann N. Sarkaria, M.D., is focused on developing novel therapeutic strategies for people with glioblastoma multiforme (GBM) and brain metastases. To contact the laboratory, please email

Global interests in the lab include understanding the basis of resistance to chemotherapy and radiation, identifying methods to overcome therapy resistance, integration of novel signal transduction inhibitors into conventional therapies for newly diagnosed or recurrent GBM, and use of next-generation sequencing and proteomics to guide individualized therapy for patients with GBM


Terry Burns, PhD, Mayo Clinic

The research team of Terence (Terry) C. Burns, M.D., Ph.D., is developing regenerative strategies to optimize neurological function and quality of life for patients with brain tumors, neurological injuries and neurodegenerative diseases. Diverse factors including aging, genetics and accumulated molecular stress increase risk of both neurological disease and certain brain tumors. Unfortunately, standard anti-proliferative treatments for brain tumors cause additional injury to the surrounding brain. Dr. Burns' work seeks to enhance defenses against the molecular changes occurring in tumors, aging and neurodegeneration to prolong both survival and quality of life. Although encouraging progress has been made in treating models of several neurological diseases, these have rarely predicted success in human clinical trials. Using cutting-edge genetic, molecular, bioinformatics and bioengineering strategies, Dr. Burns is leading efforts to understand and overcome the challenges of clinical translation for neuroregenerative therapies.



Thank you to all of our 2024 sponsors!



John R. Ohlfest Memorial Lecture Award


We are happy to announce Dr. Gelareh Zadeh as the 2024 recipient of the John R. Ohlfest Memorial Lecture Award. 

Dr. Gelareh Zadeh, MD, PhD, FRCS(C), FAANS, is The Head of Surgical Oncology at University Health Network, Head of the Toronto Central Regional Cancer Program at Cancer Care Ontario, and also the Program Medical Director for the Krembil Neuroscience Centre at Toronto Western Hospital. She is a neurosurgeon-scientist at the Toronto Western Hospital and Princess Margaret Cancer Centre. She has a dedicated clinical and research program in neuro-oncology and neurosurgery. In addition, she is the Wilkins Family Chair for Brain Tumor Research, the co-Director of the Elizabeth Raab Neurofibromatosis Program, and the Director of the UHN Brain Tumor Biobank.

Dr. Zadeh has a dedicated neuro-oncology and skull base practice, which include a number of multidisciplinary specialized programs such as skull base, brain metastases, pituitary tumors, gamma knife and neurofibromatosis clinics. In parallel, she has an active research laboratory focusing on integrated multi-platform molecular analysis of brain tumors, together with a focus on understanding molecular response to targeted therapies, such as anti-angiogenesis and metabolic inhibitors. She is also involved in a number of national and international organizations, like the WFNS, NASBS, and SNO.

Cast Your Vote!

Directions and Parking

McNamara Alumni Center


The 2022 Neuro-Oncology Symposium will be located at the McNamara Alumni Center at 200 Oak Street SE, Minneapolis, MN 55455.

Directions and Parking


Directions and Parking: In a typical year, as many as 90,000 people attend events at the McNamara Alumni Center for conferenceswedding receptionsmeetings and other special events. This University of Minnesota office building and special event venue is located on the East Bank of the University of Minnesota Minneapolis campus, across from Williams Arena and Huntington Bank Stadium. An adjacent 500-car ramp is connected by tunnel to the Alumni Center. The ramp entrance is on University Ave. Parking is $3.00 per hour with a daily maximum of $13.00. Evening events at the Alumni Center may qualify for event rates of $8.00-$10.00 per car. Once inside the parking ramp, take the East elevator to tunnel B or street level. The Alumni Center is the copper building adjacent to the ramp.