Kelonia Scores $50M to Propel In Vivo Gene Delivery Platform


Boston-based Kelonia Therapeutics launched following a successful $50 million Series A round of financing. The financing, led by Alta Partners, Horizons Ventures, Venrock and others, will push Kelonia’s research efforts in genetic medicines for immunology and oncology and fund strategic collaborations for the company.

Kelonia is founded on the research of Michael Birnbaum, Ph.D., co-founder of Kelonia, from his lab at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, where he is an associate professor of biological engineering. The company also was built on research from several scientists at the French National Centre for Scientific Research. With that foundation, Kelonia developed its gene delivery platform. The platform uses lentiviral vector-like particles to deliver genetic cargo to target tissue without affecting any other tissues or systems.

“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,” Birnbaum said in a statement.

Kelonia accomplishes this by combining chimeric antigen receptor (CAR) T cell immunology with precision in-vivo targeting. The end result is genetic therapeutics that are off-the-shelf and can be administered directly in vivo. Not only is this a highly efficient option for treatment, but it’s also easier to manufacture and potentially much more affordable for patients and healthcare systems.

The market is a gold mine for Kelonia. The global CAR-T cell therapy market is expected to grow at a compound annual growth rate of 31.6% over the next seven years. CAR-T cells are part of the immunology market, which is also rapidly rising, and immunology drugs are being adopted quickly in North America and Asia-Pacific regions.

The earliest applications from Kelonia’s platform have been oncology targets, such as hematologic cancers. However, if successful, the platform could deliver genetic therapies for indications such as autoimmune diseases, genetic diseases, neuromuscular diseases and renal problems.

In addition to the funding and company launch, Kelonia is also starting off strong with several collaborations. One such alliance is with Adimab, a pioneer in therapeutic antibody discovery. Kelonia and Adimab will work together to access tissue-specific antibodies to help with Kelonia’s gene delivery system. Their goal is to create “unlocking” antibodies for several different types of tissues as well as for different types of therapeutic genetic cargo to be delivered.

Another collaboration is with ElevateBioa gene therapy company with robust integrated R&D and manufacturing facilities as well as its own lentiviral vector platform. The company will help Kelonia with analytical development guidance and manufacture some of Kelonia’s products. 

Along with the VC funding and collaborations, Kelonia has a solid leadership team in place. Experienced industry leaders who have joined or helped found the company include Kevin Friedman, Ph.D., the company's president and chief scientific officer; Thomas Galbo, Ph.D., chief business officer; Molly Perkins, Ph.D., vice president of research; and Michael Fischbach, Ph.D., associate professor of bioengineering and of medicine at Stanford University. This team already has experience bringing cell therapy products to market, such as Abecma, the first FDA-approved anti-BCMA CAR-T cell therapy for relapsed or refractory multiple myeloma.

“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 Friedman. “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.”

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