• 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
- Combines strong US business development track record with in-depth mRNA expertise
- Global remit with focus on growth of etherna’s portfolio of partners
- Integrated offering key differentiator – Proprietary customized RNA chemistry and lipid nanoparticles (cLNPs) expertise combined with GMP process knowhow
Niel, Belgium, June 8, 2023 – etherna (“the Company”), a leading mRNA technologies company, announced today that Steffen Helmling, PhD has been appointed Chief Business Officer. He joins as the Company continues to invest in its proprietary RNA-based medicines and LNP delivery platforms to exploit its expertise in the field. Leveraging over 18 years of experience in business development, alliances and pharma partnering, Steffen will focus on growing etherna’s portfolio of partners globally.
Steffen Helmling arrives from X-Chem, Inc., the Boston-based pioneer of DNA-Encoded Library (DEL) technology where he was Chief Business Officer in charge of business development, licensing, marketing and alliance management. Steffen holds a PhD in RNA processing from Tufts University’s School of Biomedical Sciences.
Steffen commented: “I am excited to be back in the transformational field of RNA-based medicines. etherna is a highly innovative leader in the mRNA and lipid nanoparticle field. I look forward to driving our business strategy of being the premier discovery and development partner to pharma and biotech to create novel medicines for patients.”
Bernard Sagaert, interim CEO of etherna, added: “Having Steffen on board will be invaluable in helping us reach out to partners with a route into mRNA therapeutics based on our industry-leading leading platforms. His extensive US network will help us accelerate this process in this key market.”
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 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.
Belgian Royal delegation visits the Afrigen facilities where Univercells and etherna will be supporting the development of the first African-owned mRNA COVID-19 vaccine.
CAPE TOWN (SOUTH AFRICA) & BRUSSELS (BELGIUM), MARCH 25, 2023 – HM King Philippe and HM Queen Mathilde, currently on a state visit to South Africa until March 27, visited the Afrigen Biologics facility in Cape Town to learn more about how two Belgian companies, Univercells and etherna, are supporting the development of the first African- developed mRNA COVID-19 vaccine. The King and The Queen are accompanied by five ministers of federal and regional governments, as well as a business delegation including several Belgian companies. The intention is to further discuss cooperation and partnership between the two countries and focus, among other things, on business and development.
Given the strong commitment from Belgium and the European Union towards supporting regional production autonomy in the region, and the fact that the mRNA Technology Transfer Program co-led by the World Health Organization (WHO) and Medicines Patent Pool (MPP), is at the epicenter of this global effort, the Royal delegation made it a point to include a visit to Afrigen as part of their stay.
Quantoom Biosciences, a Univercells’ company, is leading the development of the mRNA production technology that encompasses all the steps of RNA production, from sequence construct to large scale production, allowing for rapid growth and scale-up. Dramatically more efficient than existing methods, it was built with distributed and de-centralized manufacturing in mind – ensuring that processes can be easily transferred across low- and middle-income countries (LMICs). Today, the project has delivered exceptional results based on the analytical characterization proven to be compliant to Critical Quality Attributes (CQA) specifications, allowing the company to transfer its process to Afrigen.
Afrigen and Univercells are supported in the collaboration by mRNA expert development partner etherna. The company has enabled the development of the RNA production equipment and developed a thermostable COVID-19 vaccine and platform which enables distribution across the continent to even the remotest rural communities, an essential part of the collaboration, and is sharing the way this LNP formulation needs to be produced.
It is in this context that the King and the Queen decided to visit Afrigen and meet both Belgian companies and South African partners who are working together for the development of this milestone vaccine.
The Afrigen guided tour started in the production area, followed by the R&D department and laboratories. As part of the tour, each partner provided the delegation with an update on their involvement and the status of work.
As they were passing by the R&D facilities, Bernard Sagaert, interim Chief Executive Officer of etherna, explained how the project is benefiting from etherna’s technologies, at multiple levels and stages: “We are delighted to partner with Univercells and Afrigen Biologics on this important project by providing expert support and knowhow in all the key areas of mRNA vaccine development. The resulting vaccines validates our integrated approach using our unique skillset – from optimizing RNA payload, through formulation of the lipid nanoparticle delivery system to enhancing thermostability for mass manufacturing. This will allow for storage in normal fridges which are more accessible than -20 or -80°C freezers, especially in LMICs and significantly improve the prospects of making vaccines more accessible globally.”
José Castillo, co-founder of Univercells Group and CEO of Quantoom Biosciences continued: “Almost one year after signing the agreement we are thrilled to be back at Afrigen and meet all partners to discussion the progress and project deliverables. Over the last months, three batched of RNA were produced and Quantoom’s NtensifyTM midi system will be delivered at Afrigen within the next weeks.”
Petro Terblanche, Afrigen Chief Executive Officer, declared: “The COVID-19 pandemic has shown that there is a pressing need to build sustainable capabilities in vaccine development and manufacturing in African and other LMICs. I am thrilled to see how the project is moving forward bringing cutting edge technology to Afrigen to integrate into the technology and manufacturing platforms we are building and transferring to partners in Africa and other LMICs. This is driven by our quest for enabling access to life-saving vaccines and medicines for the people living in the global South.”
