CEO and Co-Founder, Kernal Biologics
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 the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) Startup Exchange and Y Combinator, Kernal received two awards from Amgen and a “Technology in Space” prize from the Center for the Advancement of Science in Space (CASIS), manager of the International Space Station (ISS) National Laboratory and Boeing. Dr. Erkul co-invented Kernal’s proprietary stealth mRNA and onco-selective mRNA technologies. With 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 research and development division, and before 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 poly adenosine diphosphate-ribose polymerase inhibitor (MK-4827), which later got Food and Drug Administration (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 medical degree from Hacettepe University and his bachelor’s degree in biology from MIT.