About DNKO

How DNKO formed

David & Kate met in March 2023 when Kate came across an article on LinkedIn highlighting David's work on a potential new treatment for brain cancer (1)Empowered as a new board member to OurBrainBank and recently encouraged by MedDAO neurosurgeons who Kate collaborates with to keep up her advocacy work, Kate sent David a connection request on LinkedIn. David sent an enthusiastic message back within a few minutes and a call was setup to connect the next day. David & Kate have been meeting, chatting and collaborating together on line almost every day since then about all aspects of brain cancer and its treatment and recently formed DNKO LLC 1st July 2023. 

(1) Adekeye, A.O., D. Needham, and R. Rahman, Low-Density Lipoprotein Pathway Is a Ubiquitous Metabolic Vulnerability in High Grade Glioma Amenable for Nanotherapeutic Delivery. Pharmaceutics, 2023. 15(2): p. 599.

What motivates us?

As children of parents who have suffered with cancer we have experienced how devastating the disease can be. We both shifted how we utilize our life for our work to be dedicated to improving the standard of care for patients. 

Katherine Onk

Katherine and her father before a craniotomy for Glioblastoma resection, September 2019.


Katherine (Kate) served as the healthcare power of attorney to her father during his battle with Glioblastoma. It is through this experience that she saw the need to spend her time focused on improving the outcomes of brain cancer patients. Kate has spent over a decade in technology startups across industries building out data infrastructure and analytics teams to optimize business performance. While at Omaze, Kate provided the analytics that raised $30M in a Series B in March 2020 and $85M in a Series C in 2021.  She is now looking to bring the same analytics, organizational thinking, fundraising capabilities and passion to brain cancer. 

In addition to her role as Co-Founder and CEO, Kate serves on the US Board of OurBrainBank and is a member of the MedDAO core team and she served on the Community Advisory Board for Clinical Research at University Hospitals from 2021-2022. 


Today my dad would have turned 66

Glioblastoma Playbook

Glioblastoma Playbook v2 (Patient, Caregiver, Researcher)

Kate's why:

I used to listen to the same song everyday when I walked from the hotel room to my dad’s hospital room. The length of the song is 4:14, the same timeframe Glioblastoma patients are given 4-14 months. Imagine information management being your strong suit and the disconnect between systems and humans at the hospital being on your mind in addition to your father's health. So I dove in, part advocate and part analyst to find a better pathway for patients, caregivers and researchers. I made sure while I was there at the clinic and by my father's side through it all, I learned everything I could absorb and built relationships with the experts I crossed paths with. Those same experts I’m now able to bring therapeutic approaches to, ones that we believe once tested, could become the new standard of care for at least some brain cancer patients.

David Needham

David in his lab at Duke University in 2022 working on new formulations for cancer, and a preventative nasal spray for COVID19 and other respiratory diseases.


Dedication: If I may, I would like to dedicate this chapter (and my life’s work) to my Mother and Father who have both suffered with cancer.

A) My Mother, Audrey Needham, survived two breast cancers with surgery. She had a radical mastectomy to cure her first breast cancer in 1972 when she was only 41 yrs, and survived a second surgical-biopsy when cancer appeared in her remaining breast 25 years later. Launched in 1996, she supported the Cancer Prevention Genesis Appeal and, as a survivor and contributor, she was invited to the turf-cutting ceremony held at the site of the Breast Cancer Prevention Centre, Wythenshawe Hospital, Manchester. She is seen here attending that opening, and took great pride in releasing her pink balloon, joining the breast cancer fight to “make 1 in 10 none in ten”.   B) As I was starting my academic career at Duke in 1987 as a new Assistant Professor, my father, Herbert (“Bert”) Needham, contracted Hodgkins Lymphoma. Following 2 hard years of chemotherapy at Christie’s Hospital Manchester, at only 61 yrs, he succumbed to liver metastases in July 1989. The available treatment options failed him. He is seen here doing what he loved, making things from brass and copper, with a scaled-model he made of an old-style pub-fireplace that was showcased by in the Saddleworth Museum.

During his PhD in Catalytic Chemistry at the University of Nottingham, UK (1977-1980), David decided that, if he was going to work this hard in science he should do something useful.  His mother Audrey, had undergone radical mastectomy in 1972 for breast cancer, and his father Bert, succumbed to Hodgkins diseases in July 1989.  So, standing in the lab one day in 1978 he told his advisor, Prof Daniel D. Eley, FRS, OBE, that he "wanted to work in cancer".  In a clipped English accent, Eley immediately responded, "So, you want to work in cancer do you? Then you should study membranes", --meaning the lipid bilayer membranes that surround every cell on the planet and are also a site for cancer control and progression. A post doctoral position ensued at Cambridge University with Dennis Haydon FRS in his membrane-anesthetics lab (1980-1983), then a second at the University of British Columbia, Vancouver Canada, with Evan Evans in his membrane-mechanochemistry lab.  Then, in January 1987 he was hired as an Assistant Professor in the Dept., of Mechanical Engineering and Material Science, at Duke University, NC, USA. 

Thus, for 43 years David has studied and characterized many aspects of lipid bilayer membranes using a platform technology of micropipette manipulation to manipulate individual and pairs of lipid vesicles (1), leading to the 1996 invention and development of the LTSL-Dox system for cancer (2), that started the journey, leading to today.

In addition to his role as Co-Founder and CSO at DNKO, David is now Professor Emeritus, Mechanical Engineering and Materials Science, at Duke University and Professor of Translational Therapeutics, School of Pharmacy, at the  University of Nottingham

David has been invited to give over 200 presentations and has more than 21,000 citations for ~150 papers, book chapters, and books in the peer-reviewed scientific literature. David is the inventor on 14 patents including the LTSL-Dox, spanning from drug delivery to preserving proteins by microglassification, and even how to aim and throw darts (DartSight.com is under construction).

David's inventions lay the foundation for our initial efforts to more effectively treat brain cancer that DNKO serves to facilitate. 

See a Dedication (left) he made in a chapter (3) written for Kinam Park's edited book on Biomaterials for Cancer Therapeutics.

(1) Evans, E. and D. Needham, Physical-properties of surfactant bilayer-membranes - thermal transitions, elasticity, rigidity, cohesion, and colloidal interactions. Journal of Physical Chemistry, 1987. 91(16): p. 4219-4228.

(2) Needham, D., et al., A new temperature-sensitive liposome for use with mild hyperthermia: Characterization and testing in a human tumor xenograft model. Cancer Research, 2000. 60(5): p. 1197-1201.

(3) Needham, D., Development of clinically effective formulations for anticancer applications: why it is so difficult?, in Biomaterials for Cancer Therapeutics, Evolution and Innovation, K. Park, Editor. 2020, Woodhead Publishing: Cambridge, UK.