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-based Health 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.”

UQ TV clip

2 August 2011

About OneVentures
OneVentures is a venture capital firm that invests in emerging Australian technology companies with true breakout potential, differentiated technology and compelling business models in the clean technology, information technology and life sciences sectors. OneVentures is managed by a team of partners with a skills set and track record ideally suited to collaboration with entrepreneurial management teams to foster growth and create value: a unique blend of highly successful entrepreneurs, technology business founders and corporate executives with a strong scientific pedigree, extensive off-shore experience and networks. The OneVentures Innovation Fund is a $40 million venture capital fund formed as an Early Stage Venture Capital Limited Partnership. The Australian Government has committed $20 million from its IIF Program with this funding matched by high net worth Wholesale Investors.

About the Nanopatch™ Technology 
The Nanopatch is a silicone patch with thousands of small projections designed to hit abundant immune cells in the skin.  Professor Mark Kendall and his team have tested the Nanopatch and confirmed in animals improved immune responses compared to standard needle and syringe injection.  In animals treated with influenza vaccines, the Nanopatch induced immune responses achieved equivalent protection with 1/150th of the delivered dose; which was 10 times better than any other delivery system tested.  Other significant Nanopatch results have been published with the delivery of vaccines for Human Papilloma Virus (HPV), Human Simplex Virus (HSV 2), Chikungunya and West Nile Virus.

A vaccine is coated onto the Nanopatch, which could eliminate the need for the vaccines to be refrigerated when they are stored and transported, overcoming a key global challenge for vaccines. In the developed world about 14% of a vaccine’s costs are 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 chainl.

Professor Kendall has been working on the Nanopatch for the past eight years.  In 2006, he returned to Australia from the University of Oxford, accepting the role of Professor of Biomedical Engineering at the University of Queensland; supported by UQ’s AIBN, Diamantina Institute and the Faculty of Health Sciences.  Since then, he first secured a Queensland Smart State Senior Fellowship, followed by an Australian Research Council Future Fellowship; which he currently holds.  Professor Kendall’s Nanopatch research has been supported by research grants from Queensland’s Smart State program, the Australian Research Council (ARC), National Health and Medical Research Council, and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.

About Brandon Capital Partners
Brandon Capital Partners was established in 2007 and makes seed and venture capital investments into emerging businesses in the life science industry. Brandon Capital Partners is passionate about turning good science into improved medical outcomes. The Brandon team works with entrepreneurs to build businesses, creating value for the entrepreneurs, their teams and Brandon’s investors.
The $50 million Brandon Biosciences Fund 1 (BBF1) is supported by the Australian Government’s IIF program, a venture capital initiative that supports innovation funds and fund managers with expertise in early-stage venture capital investing to commercialise the outcomes of Australia’s strong research capability.

About The Medical Research Commercialisation Fund (MRCF)
The $51 million Medical Research Commercialisation Fund (MRCF) Collaboration is an innovative investment collaboration established in 2007 and managed by Brandon Capital Partners. The MRCF invests in early stage development and commercialisation opportunities emanating from its membership of 30 Australian medical research institutes and allied research hospitals, which includes the Australian Institute for Bioengineering and Nanotechnology (AIBN). The MRCF IIF, LP fund is supported by AustralianSuper, StatewideSuper and the Australian Government under its IIF program. The MRCF also acknowledges the support of the State Governments of Victoria, New South Wales, Western Australia and Queensland.

About Health Care Ventures
HealthCare Ventures is a leading global life sciences venture capital firm investing in early stage companies with potential to transform patient care.  Since its founding in 1985, HealthCare Ventures has raised US $1.6 billion in nine funds and has invested in over 100 companies, 67 as startup ventures.

About the Research Team
The University of Queensland’s Australian Institute for Bioengineering and Nanotechnology (AIBN) is an integrated multi-disciplinary research institute bringing together the skills of world-class researchers in the areas of bioengineering and nanotechnology. It is home to 20 research groups working at the interface of the biological, chemical and physical science to alleviate problems in human health and environmental issues. The focus of AIBN’s research efforts is on developing new products, processes and devices for improving human health and quality of life. In this way the institute goes beyond basic research to promote and develop the growth of innovative industries, which will benefit the Queensland and Australian economies. The AIBN proudly acknowledges the financial support of Atlantic Philanthropies, the Queensland State Government and The University of Queensland toward the construction of the $75 million AIBN research facility. Professor Mark Kendall leads a research team at the Australian Institute for Bioengineering and Nanotechnology (AIBN) developing needle-free delivery of vaccines targeting the skin. Professor Kendall joined UQ in 2006 as a joint appointment by AIBN, the Diamantina Institute and the Faculty of Health Sciences. Prior to this at the University of Oxford, UK, he was a Lecturer (Department of Engineering Science and Magdalen College) and also Associate Director of the PowderJect Centre for Gene and Drug Delivery.

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