Actym is committed to overcoming the hostile tumor immune microenvironment (TME) to bring durable benefits to cancer patients. Our new drug modality is designed to target and enrich in the TME to deliver potent, synergistic payloads in a tumor-specific manner. Our platform is adaptable, with the ability to utilize a variety of payload combinations and has the potential to treat various cancer types.

Leadership

Thomas Smart Chief Executive Officer

Steve Vicik, PhD Chief Technical Officer

Mary J. Janatpour, PhD Chief Scientific Officer

Shouryadeep "Deep" Srivastava, MD, PhD Senior Vice President of Clinical Development

Akshata Udyavar, MS, PhD Executive Director

Larry Algaze, MBA Executive Director, Finance & Accounting

Alessandra Cesano, MD, PhD Chief Medical Advisor

Sue Hamke, MS Head of Clinical Operations

Melissa Black Head of Project Management

William Lu, PhD Associate Director, Translational Sciences

Thomas Smart Chief Executive Officer

Thomas Smart has a distinguished 25-year career as a biotech executive, demonstrating dynamic leadership in roles such as CEO, CBO, SVP, and Board Member. With a proven track record of success, he has spearheaded the development of multiple promising product pipelines and candidates, culminating in the FDA and EU approval of the immuno-oncology PD-1 checkpoint inhibitor, Jemperli (dostarlimab/GSK). Mr. Smart is an expert in orchestrating pivotal transitions for biopharma companies, guiding them from research to clinical stage, and facilitating their evolution from privately held to publicly traded entities. Mr. Smart’s adeptness in securing a diverse range of transactions, including private financings, initial public offerings, corporate partnerships, and mergers and acquisitions, underscores his strategic acumen and breadth of industry experience. In addition, Mr. Smart has a comprehensive background in therapeutic modalities ranging from antibodies and small molecules to peptides, RNA, DNA, CAR-T, and other cell therapies, and has effectively managed substantial patent portfolios, leveraging regulatory designations to expedite drug development and secure market exclusivity.

Before assuming his current role at Actym Therapeutics, Mr. Smart founded Gravitas Therapeutics, where he served as CEO and Board Chair and orchestrated the acquisition and subsequent sale of the clinical-stage antifungal asset, GR-2397, to Basilea Pharmaceutica Ltd (SIX: BSLN) in October 2023. His prior leadership roles include serving as CEO and Board Chair of AnaptysBio (NASDAQ: ANAB), Chief Business Officer of XOMA (NASDAQ: XOMA), and various positions at Genetics Institute (now Pfizer), GenVec (now Precigen; NASDAQ: PGEN), Searle (now Pfizer), and Cell Genesys. Mr. Smart holds a Bachelor of Science degree from Cornell University and earned his Master of Business Administration from the University of Chicago Booth School of Business.

Steve Vicik, PhD Chief Technical Officer

Dr. Steve Vicik has more than 25 years of experience in pharmaceutical process and product development, manufacturing operations, and supply chain design & distribution for large and small molecule drugs. Steve brings a wealth of strategic and execution expertise from his work at Genetics Institute, Wyeth, Pfizer and Xalud. He has led the development and manufacture of multiple clinical assets, supported several successful BLA/NDA registrations with subsequent global product launches, and coordinated manufacturing and distribution strategies for a drug portfolio enabling more than $5B in sales annually. Steve is also the holder of several large molecule manufacturing patents, delivered numerous product lifecycle enhancements to improve operational efficiency or enhance the patient experience, and has managed multiple partnerships with both pharmaceutical and medical device companies. His most recent role was as the Chief Technology Officer for Xalud Therapeutics, where he was responsible for process development, manufacturing, CMC, and supply chain activities for their plasmid gene therapy product candidates. Steve holds a Ph.D in Chemical Engineering from Tufts University.

Mary J. Janatpour, PhD Chief Scientific Officer

Mary J. Janatpour, PhD is an Oncology R&D Executive and Advisor, with 25 years helping biotech and pharma companies build value through strategic oncology pipeline development. She has led efforts from target inception through Phase 1 clinical studies. Dr. Janatpour also serves on the Board of Directors of Active Motif and on the Bioconjugates Advisory Board at Catalent Pharma Solutions. Prior to joining Actym Therapeutics, Dr. Janatpour served as EVP and Chief Scientific Officer at Spotlight Therapeutics, where she was responsible for leveraging the company’s proprietary CRISPR-based in situ gene editing platform to build Spotlight’s therapeutic pipeline. Prior to that, Dr. Janatpour served as Vice President Oncology Research at Dynavax Technologies where she led an immuno-oncology clinical program through Phase 1 and a research laboratory focused on rational clinical combinations with TLR agonists. As a pipeline builder for much of her career, she built oncology biologics early-stage portfolios at Chiron Corporation, Schering-Plough Biopharma and Novartis and was an independent consultant for immuno-oncology start-ups with novel platforms. Dr. Janatpour received her BA in Molecular Biology from the University of California, Berkeley and a PhD in Biomedical Science from the University of California, San Francisco. She did her post-doctoral training in Immunology at the DNAX Research Institute in Palo Alto, CA.

Shouryadeep "Deep" Srivastava, MD, PhD Senior Vice President of Clinical Development

Shouryadeep “Deep” Srivastava, MD, PhD, is Senior Vice President of Clinical Development at Actym Therapeutics. Dr. Srivastava has more than 13 years of clinical research experience in the biotechnology/pharmaceuticals industry and has expertise in oncology drug development. He most recently served as Vice President of Clinical Development at Theseus Pharmaceuticals where he supported early clinical development activities for targeted therapies for GIST and EGFR NSCLC. He also served as Clinical Development Consultant at Jaguar Gene Therapy and played a pivotal role in the IND clearance by FDA for a neurodevelopmental gene therapy program.

