Startups Working in ALS, Immunotherapy Win ‘Amgen Golden Tickets’ to Advance Discoveries

Startups Working in ALS, Immunotherapy Win ‘Amgen Golden Tickets’ to Advance Discoveries

Two young companies, QurAlis and Kernal Biologics, are winners of the Amgen Golden Tickets for innovative bioscience projects — in this case, work that might lead to better treatments in amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) and cancer immunotherapy, Amgen and LabCentral announced.

QurAlis is developing therapies for three different forms of ALS, and current work aims to advance a device to potentially remove toxic proteins, a medicine that aims to mediate overactive neurons and prevent them from dying, and a drug that might restore a waste clearance system in cells.

“We are extremely excited to win the Amgen Golden Ticket,” Kasper Roet, founder and chief executive officer at QurAlis, said in a press release. “The space and facilities at LabCentral will enable QurAlis to enhance our ALS patient-derived stem cell platform, which we will use in the development of all three of our therapeutic programs. It is also an incredible testament to our team, progress and potential for developing therapies for ALS patients.”

Kernal Biologics develops therapeutic messenger ribonucleic acids (mRNAs) via deep learning for cancer immunotherapy. The company’s method of sequence engineering and smart design are meant to develop a technology platform that might improve the efficacy of current mRNA technologies.

“With Amgen’s scientific guidance and LabCentral’s innovative and supportive environment, this award will greatly enhance our research efforts to bring safe, tolerable and efficacious mRNA medicine to patients with acute myelogenous leukemia,” said Yusef Erkul, MD, president at Kernal Biologics.

LabCentral is a type of shared lab workspace in Cambridge, Massachusetts, which was launched in 2013 with support from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). The non-profit institution was designed to serve as a launchpad for high-potential life science and biotech startups, and offers resources supporting lab operations to move science forward faster and more cost-efficiently.

“Awarding the Golden Tickets to Kernal Biologics and QurAlis aligns with Amgen’s ongoing research focus within oncology and neuroscience,” said John Dunlop, vice president of Neuroscience at Amgen.

Amgen is one of LabCentral’s platinum sponsors, allowing the company can nominate up to two early-stage enterprises annually to take up residence in LabCentral’s facilities as Golden Ticket winners.

Winners receive one year of bench space for one scientist, including benefit of LabCentral’s facilities and services, and mentoring from Amgen researchers. The two companies were selected from among five finalists that presented a research plan at a December event hosted by Amgen at Cambridge.


  1. Charlie says:

    Alzheimer’s disease is caused by immune cells in the brain triggered by inflammation, according to a breakthrough discovery.
    The new research could lead to the development of a drug that treats or even prevents the condition within five years, say scientists.
    Experiments found destroying specific cells – known as microglia – reduced the formation of clumps of amyloid beta that form in Alzheimer’s and destroy memory.
    These are the rogue proteins believed to lie at the root of the devastating neurological illness.

    Human trials of all therapies have failed in the past. Most have targeted the amyloid plaques that build up in the brains of patients.

    The German team say the breakthrough is exciting as it sheds fresh light on a classic hallmark of Alzheimer’s.

    Experts have hailed the discovery by scientists at the University of Bonn, in Germany, as a major step in the fight against the crippling neurodegenerative disease
    Experts have hailed the discovery by scientists at the University of Bonn, in Germany, as a major step in the fight against the crippling neurodegenerative disease

    It also offers hope of an effective medication aimed at the ‘microglia’ cells – instead of amyloid-beta itself.

    Prof Michael Heneka and colleagues say the amyloid beta plaques are fuelled by inflammation.
    In Alzheimer’s patients these proteins collect together – leading to cell damage and confusion.

    For years inflammation has been suspected of having a role but the exact nature of its involvement has been hard to pin down – until now.
    The researchers found the microglia release specks of a protein called ASC in response to it. They stick to the amyloid beta protein – boosting its production.

    Prof Heneka, of the University of Bonn, Germany, said this may even occur in the very early stages of Alzheimer’s.

    In tests an antibody that blocked ASC from binding to amyloid beta stopped it from forming into damaging clumps.
    The study published in Nature found this worked in live mice as well as cells grown in the laboratory.
    ASC reside in a vital inflammatory pathway called the NLRP3 inflammasome which damages brain cells.

    Prof Heneka said: ‘In patients with Alzheimer’s disease, deposition of amyloid-beta is accompanied by activation of the innate immune system and involves formation of ASC specks in microglia.’

    These bind rapidly to amyloid-beta and increase the formation of clumps. He said ASC specks have been visualised in the brains of patients who died from Alzheimer’s.

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