Charles Gore, Medicines Patent Pool, added: “Since the start of the mRNA Technology Transfer Program in June 2021, it is impressive to see the amazing developments here at Afrigen and all that has been achieved in mRNA vaccine development. None of it would have been possible without the Program funders, and I particularly want to thank the Kingdom of Belgium for their support from the outset of the project. ”
Dr Owen Kaluwa, World Health Organization, concluded: “ The mRNA Technology Transfer Program is built on partnerships and working closely will leading technologies and experts is essential. Through this cutting-edge technology that has been developed with LMICs in mind, and that provides an inclusive solution, Afrigen with the support of Quantoom and etherna can ow move rapidly to the next phase of mRNA vaccine development. It is still WHO firm belief that a more widely distributed access to technologies and vaccine manufacturing capacity will reduce the gap in making vaccines available promptly for everyone, everywhere and accelerates the impact of the necessary collective effort to control outbreaks.”
Next steps include receiving the Quantoom’s NtensifyTM midi system in Afrigen, and etherna’s proprietary lipid to enable Afrigen to replicate the production of mRNA drug substance and drug product according to Quantoom and etherna’s processes, respectively.
- Follows recent financing round led by Novalis LifeSciences LLC, with investors Dr. Marijn
Dekkers and Moderna’s co-founder Dr. Kenneth Chien joining the board of directors
- Strategic focus includes customized lipid nanoparticles (cLNPs)
- mRNA chemistries and process capabilities as enabling technologies driving company excellence
Niel, Belgium, January 9, 2023 – etherna (“the Company”), a leading mRNA technologies company, announced today that Antonin (Tony) de Fougerolles has joined its board of directors as an independent member. This follows the Company’s recent Series B2 financing round to expand investment in its integrated mRNA technology platform and further pursue its new partnership-driven business strategy.
Tony is currently the CEO of Evox Therapeutics, an Oxford-based company developing exosome therapeutics, and has an extensive background in mRNA and more specifically LNPs through his roles at Moderna and Alnylam. He has nearly 25 years of biotech R&D experience in building out drug pipelines, and he has played a key role in developing and successfully advancing 3 new drug modalities to the market (mRNA, RNAi, single domain antibodies) and in helping build several multi-billion-dollar companies from start-up stage. As founding Chief Scientific Officer (CSO) at Moderna Therapeutics, he pioneered modified mRNA as a new therapeutic and vaccine drug modality and the mRNA chemistry and delivery systems that form the basis of the approved COVID-19 mRNA vaccines. Prior to that, as VP of Research at Alnylam, he helped develop RNA interference (RNAi) as a new drug modality, including overseeing development of the first approved LNP-based RNAi delivery system and the development of several approved RNAi drugs including inclisiran. Author of over 60 scientific publications and an inventor on over 100 issued US patents, Tony has also a ‘Belgian’ connection, from his time as CSO at Ablynx (now Sanofi) where he played a key role in the approval of the first single domain antibody drug, caplacizumab. Tony obtained his PhD in Immunology from Harvard University.
“Tony is exceptionally qualified to help ensure etherna’s future corporate growth,” added Russell Greig, PhD, Chair of etherna’s board of directors. “His addition to the board will add momentum to the company’s mission to deliver cutting edge advances in mRNA and LNP technologies for the treatment of unmet medical needs.”
“I am thrilled to be joining etherna’s board and contributing to its future growth,” commented Tony de Fougerolles. “The cLNPs and mRNA manufacturing expertise that the company has developed is world leading and impressive in both its breadth and novelty. As is increasingly being understood, the ability to robustly deliver mRNA and other genetic medicines to new cell types and tissues is the central element needed to enable their wider application.”
Marijn Dekkers, Chairman of Novalis LifeSciences, said: “We are excited to have Tony join at this important stage of the Company’s development. He is a fantastic addition to the competences we have already gathered on the board. In addition to scientific excellence, he is a proven entrepreneur with an incredible track record of commercializing new modalities and technology platforms.”
Bernard Sagaert, interim CEO of etherna said: “We are delighted to have Tony join the board, as he brings, together with Ken, vast experience in cLNPs and mRNA to etherna, and is well connected in the industry. Having him on board will be invaluable in helping us implement our new business strategy. Strengthening and expanding our significant expertise in designing, synthesizing, and manufacturing cLNPs for a range of prophylactic and therapeutic indications, will enable the Company to accelerate near-term revenue growth through technology licensing and mRNA cGMP manufacturing services for multiple future partners.”
etherna is an mRNA technology platform company with integrated capabilities including mRNA construct design and optimization, coupled with specialized expertise in designing and manufacturing customized lipid nanoparticles (cLNP) formulations tailored for the prevention and treatment of various pathological states, providing end-to-end solutions for next generation mRNA therapeutics. The company believes that customized LNPs are critical enablers in advancing mRNA technologies to new levels of prophylactic and therapeutic utility.