A Belgian university spinoff has generated the biggest seed capital financing in the institution’s history.
Closing with €30 million ($30 million), AstriVax will draw on technology developed at the KU Leuven Rega Institute to develop novel vaccines that are easy to produce, have reduced cold chain requirements, and offer broad and long-lasting protection against various viruses and other pathogens.
The funding round was led by V-Bio Ventures and Fund+. Other investors were Flanders Future TechFund, Thuja Capital, Ackermans & van Haaren, Mérieux Equity Partners (via OMX Europe Venture Fund), BNP Paribas Fortis Private Equity, and the KU Leuven Gemma Frisius Fund.
AstriVax will use the seed capital to bring their first thermostable yellow fever vaccine to the clinical development stage and to further develop their pipeline vaccine candidates – one to prevent rabies and one to treat chronic hepatitis B.
The company will also continue to build its plug-and-play vaccine platform based on the work of co-founders Johan Neyts and Kai Dallmeier, from the KU Leuven Rega Institute.
AstriVax said it aims to address major challenges in vaccinology, such as the duration of protection and the ease of production. As the vaccines will no longer require a strict cold chain, getting them from the factory to patients will be easier, even in tropical and subtropical regions.
Hanne Callewaert will lead the company as CEO. She has more than 15 years of experience in the life sciences industry, including several leadership positions in companies such as GSK Vaccines and Oxurion.
Callewaert said: “I feel privileged to work with the world-renowned team of Professor Johan Neyts and Kai Dallmeier to spin out this vaccine platform technology that holds such broad potential in addressing unmet medical needs. Being funded and supported by a strong consortium of investors will bring AstriVax’s technology into clinical validation. I see this as a strong confirmation of the confidence in the potential of the technology, team, and collaborations.”
Neyts said: “After more than ten years of hard work and dedication, our academic team has developed and refined a novel, potent, and versatile vaccine approach. Kai Dallmeier and I are thrilled that AstriVax will bring our revolutionary vaccine technology to clinical development.
“This will significantly increase the number of people we can protect and treat against dreadful infectious diseases on all continents. We are also excited to work with CEO Hanne Callewaert, with the support of an enthusiastic and experienced consortium of investors and advice from authorities in the field.”
AstriVax will be headquartered at the BioHub in Haasrode (Leuven), Belgium.