Agenda - previous events

Mercurna announced as Venture Challenge winner at the Alumni Summit

At the LifeSciences@Work Alumni Summit of 17 June 2016, Nico van Meeteren, director of Top Sector Life Sciences & Health, announced the biotechnology start-up Mercurna as the winning team of the 15th Venture Challenge. Mercurna provides a first-in-class precision medicine for chronic kidney disease.

Mercurna is developing a first-in-class precision medicine for chronic kidney disease, based on the identification of a unique kidney-targeting peptide. The start-up has already shown that in mice this peptide is able to encapsulate and deliver mRNA specifically into the cells of the glomerulus. Targeting this kidney filter directly avoids systemic side effects. In vitro models based on glomerular cells proved that from each delivered mRNA molecule several thousands of therapeutic proteins are produced by the cells, like anti-inflammatory proteins. These proteins are produced without the inherent safety issues of other therapies based on genetic information. This promising spin-off of the Radboudumc, consisting of Sander van Asbeck, Jürgen Dieker and Roland Brock, won the 15th Venture Challenge edition.


Chronic kidney disease (CKD) is a great unmet clinical need, covering a wide spectrum of diseases, commonly denominated by progressive, damaging inflammation of the glomerulus. More than 850 million people are affected worldwide. These patients are at risk of developing end-stage renal disease (ESRD), requiring dialysis and/or kidney transplantation to remove toxins from their blood. To slow the progression to ESRD, numerous systemic drugs are being used, which are known for their dose-limiting side effects. As a consequence, current CKD treatments are often ineffective in stopping progression of the disease from early stage to late stage. The CKD market for the Western world therefore surpasses 200 billion US dollars.


The Mercurna lead formulation combines the unique peptide with an optimised mRNA encoding for an anti-inflammatory protein and is able to alleviate inflammation in glomerular cells. Based on the results so far, the Mercurna team believes that their formulation can beat current CKD treatments in terms of efficacy and safety. Furthermore, research has indicated options for application of the lead formulation in indications outside the kidney (including but not limited to Asthma, Crohn’s and Eczema). In the next 5 years, Mercurna aims to develop their lead until the end of a combined phase I/II trial for two indications. For this they are seeking an investment of 10 million euros. For this they are seeking an investment of 10 million euros.

The announcement of the 15th Venture Challenge winner was part of the first LS@W Alumni Summit programme. The summit took place at the offices of LS@W partner Loyens & Loeff in Amsterdam. More than 50 start-ups in life sciences and medical technology that have participated in the Venture Challenge or MedTechpartner Meetings joined in an informal afternoon session. Seasoned entrepreneurs and new ventures exchanged knowledge, know how and experiences and enjoyed networking in the field of life sciences.


During the festive afternoon three life sciences entrepreneurs presented their pathways in the life sciences field. First, Bas Reichert, CEO of BaseClear explained how he started his company almost 25 years ago, in a time when starting a company was still something rare and everybody told him not to do so. Against all advice, Bas did it anyways and built BaseClear into the successful company it is today. He still proudly owns the entire company. Second, Giel Hendriks, CEO of Toxys, who elaborated on the change from researcher into entrepreneur. He highlighted that talking to many entrepreneurs is the key to success. Finally Marc Schellekens, CEO of LabHotel, showed how you can become a ‘multipreneur’ when you keep your eyes open and always look for opportunities.


Some sparring sessions gave the attendees the opportunity to discuss the essential aspects for a good enterprise even further. According to the experiences of entrepreneurs you have to have a good plan, meet the right people, and learn from your mistakes. With that in mind Loyens & Loeff started the networking during the afternoon drinks. Altogether, the Venture Challenge finals and Alumni Summit were a great success and we are looking forward to the next edition.



Want to join the next Venture Challenge? Please visit the website of LifeSciences@Work

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