16 million more for Univercells

November 26th 2018

Univercells offers production platforms for biological drugs. During the summer, several investors were drawn to the company's dual commitment to deliver in both economic and social terms. We have met with Hugues Bultot, CEO of Univercells.

For what project(s) did you launch this successful campaign to raise 16 million euros?
Hugues Bultot: ‘In spite of high demand, insufficient quantities of certain vaccines (yellow fever, rabies, hepatitis A) are produced globally, resulting in higher prices, lower accessibility, and poor immunisation coverage.
We plan to produce a second vaccine(1), which will be produced using our new bioproduction platform, NevoLine™. Our innovative technology reduces the platform’s investment and running costs, as well as the space required, by a factor of ten compared to platforms currently on the market. This enables NevoLine™ to produce vaccines at a lower cost, making them accessible to all. Our eventual goal is to increase the global immunisation rate, and investors(2) believed in this commitment that will bring both economic and social benefits.’

What kind of fallout could your projects have in Belgium?
‘We owe our very creation to the Biopark ecosystem. Initially, the innovative production solutions we developed were intended for third parties, but we now ambition to produce our own high-quality biological drugs. Our technological solutions could eventually let us repatriate a number of production chains on Belgian soil. For this to be possible, however, we need to convince our financial backers of the project's feasibility. Pharmaceutical firms currently have a monopoly on biological drugs (vaccines and recombinant proteins), but there is room on the market for a smaller independent player like Univercells!’

Is this why Univercells is increasingly turning towards international markets, including to seek out new investors?
‘That's right: as the saying goes, no one is a prophet in their own land! Our business model works especially well abroad. Producing a rabies vaccine in Africa and Asia, for instance, makes plenty of sense as these regions are where rabies is the most devastating. In addition, there are more opportunities for funding in the United States, Southeast Asia, and emerging countries. European investors are more difficult to convince, especially when it comes to betting against traditional producers of biological drugs. We have made considerable progress, but many people still need to be won over.’

(1) In 2016, Univercells received funding from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation in order to develop a production platform for the polio vaccine. This project will conclude at the end of 2018.
(2) Investors include Global Health Investment Fund (USA), Korea Investment Partners (Asia), The Innovation Fund, Inventures II, TheClubDeal (Belgium), and private Belgian investors.