Cereius was founded in 2017 by Dr. Michael Zalutsky and Dr. Kimberly Blackwell. Dr. Zalutsky is Professor of Radiology, Radiation Oncology and Biomedical Engineering at Duke University. Dr. Blackwell is Vice President, Early Phase Development and Immuno-oncology at Lilly Oncology and adjunct Professor of Medicine, Duke University.

    Cereius’ intellectual property includes next-generation radiolabeling chemistries developed by Dr. Zalutsky and exclusively licensed from Duke University. These techniques increase the uptake of radionuclides within the tumor site by up to 5-fold compared to existing methods while simultaneously reducing the off-target levels in healthy tissues. Moreover, the chemistries can employ a variety of medically advantageous radionuclides to either enhance the detection sensitivity of diagnostic imaging or to improve the therapeutic index of targeted therapies. By combining these technologies with advancements in the field of high-affinity, tumor-targeting agents that can cross the blood brain barrier, Cereius has positioned itself to deliver new targeted classes of both radiologic diagnostics and radiotherapeutics for the treatment of cancers in the brain.


Brain metastasis from solid tumors are on the most feared consequences of advanced cancer. It is estimated that over 30% of people with recurrent tumors develop brain metastases. Historically, these brain metastases have been universally accepted as an end stage in cancer patient care. The associated symptoms include:

  • Severe headaches
  • Refractory vomiting
  • Seizures
  • Paralysis

With advances in treatments for primary tumors outside the brain, the incidence of brain metastases is only increasing – becoming 10 times more common than cancer originating in the brain itself. Brain metastases are particularly prevalent in patients with cancers of the breast, lung, kidney, and melanoma.

Current clinical interventions frequently require whole brain irradiation.

  • Traditional radiation therapy consists of focused beams of emitted energy from unstable isotopes. This ionizing energy can pass through tissue over large distances to preferentially kill cancerous cells. However, as healthy tissue is also exposed to this energy, adverse side effects can occur.
  • Medical radionuclides emit cancer killing energy must as external beam radiation. However, radionuclides can be selected such that the energy is only released over short distances less than 1 mm. By coupling radionuclides with advanced tumor-targeting molecules, radiotherapy can be localized specifically to a tumor – sparing healthy tissue.

VHHs, or nanobodies, were first identified in 1989 by Raymond Hamers. They consist of single domain, heavy-chain only molecules derived from antibodies in camel, llama, and alpacas. While capable of the same targeting affinity of full size antibodies, they are 1/10th the size.