Prior to Theseus, Dr. Srivastava was Vice President, Clinical Development at iTeos Therapeutics where he led the clinical development activity for immunotherapies being developed for solid tumors. At iTeos, he led successful IND clearance by FDA for a Phase 2 lung cancer trial and was responsible for the clinical strategy, monitoring, and oversight activities. Dr. Srivastava held positions of increasing responsibility at Takeda from 2018 through 2021, and led the sNDA approval, Phase 3 initiation, and pediatric development for leukemia drug, ICLUSIG® (ponatinib), as the Global Clinical Lead. Earlier in his career, he was on hemophilia early and late development programs at Baxalta/Shire and held medical writing and other roles in different companies. Dr. Srivastava received his MD from B.R.D. Medical College, India and his PhD from Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center.

Akshata Udyavar, MS, PhD Executive Director

Akshata Udyavar, MS, PhD is Senior Director of Immunology and Translational Sciences at Actym Therapeutics. Dr. Udyavar has over 16 years of research experience in bench and translational science including immunology, cancer systems biology, target and biomarker discovery as well as development in immuno-oncology.

Prior to Actym, she was Director of Late Stage Research at InstilBio. She was the non-clinical program lead on the successful clearance of the ITIL-306 IND, their first genetically engineered Costimulatory Antigen Receptor autologous TIL (CoStAR-TIL) therapy recognizing folate receptor alpha.

Prior to Instil, she was Research Fellow (Associate Director) at Arcus Biosciences where she built the bioinformatics pipeline and translational infrastructure for integration and analysis of early clinical biomarker data for the entire company. She led the indication prioritization and early preclinical and clinical biomarker analyses for several of Arcus’s molecules – CD73 inhibitor Quemliclustat, Adenosine A2a/b receptor antagonist Etrumadenant, TIGIT antibody Domvanalimab. She was the biomarker lead on ARC-3, a Ph1/2 clinical trial testing Etrumadenant in combination with FOLFOX in late line metastatic CRC. Her team also led the early mechanism of action and indication selection analyses for the AXL and HIF2a programs.

Prior to Arcus, she was an Associate Scientist at Genentech where she worked on the GI and OBGYN biomarker sub-teams for atezolizumab, xeloda and avastin and led the clinical biomarker analyses for several Ph1-3 clinical trials.

She received her Masters in Biomedical Sciences at UT Memphis and did her research work on adoptive TCR T cell therapy in multiple sclerosis. She received her PhD in Chemical and Physical Biology at Vanderbilt University where she adapted bioinformatics, computational modeling and bench science approaches to discovery of novel targets and biomarkers in small cell lung cancer. She was one of the first students to receive a Certificate in Molecular Medicine, a joint program with Vanderbilt University Medical Center and Howard Hughes Medical Institute and obtained clinical shadowing experience.

Larry Algaze, MBA Executive Director, Finance & Accounting

Larry Algaze, MBA, is Executive Director of Finance & Accounting at Actym Therapeutics. Mr. Algaze has nearly 20 years of experience in the biotech industry, specializing in Financial Planning, Alliance Management, Clinical Business Management, and Controllership.

Prior to Actym, he was Executive Director of Financial Planning & Analysis for Instil Bio, a clinical stage immuno-oncology company, where led a team of finance professionals, managing the budgeting, reporting, and planning processes for the R&D, Manufacturing Sciences, and Commercial teams. He also assisted management with critical planning information to execute the company’s Initial Public Offering six months after his arrival.

Prior to Instil, he was Senior Director of Financial Planning & Analysis for Kite Pharma, a publicly held cell-therapy company specializing in the field of Oncology. One year into his tenure, the company was acquitted by Gilead Sciences, days before the first Biologics License Agreement was approved for Yescarta, for treatment of Diffuse Large B-cell Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma, Kite’s first product commercial product. While building out additional capabilities in reporting and analytics, he stayed on to complete the transition of Kite’s finance functions within Gilead and was critical to the integration of the financial ERP and planning systems.

Prior to Kite/Gilead, he spent over 11 years supporting the R&D functions at Biogen during the acquisition of Idec Pharmaceuticals in San Diego, and Allergan Inc. during their Medical Aesthetics acquisitions, as well as the merger with Actavis Generics.

He received his MBA from the Marshall School of Business at the University of Southern California, with an emphasis on Finance and Statistical Analysis. Prior to that, he earned his bachelor’s degree from the University of California, Los Angeles, majoring in Economics.

Alessandra Cesano, MD, PhD Chief Medical Advisor

Alessandra Cesano, MD, PhD, is Actym’s Chief Medical Advisor. At Actym, Dr. Cesano participates in the design of clinical trials, their operational planning, and the drafting of regulatory documents for the Company. Dr. Cesano provides recommendations on both choice of therapeutic indications and mechanistic & prognostic biomarker strategies to Actym.

In addition to her role at Actym, Dr. Cesano is the Chief Medical Officer at ESSA Pharma, since July 2019. Previously, she was Chief Medical Officer of NanoString Inc from July 2015 until June 2019, where she focused on the development of translational and diagnostic multi-plexed assays for the characterization and measurement of mechanisms of immune response/resistance. Prior to NanoString, Dr. Cesano was Chief Medical Officer at Cleave Biosciences, Inc. and before then she served as Chief Medical Officer and Chief Operations Officer at Nodality, Inc., where she built and led the R&D group, while providing the overall clinical vision for the organization. Between 1998 and 2008, Dr. Cesano held various management positions at Amgen, Biogen Idec and SmithKline Beecham Pharmaceuticals, where she helped to advance various oncology drugs through late-stage development and FDA approvals.

Early in her professional career Dr. Cesano spent 12 years conducting research in tumor immunology, including nine years at the Wistar Institute, an NCI Basic Cancer Center connected with the University of Pennsylvania.

Dr. Cesano holds membership in several professional and scientific societies including ASCO, ESMO, ASH, EHA, AACR and SITC. Dr. Cesano currently serves as a member of the Board of Directors of SITC. In addition, she is Associate Editor for the Biomarker section of Journal Immunotherapy of Cancer (JITC, the Journal of the Society), and is a member of the SITC Regulatory Committee. Over her career, Dr. Cesano has been an author on over 140 publications.

