Cancer therapeutics company’s double win with $25M funding, and appointment of new board member

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An mRNA-technology company developing cancer therapeutics designed to improve patients’ survival rate and quality of life — this week announced the completion of a $25 million Series A financing.

Kernal Biologics, Inc. (Kernal Bio)  confirmed that the funding was  led by Hummingbird Ventures. Amgen Ventures, HBM Genomics and Civilization Ventures along with other venture capitalists, family offices and high net worth individuals that also participated in the round. 

The new capital will extend Kernal’s mRNA 2.0 platform and support the filing of an investigational new drug application (IND) for Kernal’s immuno-oncology candidate KR-335. In connection with the financing, Firat Ileri, managing partner of Hummingbird Ventures has joined the board.

Innovative approach

Ileri said: “We have closely followed the work of the Kernal Bio team over the past few years and we are excited to see them bring their mRNA technology to fruition in an area of medicine with high unmet medical need. Kernal Bio is building on the success stories of Moderna and Pfizer/BioNTech with legacy mRNA technologies. We are delighted to partner with them to bring this innovative approach to cancer patients.”

Kernal Bio says it aims to harness the power of our mRNA technology to provide cancer patients with treatments that give them the best chance of beating their disease — while eliminating as many common side effects as possible.

They say their mRNA technology is engineered to move in stealth, undetected by the immune system, and encrypted to hone in on cancer cells, making it distinctively onco-selective. The potential to improve patient outcomes compared to existing synthetic mRNA, the company says, is maximized.

New vice-president

Additionally, the company says it is delighted to welcome Manfred Kraus, to the company. He was previously the scientific senior director at the tumor microenvironment thematic research center at Bristol-Myers Squibb (BMS), joins the company as vice president of research and development.

Before BMS, Kraus was a director at Pfizer’s oncology research unit where he led the in vivo pharmacology teams supporting the oncology portfolio from new target identification to clinical proof of concept. Previously, he worked in the oncology departments at Astra-Zeneca, Merck & Co., and Serono.

Kraus earned his Ph.D. in immunology at the University of Cologne in Germany, followed by post-doctoral training at Harvard Medical School investigating the role of B cell receptor signaling in mature B lymphocytes. His scientific accomplishments include the discovery of the tonic BCR-mediated survival signal in mature B cells. He pushed Kernal’s understanding of the role of ITAM and non-ITAM phosphorylation in the CD79a/b signaling subunit of the B cell receptor plus advanced and mentored technical innovation such as conditional gene-targeting, reversible RNAi in mice and multi-parametric flow cytometry. He is an author on 27 peer-reviewed articles and an inventor on four patents.

Expansion of mRNA platform

Co-founder of Kernal, Burak Yilmaz, said: “We are thrilled to have Dr. Kraus join Kernal as he brings extensive drug development experience in oncology which will help us to expand our mRNA 2.0 platform and advance our lead program. Dr. Kraus will oversee the expansion of our research and development team as well as the advancement of our therapeutic programs into the clinic.”

Kernal Bio’s technology established a machine learning-backed computational pipeline to analyze transcriptome and translatome datasets across cell types and disease state to discover cell-specific mRNA sequence features. These features are then deployed during synthetic mRNA design to enable cell-specific therapeutic mRNAs. The first therapeutic products of the mRNA 2.0 platform, including KR-335, initially focus on immuno-oncology.

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