July 9, 2024   |   News
Antonin (Tony) de Fougerolles appointed as Chair

We are pleased to announce that Antonin (Tony) de Fougerolles has been appointed as our new Chair. Tony, has been a key member of our Board since January 2023, and we are confident that his extensive experience and vision will drive our mission forward. Our outgoing Chair, Marijn Dekkers, will remain on the Board, continuing his contributions.

Tony brings a wealth of expertise in mRNA and Lipid Nanoparticle (LNP) therapeutics, having held pivotal leadership roles at Moderna and Alnylam. His accomplishments include pioneering modified mRNA as a therapeutic and vaccine modality and advancing several new drug modalities to the market. His leadership will be instrumental as we continue to expand our partnerships.

Bernard Sagaert, our CEO, expressed his enthusiasm: “I am thrilled to work more closely with Tony. His vast experience, business relationships, and strategic vision in the field will further accelerate the development and success of etherna.”

Tony de Fougerolles, etherna Chair added: “Over the last 18 months I have seen first-hand how the cLNPs and mRNA manufacturing expertise that etherna has developed is world-leading and impressive in its quality, breadth, and novelty. The recently announced partnership with Almirall is a clear recognition of this. I look forward to guiding Bernard and his talented team to seize exciting opportunities to bring novel mRNA-based therapeutics to patients.”

Marijn Dekkers, etherna Board Member noted: “Tony has already proven to be an extremely valued addition to the Board and therefore I am delighted to welcome him as my successor. His combination of scientific and entrepreneurial excellence as well as clear strategic vision will enable him to steer etherna successfully through the next stage of its development.”

Meet our board members 

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.

April 16, 2024   |   News
Shelly West joins etherna as Business Development Director US
  • Brings strong US business development track record
  • Focus on expanding partnerships with biopharma and pharma
  • Integrated offering key differentiator – Proprietary customized RNA chemistry and lipid nanoparticles (cLNPs) expertise combined with GMP process knowhow

Niel, Belgium, April 16, 2024etherna (“the Company”), a leading mRNA technologies company, announced today that Shelly West has been appointed Business Development Director US. She joins as the Company gains increasing traction for its proprietary RNA-based medicines and LNP delivery platforms in North America and brings extensive experience in building strategic contacts, networks, and business relationships.

Shelly arrives from Cellpoint Biosciences, the Houston-based cell therapy CDMO where she was Senior Director, Business Development, having previously held senior roles at Recipharm, MaxCyte, and Synthego. Shelly holds a B.S. in Microbiology from North Carolina State University.

Shelly commented: “RNA therapeutics are among the most exciting areas currently in life sciences. etherna is a highly innovative leader in the mRNA and lipid nanoparticle field and I look forward to helping build partnerships with US pharma and biotech companies to create novel medicines for patients.”

Bernard Sagaert, CEO etherna, added: “Shelly’s network and experience will enable us to accelerate our growth in this key market. As the range of opportunities for mRNA therapeutics continues to expand beyond oncology and respiratory diseases into areas such as autoimmune, we are getting increasing interest in our partnership model.”

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, with a focus on modulated expression delivery platforms, and optimized RNA chemistry supported by proprietary process technologies. These include molecular designs, lipid biochemistry expertise, customized lipid nanoparticle formulations (cLNPs), mRNA-based T cell adjuvants, and advanced manufacturing processes, and overcome the current challenges facing the development of mRNA therapeutics. etherna’s business model utilizes this suite of capabilities as enablers to deliver superior products for partners in both early-stage research as well as later-stage development for mRNA therapeutics.

February 13, 2024   |   News
Landmark peer-reviewed paper shows etherna LNP formulations for intramuscular injection combine the induction of strong immune responses with significantly reduced local reactogenicity and systemic distribution

This work paves the way for the design of mRNA vaccines to combat infectious diseases and cancers with enhanced efficacy and improved tolerability

Niel, Belgium – Feb 13, 2024 – etherna, a leading RNA technology company has announced the publication of a peer-reviewed paper in Advanced Functional Materials showcasing the strengths of etherna’s proprietary Lipid-based nanoparticle (LNP) platform.

The work, which was conducted in collaboration with the lab of Prof. De Geest at Ghent University, describes how delivery of mRNA-encoded antigens in LNPs comprising a novel class of ionizable lipids enhances the induction of antigen-specific immune responses while reducing undesired off-target expression in the liver, thereby minimizing the risk of adverse events.

