May 21, 2024   |   News
etherna and Hasselt University announce autoimmune mRNA therapeutics research collaboration
  • Combines etherna’s mRNA and LNP technologies expertise with Hasselt University’s leading autoimmune research
  • Focuses on developing a tolerizing mRNA-LNP platform that restores immune homeostasis and that can be deployed across a variety of auto-immune diseases
  • Funded by Euros 1.7 million Flanders Innovation & Entrepreneurship (VLAIO) grant

Niel, Belgium, May 21, 2024etherna, a leading mRNA technologies company, announced today that it has entered a research collaboration with Hasselt University (UHasselt) to develop an mRNA based treatment for auto-immune disorders.  Funded by Flanders Innovation & Entrepreneurship (VLAIO), the project aims to combine etherna’s vast expertise in developing customized mRNA and lipid-based nanoparticle technologies for immuno-modulation with UHasselt’s renowned research into autoimmune diseases with a particular focus on multiple sclerosis.

Prof. Dr. Bieke Broux, Faculty of Medicine and Life Sciences, UHasselt said: “This innovative project was created by bringing together the expertise of etherna in mRNA and LNP technologies and the extensive immunological knowledge available in the Biomedical Research Institute (BIOMED) of Hasselt University. My team focuses specifically on finding solutions for the autoimmune disease multiple sclerosis. To this end, we use human in vitro models, as well as laboratory animal models to translationally test our findings.”

Dr. Paulien Baeten, Postdoctoral researcher commented: “The collaboration with etherna in this VLAIO-funded project is a great opportunity to contribute to the application of mRNA technologies in the fight against autoimmune disorders. This gives us as academic researchers the opportunity to convert our acquired knowledge into a solution for patients.”

Dr. Stefaan De Koker, VP Technology & Innovation at etherna, added: “We are delighted to receive this grant from VLAIO and enter into collaboration with UHasselt. We see autoimmune diseases as one of the key opportunities for mRNA therapeutics alongside oncology and infectious diseases. The aim is to develop tolerizing mRNA therapeutics that selectively amplify immune-suppressive regulatory T cells (Tregs) and deplete disease-causing auto-reactive effector T cells (Teffs) whilst avoiding generalized immune activation. etherna’s ability to provide ultrapure, non-inflammatory mRNA, and immune-silent LNPs targeting antigen presenting cells alongside UHasselt’s immunological expertise will be key to success.”

Since etherna was founded in 2013, the company has established an integrated set of proprietary capabilities for end-to-end design, development, and manufacture of next-generation mRNA products. These include molecular designs, lipid chemistry expertise, customized lipid nanoparticle formulations (cLNPs), mRNA-based T cell adjuvants, and advanced manufacturing processes. etherna’s business model is to partner with both emerging and established biopharma companies, allowing them to resolve the current challenges mRNA therapeutics face.

About Hasselt University
In five decades, Hasselt University has grown into a civic university dedicated to the region, connected in and with the world. UHasselt has two campuses (Diepenbeek and Hasselt), ten faculties and schools (Architecture and Art, Business Economics, Medicine and Life Sciences, Industrial Engineering, Law, Sciences, Educational Studies, Social Sciences, Rehabilitation Sciences & Mobility Sciences), and seven research institutes and centers (biomedical, statistical and environmental, and materials research & research into mobility, digital media and the clinical research center LCRC). Hasselt University has more than 7,000 students and 1,600 staff members.

The Biomedical Research Institute (BIOMED) of Hasselt University is a multidisciplinary institute where high-end technologies are used to gain new insights into three disease domains: immunology, neuroscience, and cardiovascular disease. The institute combines high-quality fundamental research with translational programs to develop applications for patients and the healthcare sector. This focuses on identifying risk factors throughout the different phases of life, developing better insights into disease mechanisms, monitoring conditions, and devising strategies to deal with, treat, and prevent conditions.