Dr. Cesano received an MD summa cum laude, a Board Certification in Oncology, and a PhD in Tumor Immunology, from the University of Turin.

Sue Hamke, MS Head of Clinical Operations

Sue has 30 years of experience in clinical operations in the biotechnology and pharmaceutical industry, spanning first-in-human through registrational studies. She has a demonstrated history of developing strong teams and successful study execution and has contributed to development programs that have resulted in four marketed products. Prior to working at Actym, Sue held senior level positions at Silverback, Seattle Genetics, and Cascadian Therapeutics where she oversaw all aspects of clinical operations for the tucatinib program. Prior to Cascadian, Ms. Hamke held positions of increasing responsibility in clinical trial monitoring and management at Acucela, Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, Pharmion (UK), Hoechst Marion Roussel, and PRA. Sue received her Master’s degree in Cardiovascular Health and Physiology from Northeastern University in Boston and her Bachelor’s degree in Education from the University of Maine at Orono.

Melissa Black Head of Project Management

Melissa Black brings a wealth of experience in Program Management, Strategic Planning and Partner Management. Most recently Melissa has led several early stage development programs at companies including Allysta, Unity Biotechnology, Plexxikon, InterMune (now part of Roche), Altheos, and CoMentis. Earlier in her career she worked in Project Management at ALZA/Johnson and Johnson, where she managed multiple key projects and was a key part of the team responsible for the integration and streamlining of the ALZA project management function within Johnson and Johnson. Melissa received a Bachelor’s degree in Physical Anthropology with minors in Molecular Genetics and French from The Ohio State University.

William Lu, PhD Associate Director, Translational Sciences

William Lu, PhD, is the Associate Director of Translational Sciences at Actym Therapeutics. He has over 15 years of research experience spanning cell and molecular biology, biomarker discovery, and cell and gene therapies.

Prior to joining Actym, William was an Associate Director of Solid Tumor Research at Allogene Therapeutics where he led the development of a DLL3 CAR-T therapeutic for small cell lung cancer. Prior to that, William was at Pact Pharma as the Associate Director of Gene Editing. At Pact, he contributed to the scaling of a TCR cloning process, developed genomic safety and stability assays, and contributed to the submission and clearance of the NeoTCR-P1 IND, a phase I clinical trial of a neoepitope-specific adoptive cell therapy. In addition to clinical trial-supporting work, he developed novel methods to enhance T cell function with the goal of counteracting the immunosuppressive tumor microenvironment.

Prior to his work in cell and gene therapies, William was at the Oncology Biomarker Development group at Genentech supporting exploratory biomarker research for the Zelboraf and Cotellic programs.

William received his PhD in Cellular and Molecular Biology at the University of Michigan where he studied T and B cell development and V(D)J recombination.

Board of Directors

Julie M. Cherrington, PhD Executive Chair
Benjamin P. Chen, PhD
Katie Chudnovsky
Stefan Pflanz, PhD
Thomas Smart
Ron Mazumder, PhD

Julie M. Cherrington, PhD Executive Chair

Julie Cherrington, PhD, is an accomplished life science executive with extensive insight in bringing drugs into the clinic and through to commercialization. She has been a key contributor to the successful development of multiple FDA-approved products, including SUTENT®, PALLADIA®, VISTIDE®, VIREAD®, and HEPSERA®.

Dr. Cherrington also has extensive experience building and leading biotechnology companies. She has served as President and Chief Executive Officer at several biotechnology companies, including QUE Oncology, Arch Oncology, Revitope Oncology, Zenith Epigenetics, and Pathway Therapeutics. In addition, she served as President and Executive Vice President, R&D at Phenomix Corporation. Earlier in her career, Dr. Cherrington was Vice President of Preclinical and Clinical Research at SUGEN, a Pharmacia/Pfizer company. Dr. Cherrington began her career at Gilead Sciences, where she held a range of positions of increasing responsibility.

In addition to her Board Chair role at Actym, Dr. Cherrington serves on the Boards of Syncona Ltd, Sardona Therapeutics, KisoJi Biotechnology, MycRx, Vaxart, and Mirati Therapeutics. She is a Venture Partner at Brandon Capital Partners and is active in entrepreneurship initiatives through California Life Sciences, UC San Francisco, UC Davis and Equalize 2020/2021/2022.

Dr. Cherrington holds a B.S. in biology and an M.S. in microbiology from the University of California, Davis. Dr. Cherrington received her Ph.D. training in microbiology and immunology from the University of Minnesota and Stanford University. She completed a postdoctoral fellowship at the University of California, San Francisco.

Benjamin P. Chen, PhD

Benjamin P. Chen, PhD, a Partner at Panacea Venture, is a scientist, entrepreneur, investor and merchant banker. Most recently, Ben served as the CEO of ImaginAb, Inc. a venture backed company developing a cutting-edge platform to address an urgent unmet need in immuno-oncology. Immediately before that, he was the Chairman and CEO of London based Immune Targeting Systems, Inc. leading the immune therapy company through significant strategic growth, innovative product development, and establishing a presence in France and North America. Prior to returning to operational roles, Ben spent nine years as a Managing Director at Burrill & Company, a global life sciences venture firm where he evaluated investment opportunities and assisted a global clientele in completing licensing, partnering and M&A transactions. Earlier in his career as an R&D executive, he gained experience in building talented research teams in immunology, stem cell biology, genomics, gene therapy and molecular diagnostics in both biotechnology start-ups and multinational pharmaceutical companies including Roche Diagnostics and Novartis.

Ben received his academic training in Microbiology and Immunology at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and Stanford University.

Katie Chudnovsky

Katie Chudnovsky is a Board Observer. Yekaterina “Katie” Chudnovsky is an attorney, venture investor, dedicated patient advocate, and supporter of medical research. Katie serves as the chairperson of GI Research Foundation (GIRF) for the University of Chicago Digestive Diseases Center and has previously served as their President and Board Member for 12 years. In addition to being general counsel for an international privately-held technology firm, she serves on the Board of Directors for Elicio Therapeutics and XCures and is an Advisor to the Rare Cancer Research Foundation (RCRF).

