New vaccine delivery company kick starts with $15M venture capital investment

Funding to commercialise new needle-free vaccine delivery technology

BRISBANE, QLD, AUSTRALIA – One of Australia’s largest ever investments in a start-up biotechnology company – AU$15million – has been made with the aim of developing a revolutionary new needle-free vaccine delivery system.

The investment led by OneVentures, with co-investors Brandon Capital, the Medical Research Commercialisation Fund (MRCF), and US-based HealthCare Ventures in the new company, Vaxxas Pty Ltd, will enable Professor Mark Kendall of UQ’s Australian Institute for Bioengineering and Nanotechnology (AIBN) to continue his pioneering research and development of the Nanopatch™.

The Nanopatch™ has thousands of small projections designed to deliver the vaccine to abundant immune cells in the skin, whereas the traditional syringe hits the muscle where there are few immune cells.

Early stage testing in animals so far has shown that a Nanopatch delivered flu vaccine was effective with only 1/150th of the dose compared to a syringe and that the adjuvants currently required to boost the immunogenicity of vaccines may not be needed.

In addition to improving the efficiency of delivery, the Nanopatch has the potential to dramatically improve patient convenience and reduce the complications associated with needle phobia, needle stick injuries and cross contamination, which are key global health issues.

The Nanopatch™ is designed for thermostability and to not require refrigeration, making transport much cheaper and easier, particularly to developing nations around the world.

Professor Kendall said in the developed world about 14% of a vaccine’s costs were attributed to maintaining the cold chain and in the developing world, the cold chain impact on vaccines is even greater.

“In Africa about half of vaccines aren’t working properly because of a breakdown in the cold chain”.

“The Nanopatch™ also offers a way to stop needle-stick injuries during vaccination – which again is a particularly important problem in Africa; with a third of vaccines affected by other complications brought about through cross contamination needle stick injury,” he said.

OneVentures General Partner Dr Paul Kelly said the significance of this investment was not just in its size.

“This investment syndicate includes both local and international investors which is a real vote of confidence in the Nanopatch™ approach and an appreciation of the potential of the technology to revolutionise vaccine delivery worldwide,” Dr Kelly said.

“This is a great example of OneVentures’ strategy of identifying game changing Australian technology with global market reach and relevance and putting the resources together to enable that to happen.  These resources are not just financial but expertise, networks and the experience in building high-growth companies and taking novel technologies through to innovative products. This is akin to the traditional model of venture capital of recycling proven entrepreneurial expertise.”

As part of this strategy and in connection with the investment, Dr. Paul Kelly of OneVentures, Dr. Stephen Thompson of Brandon Capital Partners, and Douglas E. Onsi of HealthCare Ventures will join the Board of Directors of Vaxxas, along with Dr Dean Moss, General Manager of Life Sciences at UniQuest.

The investment was negotiated on behalf of the University of Queensland by UniQuest Pty Limited, The University of Queensland’s main commercialisation company, UniQuest, has led the commercialisation of the Nanopatch™ technology to date, and will hand over the responsibility to Vaxxas following this investment.

Dr Stephen Thompson, Managing Director of Brandon Capital Partners, said launching Vaxxas as a company was a critical next step for the Nanopatch technology.

“In Australia, we invest heavily in our excellent research and development capability but have a relatively poor record of taking those technologies to world markets. The syndicate’s investment in Vaxxas is consistent with its willingness to work with Australia’s leading research institutes, including the AIBN, to transform this exciting research effort into a commercially useful product.  We need to convert the promise of the technology into a reality,” he said.

Douglas E. Onsi, Managing Director of Cambridge, Massachusetts-based HealthCare Ventures, commented on the importance of and the breadth of the opportunity for the Nanopatch™-technology.

“We believe that the Nanopatch™ has the potential to transform vaccine delivery for the pharmaceutical industry and for patients around the world.  HealthCare Ventures searches globally for the most promising innovations in life sciences, and we are very pleased to make our first Australian investment in Vaxxas,” he said.

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