Kelonia, a new gene delivery company, has launched with backing from Alta Partners, Horizons Ventures, Venrock, and other investors. The start-up aims to use the funding to create an “off-the-shelf” chimeric antigen receptor (CAR) to treat hematologic cancer without the typical toxicities but with ease of access. The company will also advance other programs for oncology and non-oncology indications, and further expand its gene delivery platform and capabilities.
“The cell and gene therapy field has been searching for solutions to durable in vivo genetic modifications regardless of whether applying gene editing, RNA expression or viral-mediated gene integration,” said Kevin Friedman, PhD, President and Chief Scientific Officer of Kelonia. “At Kelonia, we believe we have found an in vivo gene delivery solution that is safe, effective, and manufacturable for broad therapeutic application. With our Series A funding and key strategic collaborations, we will advance our lead product candidate toward clinical studies and further optimize our technology to explore treating diseases never thought possible with genetic medicines.”
Kelonia’s platform is based on discoveries made in the lab of Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Michael Birnbaum, PhD, and leveraging pioneering research from leading scientists at the French National Centre for Scientific Research (CNRS). The start-up says its in vivo gene delivery technology enables lentiviral vector-like particles armed with an adjustable targeting system to precisely deliver payloads exactly to treat a broad range of diseases.
Combining CAR and T Cell Receptors
The company’s early applications combine oncology-targeted therapeutics, such as CAR and T cell receptor molecules, with Kelonia’s “precision in vivo targeting technology.” The company says this combination enables potent and precise tumor targeting with limited toxicity. Administered directly in vivo as an “off-the-shelf” medicine, Kelonia’s therapies in development for solid and hematologic tumors could allow more patients access to genetic medicines.
Beyond oncology, the company will advance its technology to treat previously hard-to-reach tissues, such as neurological, muscular or renal, to deliver different types of genetic cargo with the goal of radically transforming the treatment of diseases in these areas.
“It turns out, a relatively simple and elegant idea to de-target and redirect lentivirus-like particles based on recently published research from my lab can potentially provide a solution to in vivo gene delivery,” said Birnbaum, Co-Founder of Kelonia. “I’m incredibly excited about the potential of Kelonia’s platform and team to vastly expand the utility of gene therapies to treat oncology, autoimmune disease, rare monogenic or other diseases currently intractable to gene therapies.”
“Kelonia is combining the two crucial elements required to develop truly novel medicines: breakthrough biology and an exceptional team,” said Bryan Roberts, Partner at Venrock. “Michael Birnbaum’s industrially robust platform affords a targeting specificity log orders better than anything else out there and the team has a stellar track record for translating groundbreaking scientific gene therapy discoveries into viable products that are transformative for patients.”
In addition to the completion of its Series A, Kelonia has established strategic collaborations with Adimab and ElevateBio. Adimab provides therapeutic antibody discovery and engineering technologies while ElevateBio has a lentiviral vector platform, process and analytical development expertise, and cGMP manufacturing capabilities to develop and advance novel manufacturing processes for Kelonia and manufacture Kelonia’s products.