Katie firmly believes in the power of scientific inquiry to unearth groundbreaking treatments for cancer patients. She is deeply committed to the cause, leading and participating in countless research projects that aim to expand our understanding of rare cancers and the most effective ways to fight them. Katie’s philanthropic endeavors have significantly advanced the reach and resources of cancer research. Her efforts have provided financial support for hundreds of patients in need and understands that without sufficient funding, even the most promising research projects remain unrealized.

Stefan Pflanz, PhD

Stefan accomplished his PhD at the University of Aachen, Germany, in 1999 and subsequently completed a Postdoctoral Fellowship at DNAX Research Institute in Palo Alto, California. Prior to joining the BIVF team in 2020, Stefan has headed Immunology labs or groups at Micromet (2003-2006), Schering-Plough Biopharma (2006-2010), Gilead Sciences (2011-2016), and Boehringer-Ingelheim (2016-2020), across different indication areas including immuno-oncology, infectious diseases, inflammatory conditions, and fibrosis. Stefan is an author on more than 50 peer-reviewed publications covering both preclinical and clinical research topics.

Thomas Smart

Mr. Smart has a distinguished 25-year career as a biotech executive, demonstrating dynamic leadership in roles such as CEO, CBO, SVP, and Board Member. With a proven track record of success, he has spearheaded the development of multiple promising product pipelines and candidates, culminating in the FDA and EU approval of the immuno-oncology PD-1 checkpoint inhibitor, Jemperli (dostarlimab/GSK). Mr. Smart is an expert in orchestrating pivotal transitions for biopharma companies, guiding them from research to clinical stage, and facilitating their evolution from privately held to publicly traded entities. Mr. Smart’s adeptness in securing a diverse range of transactions, including private financings, initial public offerings, corporate partnerships, and mergers and acquisitions, underscores his strategic acumen and breadth of industry experience. In addition, Mr. Smart has a comprehensive background in therapeutic modalities ranging from antibodies and small molecules to peptides, RNA, DNA, CAR-T, and other cell therapies, and has effectively managed substantial patent portfolios, leveraging regulatory designations to expedite drug development and secure market exclusivity.

Before assuming his current role at Actym Therapeutics, Mr. Smart founded Gravitas Therapeutics, where he served as CEO and Board Chair and orchestrated the acquisition and subsequent sale of the clinical-stage antifungal asset, GR-2397, to Basilea Pharmaceutica Ltd (SIX: BSLN) in October 2023. His prior leadership roles include serving as CEO and Board Chair of AnaptysBio (NASDAQ: ANAB), Chief Business Officer of XOMA (NASDAQ: XOMA), and various positions at Genetics Institute (now Pfizer), GenVec (now Precigen; NASDAQ: PGEN), Searle (now Pfizer), and Cell Genesys. Mr. Smart holds a Bachelor of Science degree from Cornell University and earned his Master of Business Administration from the University of Chicago Booth School of Business.

Ron Mazumder, PhD

Abhijit “Ron” Mazumder, PhD obtained his B.A. from The Johns Hopkins University, his PhD from the University of Maryland, and his MBA from Lehigh University. After working in several biotech companies, he joined Johnson & Johnson in 2003 and led molecular diagnostics programs and biomarker collaborations. In 2008, he joined Merck as a Senior Director and Biomarker Leader in External Discovery where he was responsible for the development of pharmacodynamic and predictive biomarkers. Ron rejoined Johnson & Johnson in 2010 and led the development of companion diagnostics across the entire Janssen therapeutic pipeline. In 2016, he joined Genentech where he was Vice President and Global Head of Oncology Biomarker Development and Companion Diagnostics, leading a global team of computational and translational scientists, working on assets that spanned from preclinical to Phase III and Medical Affairs, across the Genentech/Roche portfolio. In January 2023, he joined Illumina Ventures as a Partner.

 

Scientific Advisory Board

Greg Barton, PhD
Samuel Miller, MD
Denise Monack, PhD
Paul D. Rennert, PhD
Michel Streuli, PhD
Mario Sznol, MD
Christopher D. Thanos, PhD

Greg Barton, PhD

Greg Barton, PhD, has training and expertise are in the areas of immunology, microbiology, cell biology, and mouse genetics. Research in his lab focuses on microbial detection by the innate immune system and how innate immunity links to adaptive immunity. As a graduate student in Alexander Rudensky’s lab he developed new transgenic mouse strains to address the importance of MHC-bound self-peptides in T cell selection (Barton and Rudensky Science 1999; Barton et al PNAS 2002). Through this training he gained expertise in cellular immunology, T cell biology, and antigen presentation. For his postdoctoral training he worked in Ruslan Medzhitov’s lab, where his work focused on innate immunity. He carried out the first studies demonstrating the importance of Toll-like receptors (TLRs) in controlling induction of adaptive immunity (Schnare*, Barton* et al Nature Immunology 2001). He also began studying how TLRs with specificity for nucleic acids avoid responses to self DNA and RNA (Barton et al Nature Immunology 2006). Both of these topics continue to interest him and his group at Berkeley.

Professor Barton’s lab is known for, among other things, its discoveries of new mechanisms regulating self versus non-self discrimination by TLRs. His research team showed that nucleic acid sensing TLRs require ectodomain processing, which reinforces compartmentalized ligand recognition (Ewald et al Nature 2008; Ewald et al JEM 2011; Mouchess et al Immunity 2011). His group has also characterized key aspects of TLR trafficking which can have profound impacts on receptor function (Lee et al eLIFE 2013). Another area of study focuses on host-microbe interactions, where the lab’s work has uncovered key principles regulating interactions with pathogens (Arpaia et al Cell 2011; Sivick et al Cell Host Microbe 2014) and with the microbiota (Koch et al Cell 2016; Ansaldo et al Science 2019). Professor Barton’s ongoing work continues to explore mechanisms of self versus non-self discrimination, host-microbe interactions, and the mechanisms by which innate immunity regulates adaptive immunity.

