The BII start-up InProTher has welcomed Mathias Kroll as CEO of the company as of June 1.
Mathias Kroll comes from a corporate background and for the past two years, he has been Vice President, Head of Global Business Development in Bavarian Nordic. Prior to that, he spent more than seven years in GlaxoSmithKline Biologicals where he concluded a series of collaboration, license, and option agreements in the cancer and chronic disease immunotherapies business unit. Those two positions made him a great match for InProTher that treats cancer by targeting a certain virus within the human genome which has been shown to be required for cancer development.
Mathias Kroll brings valuable know-how on vaccines, viral vector technology, and immune enhancers and modulators which he will use in InProTher as well as hands-on experience from the corporate world.
“We joke that I am the Swiss army knife of InProTher”, Mathias Kroll says with a big smile.
He is originally from Germany and has spent 25 years in other countries, the last two of these in Copenhagen with his wife and their twin daughters. He holds two scientific master’s degrees – one in biology and one in chemistry – as well as a Ph.D. in Viral Immunology and an MBA.
What does InProTher work with?
We are developing cancer immunotherapies by targeting human Endogenous Retroviruses (ERVs). ERVs are highly associated with several forms of cancer such as breast, ovarian, and prostate cancer, and are required for tumor development. When we encode ERV-like particles in a viral vector using our vaccine platform, we obtain impressive immune responses and anti-cancer efficacy. The cancer is not only eliminated in treated mice, but these mice also become resistant to new cancer cells even if the cells are from different types of cancer.
How did you first learn about InProTher?
It was in mid-2018 that an acquaintance introduced me to InProTher founder Peter Holst, today CSO, and CFO Nikolaj Nielsen. We had a good discussion around the technology, and my interest was immediately stimulated. Through my corporate positions, I have scanned a lot of opportunities on the receiving end and I believed that this one could have a good chance of working.
Why did you decide to join InProTher?
I decided to join InProTher because I was very impressed with the animal data they could present. I have worked in this field for many years and it is my third try as a business person in anti-cancer immune therapy – the first was in GlaxoSmithKline and the second time was in Bavarian Nordic. Each time the technology is a bit more complex which brings new hope, but I like to joke that people could think that I am unable to learn from past experience.
You left your job at Bavarian to join an early-stage startup. What were your thoughts on that?
The corporate world provides security and stability, while the start-up world offers more freedom and challenges. There are more possibilities, but expectations are also higher and there is a lot of pressure on a start-up to reach milestones quickly in order to convince investors, and ensure continuation. In a start-up, I have better influence on the direction, we are going in and that is very exciting.
What is the difference between running a start-up and being a manager in a company with hundreds of employees?
On the positive side, being in a start-up allows me to be more creative. Right now, a lot of my work is around establishing contacts and business relationships in order to source materials, investments, and expertise, so we can deliver on our milestones. My scope is much broader than I am used to but there are also many similarities in establishing an action plan, aligning with colleagues, and making sure we are on track.
The challenge is that I may not have immediate access to some specific resources and capabilities like I usually have. Because of that it really makes a difference for us to be a part of the BioInnovation Institute that can open doors to contacts and provide us with an environment surrounded by other start-ups. It takes away a lot of daily worries you would normally have to spend time on when you are on your own. One good example of how much benefit we have had is our collaboration with the patent attorney at BII, who has successfully represented InProTher in discussions with third parties, securing ownership rights for our company.