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New funds for llama-based COVID-19 treatment from Flanders

A new COVID-19 treatment based on llama antibodies moves closer to becoming a reality. In collaboration with VIB, Flanders’ strategic research center for life sciences, federal investment fund SFPI-FPIM, venture capital funds UCB and V-Bio Ventures as well as several local family offices, biotech fund Fund+ are investing EUR 23 million in ExeVir Bio. This unique VIB spin-off company will deploy its lama-derived antibody (VHH) technology platform to create antiviral therapies that provide broad protection against coronaviruses.

Llama Winter

Highly innovative research

Based on the work of Xavier Saelens and Nico Callewaert, a research team at the VIB-UGent Center for Medical Biotechnology in Flanders, along with the help of international scientists, started development of the powerful technology platform.

Research has shown that llama-derived antibodies are capable of neutralizing the coronavirus. As a result, potential treatment could not only be used as a therapy to cure COVID-19 patients, but also as a means to prevent the disease.

According to Jérôme Van Biervliet, managing director of VIB, “the find is a great example of how the top science and entrepreneurial approach at VIB makes a significant societal contribution in partnership with companies and dedicated investors.”

Giant step towards clinical trials

The fresh capital injection from Fund+ follows earlier pre-financing by the government of Flanders. “Our mission is to contribute to Belgium’s leadership position in the life sciences sector and to generate a tangible, beneficial impact on society,” says Philippe Monteyne, Partner at Fund+. “ExeVir Bio fits with both of these goals.” Thanks to the funding, the research team can advance with clinical trials by the end of 2020.

Proud partners during a global health crisis

Hilde Crevits, Flanders’ minister for science and innovation, is proud of the joint efforts taken to develop this treatment on a worldwide scale: “Flanders is at the forefront of cutting edge research, innovation and science, with a highly developed life sciences industry and a deep pool of capital that is available to develop promising, potentially life-saving treatments. At the early stage of this crisis, we quickly decided to support VIB in its search for a treatment for COVID-19.”

For Dhaval Patel, chief science officer at UCB, the partnership fits well within the company’s focus on the discovery and development of innovative medicines and solutions. “We are proud to be part of this great example of science, industry and finance collaborating at a very fast pace to develop a novel treatment for COVID-19.”

Koenraad van Loo, managing director of FPIM, is excited to participate in this unique antibody concept for the potential treatment and prevention of COVID-19. “As a public investor, we very much care about the health, well-being and job security of our citizens.”

More info

ExeVir BioVIB-UGent Center for Medical Biotechnology
Reported by
'De Tijd’ newspaper
30 July 2020

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