Samuel Miller, MD

Samuel Miller, MD, is a Professor of Medicine (Allergy and Infectious Diseases, Microbiology, and Genome Sciences at the University of Washington. Dr. Miller holds a B.A. from Johns Hopkins University and a MD from Baylor College of Medicine. He trained in clinical internal medicine and infectious diseases at Massachusetts General Hospital. His scientific training was in the laboratories of Dyann Wirth (Harvard School of Public Health) and John Mekalanos (Harvard Medical School).

Prior to moving to the U of Washington in 1995 he was an Associate Professor at Harvard Medical School and a Physician at Massachusetts General Hospital. Dr. Miller is an expert in host-pathogen interactions, with a particular expertise in pathogenic Salmonellae. He has studied Salmonellae for over 25 years and has defined many of its virulence mechanisms. Dr. Miller authors the chapters on Salmonellosis for the major textbooks on internal medicine and infectious diseases. Though he is most known for his work on defining the pathogenesis of Salmonellae species, he has worked on a variety of Gram negative bacterial pathogens including Pseudomonas aeruginosa, Acinetobacter baumannii, E. coli O157, Shigella spp., Francisella spp., Yersinia pestis, and Burkholderia spp.

His work has spanned many topics, including mechanisms of bacterial sensing, bacterial second messengers, bacterial cell surface remodeling, bacterial virulence protein secretion, mechanism of action of bacterial virulence proteins, bacterial genome analysis, analysis of proteins and lipids with mass spectrometry, innate immune recognition by mammals, the microbiome and human genomic diversity in innate immunity.

Dr. Miller is the past Director of the Northwest Regional Center of Excellence in Biodefense and Emerging Infectious Diseases and past Director of the UW Cystic Fibrosis Research and Development Center and he has directed many multicomponent grant programs. Dr. Miller has advised many companies over the years on bacteria and innate immunity and was a previous Scientific Advisor to Vion Pharmaceuticals. In that role, Dr. Miller designed the first strain of Salmonella given to cancer patients in a phase 1 clinical trial, by advising how to both attenuate the strain for virulence, minimizing its innate immune recognition, and increasing its targeting to cancer cells. Dr. Miller has been honored for his work by election to the American Society of Clinical Investigation, the American Association of Physicians, and the American Academy of Microbiology. He has received the Squibb Award from the Infectious Disease Society of America.

Denise Monack, PhD

Denise Monack, PhD, is the Martha Meier Weiland Professor in the School of Medicine in the Department of Microbiology and Immunology at Stanford University. The primary focus of her research is to understand the tug-of-war between the immune system and bacterial pathogens during infections. She is particularly intrigued by host-adapted enteric pathogens that have evolved to persist within hosts for long periods of time and spread to new hosts. She has discovered specific immune responses that help the host tolerate high levels of pathogen, referred to as “superspreaders”. She studies pathogen-microbiota interactions in the gut and has discovered that specific commensal bacteria-derived metabolites help defend against bacteria that cause food poisoning. In addition, her laboratory studies how immune cells recognize pathogenic bacteria that are residing within them. Her lab discovered that two innate immune pathways are sequentially linked and that this 2-tiered response is a host gauge of the “danger” level before commitment to host cell death.

She has received numerous prestigious awards in microbiology and immunology, including The Burroughs Wellcome Fund Recipient in Infectious Disease, Society of Leukocyte Biology G. J. Thorbecke Award, Stanford University Postdoc Association Mentor Award, Max Planck Sabbatical Award, Elected Chair of Division B, American Society of Microbiologist, and is an elected Fellow and Governor to the American Academy of Microbiology. She is Section Editor at PLoS Pathogens, Editor at Infection and Immunity. She is currently the Principal Investigator of the NIH Training Grant in Microbiology and Immunology at Stanford and Chair of the Department of Microbiology and Immunology at Stanford University School of Medicine. Dr. Monack earned her Bachelor of Science from the University of California, Davis in 1984 and her PhD, from Stanford University School of Medicine in 2002.

Paul D. Rennert, PhD

Paul D. Rennert, PhD, is currently the Acting CEO, President and CSO of Aleta Biotherapeutics, headquartered in Natick, MA.

Paul is a highly-regarded scientist and biotechnology executive with extensive strategic and leadership experience. His expertise covers bench to IND and clinical trial development of small molecule drugs, biologics, and cellular therapeutics. His recent accomplishments include the launch of successful new biotech companies. In 2012 he engaged in the strategic analysis of cancer IO therapeutics with CoStim Pharmaceuticals’ executive and investment team to prioritize and launch that company’s program portfolio. In 2013 he partnered with X-Chem Inc to create XRx Discovery, a privately held drug discovery company focused on oncology, inflammation, and fibrosis. In 2016 he co-founded Aleta Biotherapeutics, a private cell therapy and biologics company that has quickly moved from bench to clinic, having won broad financial support for clinical development through Phase 2 from Cancer Research UK.

Paul is deeply engaged in the biotech community, as a MassBio and ASGCT mentor, through Board service, and as a highly sought speaker and panelist in the IO, cell therapy and investment communities. His ability to work so broadly across the industry has its foundation in his outstanding early career at Repligen and Biogen and is further highlighted by his many successful drug-development campaigns with over 50 patents filed and granted, and approximately 100 peer-reviewed publications including recent publications in Molecular Therapy, Nature Reviews Drug Discovery, Immunity, PNAS USA, and JCI. In 2015 he edited the book “Novel Therapeutic Approaches to the Treatment of Cancer.” Paul’s biotech commentary can be followed on Twitter @PDRennert.

Michel Streuli, PhD

Michel Streuli, PhD, is the Chief Executive Officer at Foundery Innovations Inc. Previously, he was Senior Vice President and Chief Scientific Officer of Pionyr Immunotherapeutics, Inc. Prior to Pionyr, Dr. Streuli held senior research positions at Gilead, Merck, Schering-Plough, and Organon, following a decade on the faculties of the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute and Harvard Medical School.

