Big deal for nano biotech company
University of Queensland (UQ) start-up company Vaxxas Pty Ltd announced today that it will develop its NanopatchTMvaccine delivery technology with a A$15 million investment from a syndicate of Australian and international venture capital funds.
Negotiated by UQ's main commercialisation company, UniQuest Pty Limited, this is one of Australia's largest first round start-up investments.
UniQuest has supported the technology's commercialisation with patent protection and marketing, leading to negotiations with the investment syndicate.
The investment syndicate, which includes both local and international investors is led by OneVentures and supported by Brandon Capital, the Medical Research Commercialisation Fund (MRCF), the Brisbane Angels, and Boston-basedHealth Care Ventures. This is the first investment for OneVentures, Brandon Capital and the MRCF in Queensland, as well as being the first investment that Healthcare Ventures has made in Australia.
The Nanopatch vaccine delivery technology originated from the research of Mark Kendall, a professorial research fellow at the Australian Institute for Bioengineering and Nanotechnology (AIBN).
Smaller than a postal stamp and working via the skin, the Nanopatch is expected to have an enormous impact on the way vaccines are delivered in the future, replacing the pain, cost, and refrigeration requirements of many syringe-delivered vaccines. Research results in animal studies have shown that the Nanopatch delivery system is 150 times better than existing syringe methods in terms of efficacy and efficiency.
The Nanopatch also 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.
One Ventures General Partner Dr Paul Kelly said the significance of this investment was not just in its size.
"This investment is a real vote of confidence in the Nanopatch approach and an appreciation of the potential of the technology to revolutionise vaccine delivery world wide," 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."
Vaxxas director, Dr Dean Moss, said the investment would support the company's pursuit of commercially relevant research, including proof-of-concept demonstrations in humans and delivering vaccines with clinical studies.
"Access and affordability are key drivers in the global market for vaccines, and the Nanopatch technology is responding to that industry demand. Professor Kendall and his team will continue to develop the innovation while Vaxxas develops the strategy for launching the technology globally," he said.
"With the investors contributing both intellectual and financial capital we can accelerate the scientific and the commercial due diligence and perhaps see a return on this investment, both financially and socially, within five years."
The investors' commitment to Vaxxas represents a confidence boost for innovative university research Australia-wide, according to UniQuest Managing Director, David Henderson.
"We are thrilled that the syndicate has backed this technology. When Australian companies invest in the wealth of intellectual property in our public research institutions, it's an endorsement noticed by their international counterparts, and it adds value to the return on investment for the tax payer," Mr Henderson said.
"Vaxxas is just one of the 1000+ Australian biotechnology and medical technology ventures contributing to the growth of the industry and the national economy."
About UniQuest Pty Limited
Established by The University of Queensland in 1984, UniQuest is widely recognised as one of Australia's largest and most successful university commercialisation groups, benchmarking in the top tier of technology transfer worldwide. From an intellectual property portfolio of 1,500+ patents it has created over 60 companies, and since 2000 UniQuest and its start-ups have raised more than $400 million to take university technologies to market. Annual sales of products using UQ technology and licensed by UniQuest are running at $3 billion. UniQuest now commercialises innovations developed at The University of Queensland and its commercialisation partner institutions: the University of Wollongong, University of Technology Sydney, James Cook University, University of Tasmania, Mater Medical Research Institute, and Queensland Health. UniQuest also provides access to an expansive and exclusive network of independent academics to tailor a consulting or project R&D solution to meet the diverse needs of industry and government, facilitating some 500 consulting, expert opinion, testing, and contract research services each year. UniQuest is also a leading Australasian provider of international development assistance recognised for excellence in technical leadership, management and research. Working with agencies such as AusAID, NZAID, the Asian Development Bank and the World Bank, UniQuest has developed and implemented more than 400 projects in 46 countries throughout the Pacific, South-East Asia, the Indian sub-continent and Africa.