The researchers compared the transfection ability and toxicity arising from the use of two different mRNA encapsulation materials, MC3 (which served as a benchmark) and etherna’s S-Ac7-DOG.

In mouse models, the team found that S-Ac7-DOG encapsulated mRNA demonstrated markedly higher transfection, lower reactogenicity, and higher accumulation in the vaccine-draining lymph nodes, tissues where immune responses against microbial antigens and tumor antigens are typically induced.

Hypothetically, any mRNA-based drug using S-Ac7-DOG as the lipid base would therefore have improved efficacy and a better safety profile. Eventually, these findings could lead to the development and subsequent delivery of highly efficacious, safe cancer vaccines and treatments, transforming oncology as we know it.

Stefaan De Koker, etherna’s Vice President, Technology & Innovation, describes the paper as a “landmark” for the company and its technology.
“The publication in Advanced Functional Materials demonstrates several key advantages of etherna’s mRNA and lipid nanoparticle offerings and, for the first time, demonstrates the two together. Whilst the currently published work focuses on the design of mRNA LNPs for more effective vaccines, we also have designed LNP platforms based on similar chemistries for the immune-silent delivery of mRNA to hematopoietic stem cells, macrophages, and hepatocytes, thereby extending the utility of our LNP platforms to hematological disorders, rare genetic diseases, and auto-immunity.
It is our view that mRNA therapies, when successfully deployed, could be used to save the lives of millions of patients worldwide,” he says. “As a company, we are now even better positioned to sign development agreements with large pharmaceutical companies who require additional assistance in bringing their own mRNA therapies to market.”

Kenneth Chien, Karolinska Institute Distinguished Professor Emeritus of the Swedish Research Council added: “This study establishes the value of combining the design of custom LNPs ( cLNPs) with state-of-the-art mRNA chemistry based on the optimization of the 5’ and 3’ untranslated regions along with enhanced algorithms for codon optimization. The etherna paradigm for cLNP design is ushering in the rapid generation of novel families of delivery systems for not only vaccination but also for in vivo tolerization for a host of autoimmune diseases.”

About Advanced Functional Materials
Advanced Functional Materials is part of the Wiley family of scientific publications. Published weekly since 2013, the journal has an impact rating of 19 and focuses on articles that demonstrate advances in the chemical and physical properties of known materials.
Although Advanced Functional Materials’ most-cited articles focus on battery and semiconductor technology, its readers and submissions come from a broad range of backgrounds, including those from elsewhere in the materials science sector, physicists, engineers, biologists, and medical researchers.


December 12, 2023   |   News
Almirall and etherna enter into a multi-target alliance to develop mRNA-based therapies in medical dermatology

• The multi-target research and development partnership will focus on severe skin diseases
• The collaboration leverages etherna’s proprietary mRNA and lipid nanoparticle (LNP) technology with Almirall’s expertise in the dermatology space
• In addition to upfront and technology access payments, etherna is eligible to receive €300 million in development and commercial milestones as well as tiered royalties

BARCELONA, Spain and NIEL, Belgium. December 12th 2023 – Almirall, S.A. (ALM), a global pharmaceutical company focused on medical dermatology, and etherna, an mRNA/LNP technology platform company, announced today a multi-target alliance to discover and develop new mRNA-based therapies for severe skin diseases, including non-melanoma skin cancer.

The alliance combines and leverages etherna’s innovative proprietary mRNA capabilities and LNP formulations with Almirall’s leading expertise in medical dermatology to accelerate discovery of novel treatment options. Delivery of LNP-formulated mRNA for transient and local translation of therapeutic proteins offers a unique opportunity to encode for multiple therapeutically active components in a single treatment.

Etherna and Almirall will work collaboratively on the research activities, while Almirall will lead clinical development and commercialization. Under the terms of the agreement, etherna will receive upfront and technology access payments. In addition, etherna is eligible to receive success-based development and commercial milestone payments that could exceed €300 million contingent upon launch and commercial success of multiple products, as well as tiered royalties based upon future global sales. Further financial details were not disclosed.

Dr. Karl Ziegelbauer, Chief Scientific Officer of Almirall, stated: “At Almirall, we always look for new solutions for patients suffering from skin diseases and we are thrilled about the strategic alliance with etherna to strengthen our pipeline with mRNA-based assets.”