During his 20 years in the pharmaceutical and biotech industry, he has led numerous drug development programs from discovery through early clinical stage, with a focus on therapies for cancer, chronic viral, autoimmune and inflammatory diseases, including overseeing development of the immunomodulatory anti-PD-1 monoclonal antibody Keytruda, and chairing the Keytruda early development team that brought Keytruda to the clinic.

Dr. Streuli holds a PhD degree from the University of Zurich, where he was involved in the cloning and characterization of interferon-alpha-2, which led to the development of INTRON A and PEG-INTRON.

Mario Sznol, MD

Mario Sznol, MD, is Professor of Internal Medicine, Leader of the Melanoma-Renal Cancer Disease-Associated Translational Research Team, and Co-Leader of the Cancer Immunology Program at the Yale University School of Medicine.

Dr. Sznol graduated from Rice University and Baylor College of Medicine (BCM) in Houston, Texas. He trained in internal medicine at BCM and completed a medical oncology fellowship in the Department of Neoplastic Diseases, Mount Sinai Hospital, New York. He spent the next twelve years in the Biologics Evaluation Section (BES), Investigational Drug Branch (IDB), Cancer Therapy Evaluation Program of the National Cancer Institute, and was Head of the BES from 1994-1999. He attended on the inpatient units of the Biological Response Modifiers Program, NCI, from 1988-1996 and the Immunotherapy Service of the Surgery Branch, NCI, from 1997-1999. From 1999-2004, he served as Vice President of Clinical Development and Executive Officer of Vion Pharmaceuticals in New Haven, Connecticut. Dr. Sznol is past President of the Society for Immunotherapy of Cancer (SITC). Dr. Sznol’s areas of interest include early drug development, immunotherapy, and treatments for advanced melanoma and renal cancer.

Christopher D. Thanos, PhD

Christopher D. Thanos, PhD, assembled the founding team at Actym, raised initial capital ($40.5M), and co-invented Actym’s core therapeutic technology platform (>10 patent applications have been filed both in the USA and internationally). Chris has over 28 years of R&D experience, including 22 years in the biotechnology industry. Chris is a named inventor on 33 issued and multiple pending patent applications in the areas of biological and cellular therapeutics, and a first author of multiple peer-reviewed articles in top tier scientific journals. Chris was recently named one of the top 25 CEOs in biotech for 2022, by Healthcare Technology Report.

Previously, Dr. Thanos was appointed Head of Biotherapeutics Discovery at Halozyme (NASDAQ: HALO), leading Molecular Biology, Immunology, Protein Engineering, and Cell Biology Groups at the company. Chris’ group contributed to the FDA approval of the ENHANZE® therapeutic delivery platform, which is now used in 5 commercial cancer products. He also worked on the team that led to the advancement of PEG-PH20® to a global Phase 3 trial in pancreatic cancer, and an IDE-approved companion diagnostic. Chris is the lead inventor of PEG-ADA2 (US Patent 9,969,998), a checkpoint inhibitor that targets immuno-suppressive adenosine. Translational I/O studies from Dr. Thanos’ group led to a broad strategic alliance between Halozyme and Genentech to study a combination between Tecentriq® (anti-PDL1) and PEG-PH20® in the clinic across 8 solid tumor types. Chris was also the Head of Protein Engineering at Sutro Biopharma (NASDAQ:STRO). He is the lead inventor of core platform technologies used by both Sutro Biopharma and Vaxcyte (NASDAQ:PCVX), formerly SutroVax. Dr. Thanos is a named inventor on 20 issued US patents assigned to Sutro, including 8 patents where he was the lead inventor, which has led to four next-generation ADCs in Phase I clinical development (targeting folate receptor, BCMA, CD74, and Muc1-EGFR). Prior to Sutro, Dr. Thanos co-founded Catalyst Biosciences, where he participated in raising venture capital, and co-invented the company’s therapeutic technology platform.

Earlier in his career, Dr. Thanos was a National Cancer Institute Postdoctoral Fellow under Professor James Wells at UCSF and Sunesis Pharmaceuticals, Inc. He earned a PhD in Molecular Biology and Biochemistry from UCLA where he was an NIH Chemistry / Biology Interface Predoctoral Fellow. At UCLA, Dr. Thanos discovered the atomic structure and binding mode of SAM domains- one of the most common protein modules found in eukaryotic cells, work which was prominently featured in Science Magazine. Dr. Thanos is frequently called upon to present as an invited speaker, workshop leader, and conference chairman at international scientific conferences focused on biological therapeutics to treat cancer.

Clinical Advisory Board

Jean-Pierre Bizzari, MD
Alessandra Cesano, MD, PhD
Leonard Dragone, MD, PhD
Lawrence Fong, MD
Mark Frohlich, MD
J. Randolph Hecht, MD
Jason J. Luke, MD
Mario Sznol, MD

Jean-Pierre Bizzari, MD

Jean-Pierre Bizzari, MD, holds a medical degree from the University of Nice (France) and trained as an oncologist at the Pitie Salpetriere hospital in Paris. He trained successively in Toronto (Ontario Cancer Institute – Canada) and Montreal (Mac Gill Cancer Center – Canada) before joining the pharmaceutical industry in 1983 as Head of the Oncology at the Institut de Recherches Internationales SERVIER (France). In 1993, he then joined Rhone-Poulenc Rorer as Vice President of Clinical Oncology, based in Paris, and moved to Collegeville, PA, USA in 1997.

With the merger of Rhone-Poulenc Rorer with HMR (to form Aventis), he was responsible for the Oncology Clinical Development at Aventis as Vice President. From April 2002 until September 2008, he was the Vice President of Clinical Development, Oncology, of Sanofi-Aventis in Malvern, PA. Dr. Bizzari joined Celgene in 2008 (until 2016) as Executive Vice President, Clinical Development Oncology.

