Moderna co-founder helps finance, mRNA shop

Moderna co-founder helps finance, mRNA shop

Twelve years after founding now globally recognized Moderna, Kenneth Chien is dipping his toes back into the piping hot waters of mRNA startups.

The co-founder of the COVID vaccine manufacturer is helping finance the latest 39 million euro series B2 round of Belgian-based eTheRNA, according to a Tuesday release. Like Moderna, the company is looking to discover, develop and manufacture a suite of mRNA therapies. Joining Chien in the round is Marijn Dekkers, founder and chairman of Novalis LifeScience and former CEO of Bayer AG and Thermo Fischer Scientific.
The financing news also came with personnel changes, with both businessmen joining the company’s board. But more importantly, CEO Steven Powell is headed for the exits. with COO Bernard Sagaert named as an interim replacement. The reason for Powell’s departure was not included in the company’s announcement.

For now, eTheRNA’s platform is teased at a macro-level, with the company saying it hopes to build out “an integrated set of proprietary capabilities for an end-to-end solution” to all facets of mRNA drug development. The company did, however, zero in on making customized lipoid nanoparticle (cLNP) formulations, in large part because that could become a potential-near term revenue stream via collaborations with “multiple future partners.” More details about the technology weren’t available at the time of publishing, with the company’s website still under construction.

But nonetheless, the game plan seems to resonate with Chien, who in a statement said the company’s strategy is “consistent with my vision of the future in which cLNPs of increasingly sophisticated design will lead to novel applications in a range of currently untreatable diseases.”

“We are excited to lead this new funding round for eTheRNA and help propel the company to contribute its breakthrough technologies to the development of mRNA-based therapeutics, an area that is full of unimaginable opportunities as the coronavirus (COVID-19) vaccine has shown us,” Dekkers said in the press release. Since launching in 2017, Novalis has invested in a variety of biotechs and adjacent companies, including Ginkgo Bioworks and CNS disorder-focused biopharma Cerevel.