Oral presentation: Yusuf Erkul
Yusuf Erkul is the co-founder and CEO of Kernal Biologics, a Cambridge, MA-based biotech company developing messenger RNA 2.0 for cancer immunotherapy. As a member of MIT Startup Exchange and Y Combinator, Kernal received two awards from Amgen and a “Technology in Space” prize from CASIS/NASA and Boeing. Dr. Erkul co-invented Kernal’s proprietary precisely engineered stealth mRNA and onco-selective mRNA technologies. With his expertise in nucleic acid therapeutics, innate immunity and cancer biology, Dr. Erkul is currently leading Kernal’s drug discovery and development efforts in immuno-oncology. Before co-founding Kernal, he was a Director at Sentegen’s R&D division and prior to that he worked at Merck’s Oncology Department. His group at Merck provided exploratory pharmacology and biomarker support for various siRNA and small molecule therapeutic programs, including a PARP inhibitor (MK-4827) which later got FDA approval for ovarian cancer (niraparib, ZEJULA®). His group also established and validated state-of-the-art immunocompetent mouse models, which helped the company develop the largest immuno-oncology pipeline, which includes KEYTRUDA® (pembrolizumab). Dr. Erkul received Merck’s Award of Excellence, twice. He obtained his M.D. degree from Hacettepe University and his B.S. degree in Biology from MIT.