Tellus Therapeutics is a mission-driven company dedicated to developing a safe and effective treatment for brain injury in newborns. Founded in 2018, Tellus is translating breakthrough science from Duke University that identified compounds in breast milk that induce regeneration of myelin-producing oligodendrocytes and reverse white matter injury in an animal model of perinatal brain injury. As a preclinical stage life sciences start-up company, we are focused on planning, funding and executing a development program to enable evaluation of safety and efficacy in brain-injured newborns. Tellus aims to leverage institutional support, non-dilutive funding, equity investment and patient advocacy to de-risk the program and license to a biopharmaceutical company to complete development and maximize patient access. Our goal is a treatment for every baby born at risk for brain injury and improved neurodevelopmental outcomes for affected children.
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.
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, CNS R&D, company creation and licensing. Most recently, Jason was Associate VP of Technology Innovation at Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center, VP of Business Development at Opexa Therapeutics and Head of Neurosciences Business Development at GlaxoSmithKline responsible for setting the BD strategy, leading licensing and M&A activities and facilitating relationships with alliance partners. Jason has also served in scientific licensing roles at 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.
Austin Schwartz, Ph.D. MBA, Director of Operations, is a biophysicist and life science business professional with a broad scientific background in biophysics, neuroscience and biochemistry. Austin started at Tellus in Jan 2019 as a Business Development Associate. Prior to Tellus, he graduated Florida State University with a PhD in Molecular Biophysics and a MBA. During graduate school, he pioneered the first dual PhD – MBA at the university while leading a research project funded by NIH and NSF fellowships, focused on neuromodulation, olfaction and whole-body metabolism. Austin is passionate about the life science startup space and bringing novel life science technologies to the market.
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 predominately 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.
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 different industries, Electronic Recyclers international, Vuzix Corperation, PainQX, Tellus Therapeutics, Laxxon Medical, Simple Kneads, Emspire-Group, Kinoemen Group
Scientific Advisory Board
Simon Gregory, Ph.D., Scientific Co-Founder and Scientific Advisory Board Member, is Professor in the Department of Neurology and Research Director of the Duke Center of 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 is 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 has been used to identify multi-omic biomarkers to facilitate reclassification of the disease, a longitudinal cohort of primary progressive MS patients to develop disease trajectories, and a 26-instrument quality of life questionnaire. 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.