All in on novel target GSK-3β, Actuate Therapeutics raises $21M+ to bankroll ambitious PhI/II

As Actuate Therapeutics ramps up recruitment for what it calls a “groundbreaking” Phase I/II involving refractory blood cancers and solid tumors, the biotech has secured $21.7 million to fund the endeavor in the US and beyond.

Daniel Schmitt

Founded in 2015 with tech licensed from the University of Illinois-Chicago and Northwestern — according to a detailed timeline on its website — Actuate is fixated on glycogen synthase kinase-3β, an enzyme associated with a range of diseases from bipolar disorder to diabetes. Overexpression of GSK-3β is “heavily implicated in chemo- and radioresistance in tumor cells,” making it a promising target for tough-to-treat cancers such as glioblastoma, ovarian, breast and pancreatic cancers.

Kairos Ventures, which specializes in helping academics bring their technologies to the marketplace, led the round with participation from DEFTA Partners and Tech Coast Angels. Bios Partners also chipped in, having been part of Actuate’s previous $3.8 million Series A.

The cash infusion allows Actuate to expand its clinical trial to Europe, CEO Daniel Schmitt said, for which it plans to enroll 250 patients spanning 30 tumor types in its trial, with a completion date set for late 2022. The drug, 9-ING-41, will be tested both as a monotherapy and in combination with chemo.

Frank Giles, who left a position as Northwestern’s director of developmental therapeutics to become CMO at Fort Worth, TX-based Actuate two years ago, added that initial study data will inform a pediatric program in neuroblastoma, “where 9-ING-41’s pre-clinical activity is noteworthy.”

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