Pharma R&D Today
Ideas and Insight supporting all stages of Drug Discovery & Development
Start-Up Spotlight: ViroVet BVBA
Posted on January 13th, 2017 by Betsy Davis in Pharma R&D
Healthier animals make for a healthier planet, and that’s why Belgium’s ViroVet is the start-up that we are highlighting this week. Erwin Blomsma, Chief Executive Officer of ViroVet talks about the company’s work on antiviral drugs and vaccines for livestock.
What does the company do?
ViroVet is a pioneering company dedicated to the development of disruptive and innovative technologies for the control of viral diseases in livestock, with antiviral drugs for respiratory disease complexes and innovative vaccines for viral infections in swine leading the pipeline.
Tell us about ViroVet’s background and research.
ViroVet’s management and scientific team is entirely composed of experts who previously founded Okapi Sciences NV. Okapi Sciences was incorporated in 2008 with a starting capital of $8.5 million invested by several venture capital firms. In five years’ time, the company brought two antiviral drugs from the bench to clinical trials, discovered three new pet therapeutics, and developed breakthrough technologies for the containment and control of outbreaks of epizootic livestock diseases such as CSF and FMD.
The company was acquired by Aratana Therapeutics (Nasdaq: PETX) in January 2014 for $44 million, thus generating a healthy return on investment. Since Aratana remains focused on licensing, developing, and commercializing innovative biopharmaceutical products for companion animals, ViroVet regroups the livestock know-how and assets that were developed at Okapi Sciences and resumes the collaboration with the Rega Institute at Leuven University (KU Leuven) and with selected industrial partners to advance and expand its pipeline of antiviral drugs and innovative vaccines.
Why is the research so important to the industry?
It is clear that with the growing world population, there is increasing demand for more protein-rich diets. With the increasing concentration of livestock industry, the intensifying global trade, and climate changes, there is an ever-greater risk for the worldwide spread of viral diseases, severely damaging the livestock industry. The strategy of ViroVet is to provide novel solutions to be used alone or in combination with vaccines and biosecurity measures in order to provide livestock producers, national governments, and international organizations with a much-needed, multi-faceted arsenal of virus control weapons against endemic and epizootic viral diseases.
What will the next steps for the company be?
ViroVet is now preparing a Series A financing round to allow its seasoned management team and top researchers to demonstrate an economically viable proof-of-concept for a first antiviral drug targeted at the bovine respiratory disease complex, as well as demonstrate proof-of-concept with the innovative vaccine technology in swine.
Why does this matter now?
Viral diseases cost producers as well as governments more than 10 billion USD every year in losses, threatening the world supply of animal protein and causing massive antibiotic use. There is a clear need for better vaccines and fast-acting antiviral drugs to regain control over viral diseases in livestock, and to cut antibiotic use.
Are you currently looking for partners or investment?
Yes, ViroVet is currently preparing a series A investment round.
Here is what the ViroVet team has to say about the company’s work:
Erwin Blomsma, PhD, co-founder and CEO of ViroVet, “There is a general lack of disruptive technology developed for the animal health industry overall, particularly in the production animal domain. Of the small number of new food animal products that are approved every year, nearly all are mere variations of products and technologies that already exist on the market. Very few new products provide novel solutions to the problems that continue to plague the food animal industry. This is the perfect timing for our new venture.”
Stefaan Wera, COO of ViroVet, “ViroVet will make a jump start by resuming and accelerating the development of its livestock portfolio with the help of the same team of seasoned researchers that had previously turned Okapi Sciences into such a success. We are also very grateful for being recognized by the European Commission as one of the EU’s most innovative startups and as one of the very few biopharmaceutical companies to be selected for the Horizon 2020 innovation programme.”
To get in contact with Erwin Blomsma, or to follow ViroVet BVBA:
All opinions shared in this post are the author’s own.
R&D Solutions for Pharma & Life SciencesWe're happy to discuss your needs and show you how Elsevier's Solution can help.
Senior Strategic Marketing Manager