A cup of coffee with ... Sander van Asbeck

“It is our mission to develop the next generation of (nano)medicines; low in side-effects and high in efficacy. Our nanoparticle platform promises exactly this; it uses organ- or cell-targeting to prevent side-effects and it uses mRNA, the software of the body, to treat diseases with unprecedented efficacy”, tells Sander van Asbeck, CEO of Mercurna. With that goal in mind, Mercurna span out from Radboud University Medical Centre and chose to settle in the basement of Pivot Park’s van Leeuwenhoek building. There, they are developing their mRNA-centered platform further and are currently working on the first drug that is supposed to prove the platform and provide a valuable drug for patients with Chronic Kidney Disease at the same time.

Chronic kidney disease (CKD) is a great unmet clinical need, covering a wide-spectrum of diseases, commonly denominated by progressive damage and inflammation of the glomerulus (the filter of the kidney). More than 850 million people are affected worldwide and yet no medication exists that is able to fully stop or even reverse the course of the disease.

Mercurna is developing a first-in-class precision medicine for this disease, based on a glomerular-targeting peptide delivering mRNA-filled nanoparticles into the affected kidney cells. There, the mRNA is released and various therapeutic proteins are expressed. “It is a very challenging process since the targeting peptide, the lipid nanoparticle and the mRNA need to work in harmony. However, we are convinced that our solution will work based on very positive signals in our in vitro and in vivo studies so far.”

“Besides the progress on the CKD-drug, we’ve also become very experienced in the production of mRNA with a constant quality. This allowed us to launch our custom mRNA synthesis service with which we provide academics and businesses with mRNA. The fact that you don’t need a GGO permit for the use of mRNA, because it does not integrate, could make this very interesting for start-ups and for use in pilot programs. In case you’re interested in learning more about this please let me know!”

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