Bernard Sagaert, CEO of etherna, stated: “We are excited to partner with Almirall to advance mRNA therapeutics into medical dermatology. Almirall and etherna share the vision that intradermal application of LNP-formulated mRNA is a highly promising strategy to bring novel, efficacious new treatment options that will deliver huge benefits to patients.”

October 17, 2023   |   News
mRNA/LNP technology platform company etherna names Bernard Sagaert as Chief Executive Officer and Marijn Dekkers as Chairman of the Board

• Sagaert’s CEO appointment follows his successful interim period implementing etherna’s new partnership-driven business strategy.
• Sagaert joined etherna in 2017 and brings extensive operational and strategic experience in the life sciences industry.
• Dekkers, who is the founder of investment and advisory firm Novalis Capital Partners LLC and former CEO of Bayer AG and Thermo Fisher Scientific, is widely recognized as a visionary industry leader.
• etherna’s integrated technology offering is internationally recognized as key differentiator – proprietary RNA chemistry and customized LNP platforms matched with deep GMP process know-how.
• The company has also rebranded its name from eTheRNA immunotherapies to etherna , and has launched new websites.

Niel, Belgium, October 16, 2023 – etherna (“the Company”), a leading mRNA/LNP technologies company, announced today that Bernard Sagaert has been confirmed-as Chief Executive Officer. This follows an interim 12-month period during which he has successfully led the Company’s pivot to a new partnership-driven business strategy. At the same time Marijn Dekkers, an existing Board Member representing investor Novalis LifeSciences LLC, has been appointed Chairman of the Board. Both appointments come as etherna’s new strategy is gaining significant traction globally. etherna is enabling a growing number of life science and pharma companies to accelerate their pursuits into the fast-growing nucleic acid sector by leveraging the Company’s industry-leading proprietary RNA-based chemistry, its custom LNP delivery platforms, and its GMP process knowhow.

Prior to the interim CEO role, Bernard Sagaert was COO at etherna. He joined the Company in 2017 after a successful career in both industry and consulting including roles as QA & Supply Chain Director at Mylan in Belgium, and VP QA EMEAA at Sterigenics, a Sotera company.

Marijn Dekkers is the Founder and Chairman of Novalis Capital Partners LLC, an investment and advisory firm for the Life Science industry. Previously, he served as CEO of Bayer AG in Leverkusen, Germany and as CEO of Thermo Fisher Scientific near Boston, MA, USA.

Tony de Fougerolles, Board Member and Head of Remuneration Committee added: “Bernard has shown exceptional leadership and clarity of purpose over the last year. I am therefore pleased to confirm his appointment as CEO. Equally I congratulate Marijn on his appointment to Chairman and look forward to working with both of them as etherna further exploits its mRNA/LNP expertise that is world-leading and impressive in both its breadth and novelty.”

Bernard Sagaert commented: “I am delighted to be confirmed as CEO and thank the board for their confidence. I also welcome Marijn as Chairman, and would like to thank Russell Greig, our previous Chairman, for his long term engagement with the company and the support he has given me during the Interim CEO period. etherna’s new partnership strategy has been very well-received in both Europe and the US. With the help of our highly dedicated and professional team, I now intend to continue and accelerate our drive towards becoming the premier discovery and development partner for pharma and biotech aiming to deliver novel RNA-based therapeutics to patients.”

Marijn Dekkers, new etherna Chairman said: “I am honored to be asked to take the role of Chairman at this exciting Company and working closely with Bernard, the etherna leadership team, and the board. Already as COO, Bernard was instrumental in building etherna’s unique technology platform. During the past 12 months, he has demonstrated strong and focused leadership as the Company has introduced the new business partnership strategy. The board has now confirmed his permanent appointment, confident in his ability to lead the company to its next stage of development, contributing its breakthrough technologies to the development of mRNA-based therapeutics, an area that is full of unimaginable opportunities.”

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, with a focus on modulated expression delivery platforms, optimized RNA chemistry supported by proprietary process technologies. These include molecular designs, lipid biochemistry expertise, customized lipid nanoparticle formulations (cLNPs), mRNA-based T cell adjuvants, and advanced manufacturing processes, and they overcome the current challenges facing the development of mRNA therapeutics. etherna’s business model utilizes this suite of capabilities as enablers to deliver superior products for partners in both early-stage research as well as later-stage development for mRNA therapeutics.

To reflect both the new business strategy, board restructuring and permanent appointment of Sagaert, the Company has also rebranded its name from “eTheRNA Immunotherapies” to “etherna”. The updated website for the Partnerships can be found at www.etherna.be