No matter how you look at it, healthcare is one of the biggest challenges facing society today. Fortunately, from a new £75m fund supporting healthcare startups to increased VC investments in the sector, there are plenty of initiatives aimed at encouraging entrepreneurs to use their skills to help people live better and longer lives. And British founders are certainly doing their part, Vaccitech, a biotech startup, has just raised an impressive £20m series A round to find a universal vaccine against the flu.
Having began life as an Oxford University spin-out in 2016, Vaccitech’s vaccine protects people better against influenza than traditional preventive treatments do. While older vaccines attack the outside of the virus, the fact that the outside is constantly mutating regrettably means that they only defend against that particular strain. That’s why a treatment that worked one year could be ineffective the next.– which was the reason why potential flu pandemics such as swine flu can pose such a massive threat. But luckily Vaccitech has found a solution: its vaccine is based on the virus’ core proteins that remain virtually unchanged no matter how it mutates. The result is a treatment that offers protection against the most common forms of influenza and not just individual strains.
Given that the company was just backed by a bunch of big investors, it seems like people have faith in Vaccitech’s solutions, which also includes the development of therapies against hepatitis B and prostate cancer. For instance, this round was lead by GV, the VC arm of Alphabet, and Sequoia Capital, the VC firm that has previously invested in Uber and Reddit. Moreover, the round was also backed by Neptune Ventures and the previous investor Oxford Sciences Innovation, which manages the university’s £600m investment fund. In total, Vaccitech has now raised £30m.
Commenting on the successful series A round, Tom Evans, CEO at Vaccitech, said: “When you look at the 250 million people chronically infected with hepatitis B globally or the number of people killed by the flu each year, it becomes clear just how much potential impact Vaccitech’s portfolio of vaccine products could have on the world. You add Oxford into the mix, where you have unprecedented ability to do advanced products through outstanding vaccine science and tremendous translational medicine capability, and Vaccitech is clearly well positioned to have an important impact on global health.”
With entrepreneurs having already used their skills to do everything from boosting fitness to improving mental health, we’re confident that investments like these will also enable them to bring about better healthcare.