Some of Dr. Bizzari’s past accomplishments include the Clinical Development of several anticancer agents such as:

  • Fotemustine (melanoma, glioblastoma)
  • Taxotere (breast, NSC lung, prostate, H&N, gastric)
  • Irinotecan (colon)
  • Gliadel (glioblastoma)
  • Eloxatin (colon)
  • Revlimid (myeloma, MCL)
  • Pomalyst (myeloma)
  • Vidaza (MDS)
  • Abraxane (NSC Lung, pancreas)

Dr. Bizzari has also been involved in the development of numerous compounds such as anti-angiogenics (VEGF-trap), gene therapy, vaccines and bio-reductive agents. He is a member of the Scientific Advisory Board of the French National Cancer Institute (INCa), and a board member of the European Organization of Research and Treatment of Cancer (EORTC)

Dr. Bizzari is also on the Board of several companies such as Halozyme Therapeutics He has published more than 70 articles in peer review journals and more than 160 abstracts in scientific congresses. Dr. Bizzari’s research interests include the methodology of clinical trials, and PK/PD analysis.

Alessandra Cesano, MD, PhD

Alessandra Cesano, MD, PhD, is Actym’s Chief Medical Advisor. At Actym, Dr. Cesano participates in the design of clinical trials, their operational planning, and the drafting of regulatory documents for the Company. Dr. Cesano provides recommendations on both choice of therapeutic indications and mechanistic & prognostic biomarker strategies to Actym.

In addition to her role at Actym, Dr. Cesano is the Chief Medical Officer at ESSA Pharma, since July 2019. Previously, she was Chief Medical Officer of NanoString Inc from July 2015 until June 2019, where she focused on the development of translational and diagnostic multi-plexed assays for the characterization and measurement of mechanisms of immune response/resistance. Prior to NanoString, Dr. Cesano was Chief Medical Officer at Cleave Biosciences, Inc. and before then she served as Chief Medical Officer and Chief Operations Officer at Nodality, Inc., where she built and led the R&D group, while providing the overall clinical vision for the organization. Between 1998 and 2008, Dr. Cesano held various management positions at Amgen, Biogen Idec and SmithKline Beecham Pharmaceuticals, where she helped to advance various oncology drugs through late-stage development and FDA approvals.

Early in her professional career Dr. Cesano spent 12 years conducting research in tumor immunology, including nine years at the Wistar Institute, an NCI Basic Cancer Center connected with the University of Pennsylvania.

Dr. Cesano holds membership in several professional and scientific societies including ASCO, ESMO, ASH, EHA, AACR and SITC. Dr. Cesano currently serves as a member of the Board of Directors of SITC. In addition, she is Associate Editor for the Biomarker section of Journal Immunotherapy of Cancer (JITC, the Journal of the Society), and is a member of the SITC Regulatory Committee. Over her career, Dr. Cesano has been an author on over 140 publications.

Dr. Cesano received an MD summa cum laude, a Board Certification in Oncology, and a PhD in Tumor Immunology, from the University of Turin.

Leonard Dragone, MD, PhD

Leonard (Lenny) Dragone, MD PhD has recently joined Abata Therapeutics as the chief medical officer (CMO). In his prior role, Lenny was CMO at Sonoma Biotherapeutics where he was responsible for building and executing all clinical strategy and development efforts. He built and managed a broad development organization, which included: Regulatory Affairs, Translational Sciences (biomarkers), Data Science, Development Sciences (Pre-clinical Toxicology and PK/PD), Clinical Sciences and Operations, Clinical Development, Safety and Medical monitoring. Under Lenny’s leadership, Sonoma Biotherapeutics when from a pre-clinical to clinical stage company poised to deliver both biologic and Treg cell therapies to patients with autoimmune and inflammatory diseases.

Prior to Sonoma Biotherapeutics, Lenny served as the Vice President for Early Clinical Development as well as the interim Head of Data Sciences for Infectious Diseases at Janssen Biopharma. He was responsible for advancing therapeutic candidates from pre-IND enabling studies through Phase 1 to Phase 2b clinical trials as well as identifying high-impact data science studies. Lenny oversaw the development teams and created an infrastructure that bridged discovery to early development enabling collaboration and the creation of new patient-based studies to inform therapeutics in development for respiratory and chronic hepatitis B infections.

Lenny previously worked at Merck Research Laboratories in SSF as a Senior Director of Experimental Medicine and Translational Pharmacology. As clinical site lead and therapeutic area lead for Autoimmunity, Inflammation and Ophthalmology (AIO), he was responsible for early clinical development of the AIO pipeline through Phase 2a, contributing to pipeline strategy and prioritization. He also created a new experimental medicine clinical trials group functioning across the Merck network, which enabled experimental medicine studies across cardiovascular, metabolic, autoimmunity and inflammation indications.

Prior to this, Lenny was a Medical Director in early clinical development at Genentech, leading and coordinating multiple cross-functional project teams with emphasis on IND filing and achieving proof-of-concept through Ph.2b for indications including SLE, RA, multiple sclerosis, psoriasis and influenza. Additionally, he created and ran an integrated clinical informatics team that worked at the interface of research, biomarker discovery and clinical investigation.

Lenny also has extensive experience in academia, receiving his MD and PhD from the University of Rochester, before completing his Pediatric residency and Pediatric Rheumatology Fellowship training at University of California San Francisco (UCSF). He then ran his own NIH-funded laboratory publishing over 30 peer-reviewed and advanced up the academic ranks to Associate Professor of Pediatrics and Immunology at the University of Colorado and National Jewish Health in Denver Colorado. Lenny continues to stay clinically active as a Volunteer Associate Professor of Pediatric Rheumatology at UCSF seeing patients in the pediatric rheumatology fellow’s clinic.

Lawrence Fong, MD

Lawrence Fong, MD, is Head of the Cancer Immunotherapy Program at UCSF where he is a Distinguished Professor in Cancer Biology. He is also the Co-Director of the Parker Institute for Cancer Immunotherapy at UCSF and co-leads the Cancer Immunology Program in the Helen Diller Family Comprehensive Cancer Center. He is a physician-scientist in the Department of Medicine, Division of Hematology/Oncology directing both a translational research program and a research lab.

