Belgium-based ExeVir Bio, a clinical-stage biotechnology company developing nanobody-based therapeutics for infectious diseases, announced on Monday that it has raised €25M in venture debt from The European Investment Bank (EIB).
The funding is supported by the InnovFin Infectious Diseases Finance Facility (IDFF) under Horizon 2020, the EU’s research and innovation initiative, and is a part of the EIB’s COVID-19 response.
EIB Vice-President Kris Peeters says, “Our support for ExeVir is another example of how the EIB, as the EU bank and a public lender, has backed promising startups thanks to the guarantee of the EU’s InnovFin programme. This programme has enabled us to build momentum in the all-important biotech, medical and health sectors and help create a truly European ecosystem in which innovation flourishes, and focused R&D can generate real benefits for our economies and, ultimately, our citizens.”
ExeVir Bio – Everything you need to know
Founded in 2020 by Nico Callewaert, ExeVir utilises its llama-derived antibody (VHH) technology platform to produce multi-specific antibodies for the prevention and treatment of infectious illnesses. Due to the limits of available vaccinations and treatment options, the company’s initial emphasis is on COVID-19 prevention for the immunocompromised patient group.
The main asset of ExeVir, XVR012, is a potent COVID-19 neutralising antibody that specifically targets the coronavirus’s S1 and S2 sections. Both of these viral areas are highly conserved, making it less probable for the virus to evolve into an escape variety.
The company claims to have proven that it can execute on Phase 1a and Phase 1b studies and scale-up production, while moving its candidates from the lab to the clinic in less than a year. Its XVR012 asset is being developed for regulatory submission in 2023, drawing on this prior expertise.
According to ExeVir, its VHHs can be joined together like building blocks to form a single molecule that can tackle many epitopes or operate via different modes of action simultaneously to address the “arms race” in more complex and co-evolving infectious diseases. This is because VHHs are smaller than entire antibodies, they may access hidden epitopes that conventional monoclonal antibodies can’t, which may allow for greater tissue penetration and more straightforward, less expensive manufacture.
The company has also started studying dengue, a disease that is spreading and is now posing a greater threat to world health owing to urbanisation and climate change.
ExeVir claims that the funds will help advance the development of its novel COVID-19 therapeutic. The company’s flagship asset, XVR012, will be advanced into clinical trials for COVID-19 thanks to the EIB finance.
And as part of its pandemic preparation plan, the company also wants to broaden its pipeline to other infectious illnesses in addition to releasing this medicine on the market in the upcoming years.
Fiona du Monceau, COO of ExeVir, says, “With EIB’s help, we can continue to focus on protecting populations for whom vaccines are not sufficient and who are unable to use antiviral therapies, such as the immunocompromised, as well as on preparing for future pandemics. We aim to bring our first product to market which has the potential to become a critical instrument in the toolbox for combating COVID-19.”
About the European Investment Bank
The European Investment Bank or the EU bank is an institution for long-term lending in the EU. It is the only bank that is owned by and represents the interests of the EU Member States. It works closely with other EU institutions to implement EU policy and makes money available for wise investments to support the aims of EU policy. Belgium owns 5.2 per cent of the EIB.
The InnovFin Infectious Diseases Finance Facility is committed to assisting in the battle against infectious diseases. The 2014–2020 EU research and innovation programme, Horizon 2020, is the source of funding for this collaborative project between the European Commission and the EIB Group. The facility, which is provided directly by the EIB, enables the Bank to offer funding of between €7.5M and €75M to innovative players in the development of vaccines, drugs, medical and diagnostic devices, and research infrastructure for battling infectious diseases. It primarily goes to projects that have passed the preclinical stage and need clinical approval for further development.
The facility has been increased by €400M to boost its capacity for tackling the outbreak of the coronavirus, with the total EU contribution to the facility via Horizon 2020 estimated at almost €700M.
According to a statement by EIB, by the end of 2022, InnovFin IDFF funded 28 operations across the EU with signatures totalling €646.5M. An additional €30M from the IDFF budget was used under the InnovEFSI product to support an EFSI Equity COVID-19 operation.