Tellus is a mission-driven company dedicated to developing safe and effective treatments for unmet needs in newborns. Founded in October 2018, Tellus is translating breakthrough science licensed from Duke University that originated in board-certified neonatologist Eric Benner’s research laboratory in collaboration with Simon Gregory. Dr. Benner’s work identified compounds in breast milk that induce the regeneration of myelin-producing oligodendrocytes and repair WMI in animal models of perinatal brain injury. Tellus’ goal for its lead asset (TT-20) is to provide a treatment for every baby born at risk for brain injury and improve neurodevelopmental outcomes for affected children.
Through the development of TT-20, Tellus is pioneering a regulatory path for “First-in-Neonates” programs that leverages advances in clinical tools and regulatory guidance. As a preclinical stage life sciences start-up company, Tellus is focused on planning, funding and executing development programs to demonstrate safety and efficacy of new therapeutic interventions in newborns. Tellus aims to leverage institutional support, non-dilutive funding, equity investment and patient advocacy to discover, develop and commercialize a pipeline of products that improve care delivery, outcomes and lives of patients and families.
Meet the Team
Eric Benner, M.D. Ph.D., CSO, is the scientific co-founder of Tellus and an attending neonatologist at Duke University. He earned his MD and PhD in neuroscience from the University of Nebraska Medical Center before completing his pediatric residency at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and a neonatal perinatal medicine fellowship at Duke University. He has over 10 years of experience caring for neonates with brain injury. Eric’s laboratory made the novel discovery that oxysterols present in human maternal breast milk promote oligodendrocyte (myelinating cells) differentiation in postnatal neural stem cells. Using animal models of perinatal white matter injury, his lab has shown that these compounds can reverse white matter injury and associated motor deficits. Eric has a personal connection to premature infants that drives his desire to improve the lives of these affected children. His own twin boys were born 3 months early. Eric’s LinkedIn
Jason Kralic, Ph.D., President & CEO, is co-founder of Tellus, a neuropharmacologist and life sciences business development executive with broad experience in technology innovation, neurology/psychiatry R&D, company creation and licensing. Jason was Head of Neurosciences Business Development at GlaxoSmithKline where he was responsible for setting the BD strategy, leading licensing and M&A activities and facilitating relationships with alliance partners. Jason led the Technology Innovation team at Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center where he worked with research and clinical investigators to identify, patent, develop and commercialize therapeutics, medical devices and healthcare IT solutions. He also led business development and scientific licensing activities at Opexa Therapeutics, UCB Pharma and Schwarz Biosciences and founded Innervate BD Solutions, a CNS technology and business advisory firm in 2015. Jason holds a PhD in pharmacology from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and completed post-doctoral training at the University of Zurich. Jason’s LinkedIn
Austin Schwartz, Ph.D. MBA, VP of Operations, is a biophysicist and life science business professional. Austin works directly with the founders of Tellus to support the growth of the company and manages several activities, including drug development, company finances, and intellectual property. Prior to Tellus, he graduated with a PhD in Molecular Biophysics and a MBA from Florida State University. His dissertation work was funded by NIH NRSA and NSF EAPSI fellowships and explored the realms of peptide synthesis, nanoparticle conjugation, neurophysiology, olfaction and whole-body metabolism. Austin’s LinkedIn
Jaron Ballentine, MBA, VP of Commercial Strategy, has deep experience in the development of new biopharmaceutical products. For the past decade he has managed a consulting practice, Ballentine LifeScience Partners, that focuses on creating and refining commercial strategy for new products from pre-clinical stage to Phase III. His clients are predominantly small companies seeking to progress new products from the lab into clinical development. Previously to starting Ballentine LifeScience, Jaron was the Director of Business Analysis in the Global Product Strategy group at GlaxoSmithKline where he created valuation models, analyzed market trends and unmet needs, and developed commercial strategy for GSK’s portfolio of Neuroscience assets in pre-clinical and clinical development. He holds an MBA from the University of Virginia. Jaron’s LinkedIn
Alex Ruchdaeschel, Independent Director, has worked since 2001 in the financial industry in the United States, and Europe and as a co-founder, partner and/or in senior management. Alex was a manager for DAC-FUNDS, a family office focusing on small cap private and public listed companies around the world. He has also been a partner with Nanostart AG, the leading public private equity group in nanotechnology, from 2002 to 2006, where he was the head of their U.S. group. Alex has significant experience in startup operations as founder and co-founder. Following service in the German military and international United Nations operations, he was a research assistant at Dunmore Management in New York focusing on intrinsic value identifying firms that were undervalued and had global scale potential. Alex is a board member with several companies, private and public, and in different industries; Electronic Recyclers international, Vuzix Corperation, PainQX, Tellus Therapeutics, Laxxon Medical, Simple Kneads, Emspire-Group, Kinoemen Group. Alex’s LinkedIn
Scientific Advisory Board
Simon Gregory, Ph.D., Scientific Co-Founder and Scientific Advisory Board Member, is a Professor in the Department of Neurology, Duke University School of Medicine, and Research Director of the Duke Center for Research in Autoimmunity and MS at Duke University. In 2007, Simon and his collaborators identified the first multiple sclerosis gene outside of the MHC to be associated with the disease, which forms the basis of ongoing functional research whose goal is to establish the role that alternative splicing may play more broadly in the development of autoimmune disease. Simon is Principal Investigator of a ~1,000 patient multiple sclerosis cohort that is being used to identify multi-omic biomarkers to facilitate the reclassification and chart the trajectory of MS. Finally, Simon has a long standing collaboration with Dr. Eric Benner to explore the efficacy of hydroxyl-cholesterols and statins in the treatment of MS. Simon’s LinkedIn
Terrie E. Inder, M.D., M.B, MBcHB, Scientific Advisory Board Member, is the Chair of the Department of Pediatric Newborn Medicine at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston, MA and is the Mary Ellen Avery Professor of Pediatrics in the Field of Newborn Medicine at Harvard Medical School. Terrie is a dual boarded newborn medicine physician and child neurologist with a research focus on the newborn brain. Her research is targeted at understanding the timing, mechanisms and impact of cerebral injury and altered cerebral development in the human infant. Her studies have focused on infants at high risk for brain injury including the prematurely-born infant, the sick term-born infant, and the infant with congenital heart disease. Terrie’s research aims to investigate means of accurate, early diagnosis of brain injury as well as developing treatments and preventive strategies to reduce subsequent neurodevelopmental disabilities. This research work has utilized technologies including near infrared spectroscopy, electroencephalography and magnetic resonance imaging. Finally, Terrie acts as a mentor and educating neonatologist in the neurology of the newborn. Terrie’s LinkedIn
Chi Hornik, PharmD, Scientific Advisory Board Member, is the Director of Clinical Research in the Division of Pediatric Critical Care Medicine at Duke University. She is a pharmacotherapy specialist, a practitioner in neonatal and pediatric critical care, and has faculty appointments in the Duke School of Medicine and the Duke Clinical Research Institute (DCRI). In addition to her clinical service in the NICU, Chi’s neonatal clinical research responsibilities include leading multicenter clinical trials through DCRI and serving as site PI on 7 concurrent federal and industry-funded clinical trials at Duke. She also serves as Chair of the Medication Safety Alliance, Team Lead of Maestro Care Builds and coauthor of >70 clinical guidelines in the NICU. Chi received her Doctorate degree from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill where she maintains a faculty appointment in clinical education. As a clinician, researcher, and mentor, she is committed to improving the health of all children. Chi’s LinkedIn