Dr. Fong has focused on cancer immunotherapy for over 20 years and has been involved in both pre-clinical and clinical studies of FDA-approved immunotherapies including sipuleucel-T and immune checkpoint inhibitors. Dr. Fong’s research focuses on understanding the mechanisms that underlie clinical response and resistance to immunotherapies.

Dr. Fong received his MD from Stanford University.

Mark Frohlich, MD

Mark Frohlich, MD, is the former Executive Vice President, Development and Portfolio Strategy of Juno Therapeutics, which was acquired by Celgene in 2018. Prior to Juno, Dr. Frohlich was Chief Medical Officer and Executive Vice President, Research and Development, at Dendreon Pharmaceuticals. Prior to Dendreon, Dr. Frohlich was Vice President and Medical Director at Xcyte Therapies. Dr. Frohlich is a board-certified medical oncologist and earned his MD from Harvard Medical School. Prior to that, Dr. Frohlich was Chief Resident, Internal Medicine, and a member of the Oncology Fellowship Program at UCSF. He earned a Bachelor of Science Degree from Yale University in Electrical Engineering and Economics, where he graduated Summa Cum Laude.

J. Randolph Hecht, MD

J. Randolph Hecht, MD, is a Professor of Clinical Medicine in the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA School of Medicine. He holds the Carol and Saul Rosenzweig Chair for Cancer Therapies Development and is the Director of the UCLA Gastrointestinal Oncology Program. Dr. Hecht graduated from Eastern Virginia Medical School and took his internal medicine residency at Northwestern and completed fellowships in gastroenterology research at the University of Chicago, and in gastroenterology and medical oncology at UCLA. He also the director of the UCLA GI Oncology Program which has one of the largest clinical and research programs in the Western United States.

Dr. Hecht is an internationally known clinical and translational researcher in the field of gastrointestinal cancers. He has published widely on the molecular biology, early detection, and treatment of gastrointestinal malignancies. He has led multiple phase III trials including ones with small molecule VEGFR inhibitors (CONFIRM-1) and anti-EGFR directed therapies (PACCE) in colorectal cancer, HER-2 inhibitors in gastric cancer (TRIO-013/LOGiC) and immunotherapy in pancreatic cancer (SEQUOIA). He has also been the principal investigator of several large, randomized phase II trials in colorectal cancer examining the role of targeted therapies. He is currently leading multicenter trials with novel agents in GI including new approaches to immunotherapy such as oncolytic virus and CAR-T therapies.

Jason J. Luke, MD

Jason J. Luke, MD, is an Associate Professor of Medicine at the University of Pittsburgh and UPMC Hillman Cancer Center where he is the Director of the Immunotherapy and Drug Development Center. Dr. Luke specializes in early phase drug development for solid tumors (particularly novel immunotherapeutics and biomarkers of immunotherapy activity) as well as the management of cutaneous oncology, particularly patients with melanoma.

Dr. Luke has been a lead international investigator on clinical trials of immunotherapies including but not limited to anti-PD1/L1, CTLA4, many secondary checkpoints, bispecific approaches (checkpoint, CD3 and cytokine), metabolism modifiers (IDO, A2Ar/CD73/CD39 and arginase), innate agonists of STING, TLRs and oncolytic virus as well as solid tumor cellular therapies (TCRs and CART). Dr. Luke has been a major contributor toward the investigation of radiation and the microbiome in relation to cancer immunotherapy. Dr. Luke’s major translational research focus leverages large scale informatics to advance cancer immunotherapy.

Dr. Luke received his MD from Rosalind Franklin University of Medicine and Science in Chicago. He then pursued internship and residency at the Boston University Medical Center followed by medicine and medical oncology fellowships at Weill Cornell Medical College and Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in New York City. Following fellowship, Dr. Luke was a tenure-track, Type 1 Instructor in Medicine at Harvard Medical School as well as Staff Physician at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute and Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston. Thereafter Dr. Luke was an Assistant Professor at the University of Chicago. Dr. Luke is currently Senior Editor at Clinical Cancer Research, Associate Editor at the Journal for Immunotherapy of Cancer and Skin Cancer Section Editor for the American Cancer Society journal Cancer.

Dr. Luke is actively involved in several professional societies including the Society for Melanoma Research, the Society for Immunotherapy of Cancer, American Association for Cancer Research and the American Society for Clinical Oncology (ASCO), having served on the scientific program committees for each. Dr. Luke has received several awards for research and clinical care including the Melanoma Research Foundation Humanitarian Award, Crain’s 40 under 40, Department of Defense (DOD) Career Development Award, Paul Calabresi Career Development in Clinical Oncology Award (K12), ASCO Merit Award as well as Young Investigator Awards from the Melanoma Research Alliance, the Cancer Research Foundation and the Conquer Cancer Foundation of ASCO. Dr. Luke’s research has been supported by the National Institutes of Health, DOD, ASCO, the National Comprehensive Cancer Network and multiple industry and private foundations.

Mario Sznol, MD

Mario Sznol, MD, is Professor of Internal Medicine, Leader of the Melanoma-Renal Cancer Disease-Associated Translational Research Team, and Co-Leader of the Cancer Immunology Program at the Yale University School of Medicine.

Dr. Sznol graduated from Rice University and Baylor College of Medicine (BCM) in Houston, Texas. He trained in internal medicine at BCM and completed a medical oncology fellowship in the Department of Neoplastic Diseases, Mount Sinai Hospital, New York. He spent the next twelve years in the Biologics Evaluation Section (BES), Investigational Drug Branch (IDB), Cancer Therapy Evaluation Program of the National Cancer Institute, and was Head of the BES from 1994-1999. He attended on the inpatient units of the Biological Response Modifiers Program, NCI, from 1988-1996 and the Immunotherapy Service of the Surgery Branch, NCI, from 1997-1999. From 1999-2004, he served as Vice President of Clinical Development and Executive Officer of Vion Pharmaceuticals in New Haven, Connecticut. Dr. Sznol is past President of the Society for Immunotherapy of Cancer (SITC). Dr. Sznol’s areas of interest include early drug development, immunotherapy, and treatments for advanced melanoma and renal cancer.

Investors