Closing on ¤ 30 million, AstriVax has raised the largest amount of seed capital in the history of KU Leuven spin-offs. The company 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+. The other investors are 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 highly innovative, first-in-class plug-and-play vaccine platform based on the ground-breaking work of co-founders Professor Johan Neyts and Kai Dallmeier, PhD, from the KU Leuven Rega Institute. The versatile technology of AstriVax can be used to develop a wide range of vaccines to prevent and treat infectious diseases. AstriVax 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, PhD, will lead the company as CEO. She has over 15 years of experience in the life sciences industry, including several leadership positions in companies such as GSK Vaccines and Oxurion. She 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."
Professor Johan Neyts (KU Leuven), co-founder, 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."
Find out more about the KU Leuven vaccine platform
Shelley Margetson, managing partner at V-Bio Ventures, said: "We are impressed with the quality of the scientific work that has been done by Johan Neyts and Kai Dallmeier over the past years at KU Leuven. Turning academic excellence into valuable products for society through the creation of spin-out companies is at the heart of V-Bio Ventures."
Caroline Goddeeris, PhD, principal at Fund+, added: "We greatly appreciate the expertise of the founders and team at AstriVax, and we are convinced that the thermostable plug-and-play vaccine platform has great potential to prevent and treat a large array of diseases through the remarkable immune response it elicits. Fund+ is honoured to be part of the AstriAax story and to contribute to the lives of people and patients worldwide."
AstriVax will be headquartered at the BioHub in Haasrode (near Leuven).
Plug-and-play vaccine platform developed at KU Leuven
AstriVax will build on technology developed at the KU Leuven Rega Institute. Find out more about the ground-breaking work of AstriVax co-founders Johan Neyts and Kall Dallmeier in the video below (created in 2018) or read about it on the website of the Rega Institute.
Katrien Bollen, portraits by Philippe Swiggers (HC) and Rob Stevens (JN)