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eTheRNA immunotherapies, the VUB spin-off that recently secured a EUR 24 million investment to continue the development of mRNA-based immunotherapies, has strengthened its management team with the appointment of Dr. Karl-Josef “Kajo” Kallen (photo) as Chief Medical Officer, effective May 1 2016.
Dr. Kallen had several positions related to the development of immunology related therapies in academia and industry. He served as Chief Medical Officer (CMO) and Chief Scientific Officer (CSO) at CureVac, a German biopharmaceutical company that focusses on the development of mRNA-based medicines, with investigative products for the treatment of prostate cancer that are currently in phase II-studies and several other compounds in earlier development stages. Dr. Kallen was instrumental in establishing key corporate agreements, e.g. the research agreement with Sanofi and DARPA (Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency), the deal with Boehringer Ingelheim, and he also contributed to the instigation for the agreement with the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundations for the development of therapies against infectious diseases.
Prior to joining CureVac in 2009, Dr. Kallen was Head of Global Cancer immunotherapies at Merck KG/Merck Serono. His professional career started with several university research assignments both in Germany and the UK. Dr. Kallen completed his internal medicine rotation at the Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz (Germany), holds a MD from the RWTH Aachen (Germany), a PhD from University College London, UK, and an ‘habilitation’ in biochemisty from the Christian-Albrechts-University Kiel (Germany).
Dirk Reyn, CEO eTheRNA: “We warmly welcome Kajo to our team. His expertise in mRNA and his professional track record are valuable assets for eTheRNA in the further development of our TriMix technology.”
Prof. Kris Thielemans, CSO eTheRNA: “Kajo has built a strong reputation in the international community of immunotherapy experts. I am looking forward to work together and join forces to bring our TriMix technology to patients.”
Dr. Karl-Josef Kallen, CMO eTheRNA: “Using mRNA to help the fight against cancer and other diseases is my passion and I am convinced that TriMix will become a significant additional option for patients in several areas. The enthusiasm of the eTheRNA team, along with the company’s approach in targeting the fundamental role of dendritic cells in the immune system for developing immunotherapies have convinced me to join eTheRNA and contribute to its future successes.”
eTheRNA immunotherapies, a spin-off from the Brussels University ‘Vrije Universiteit Brussel’ (VUB), secured EUR 24 million in a Series A investment round with venture capital enabling the company to continue the development of its proprietary TriMix mRNA-based immunotherapies for melanoma, breast cancer and infectious diseases.
eTheRNA was founded in January 2013 out of the VUB Laboratory for Molecular and Cellular Therapy (LMCT). Headed by Prof. Kris Thielemans in tandem with Prof. Bart Neyns, the LMCT has driven both the discovery and development of TriMix. This mRNA-based technology focuses on enhancing and modulating dendritic cells which fulfill a fundamental role in eliciting the human immune response to cancer and infectious diseases.
Building upon a convincing set of preclinical and clinical data in melanoma, eTheRNA has succeeded in raising EUR 24 million of proceeds, representing one of the biggest financings in Europe over the past twelve months for an early-stage biotechnology company. The round was led by LSP Life Sciences Partners (The Netherlands) and PMV (Belgium), who formed a strong international investment syndicate that also comprises Omega Funds (US), Fund+ (Belgium) and Boehringer Ingelheim Venture Fund (Germany). These resources enable eTheRNA to conduct further clinical studies with an off-the-shelf injectable mRNA-product based on its TriMix technology in melanoma, triple negative breast cancer and selected infectious diseases.
John de Koning, partner at LSP: “mRNA is one of the hottest areas in the global biotechnology scene. eTheRNA’s impressive preclinical and clinical dataset and its experienced management team gave us the necessary comfort to proceed with this significant investment.”
Alexandra Tolia, PMV, added: “We are convinced that eTheRNA is uniquely positioned to play a leading role in the development of immunotherapies. Together with a group of distinguished partners, we are excited to support the company in translating a promising technology into products that have the potential to transform the future of cancer treatment.”
Dirk Reyn, CEO eTheRNA: “This investment provides another confirmation of the strong innovation potential and talent in the Flemish biotechnology sector. We are proud to welcome these highly renowned biotechnology investors as our new shareholders. We are fully committed to the further development of the TriMix technology with a focus on a simple off-the-shelf injectable mRNA-product — in addition to the existing cellular mRNA product – that help patients to fight various devastating diseases.”
Prof. Kris Thielemans, founder and Chief Scientific Officer of eTheRNA: “The TriMix technology platform is built on a unique mix of three mRNA molecules that are jointly capable of both activating and educating dendritic cells in a more potent, safer and sustainable way than any other similar approach investigated until now.”
Prof. Bart Neyns, ‘Vrije Universiteit Brussel’ and head of division at the Medical Oncology department of ‘UZ Brussel’: “The potential of this TriMix technology is indeed supported by the impressive objective response rates and the increased survival rate demonstrated in recent clinical phase II studies performed at our hospital with the TriMix cellular product in both metastatic and adjuvant melanoma patients.”
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