Vaccination, as the European Commission states, is the most cost-effective tool for widespread disease prevention. Yet, according to a recent Eurobarometer survey, 48% of Europeans believe vaccines can produce serious side-effects. The same survey shows that more than 12.000 measles cases were reported in the European Economic Area and 35 people died from them last year, but only less than 40% of people surveyed were aware that measles is still a cause of death in the EU.
With the ongoing vaccination debate in Europe, we had a closer look at what health startups in Europe are doing, and how their cutting-edge innovation might contribute to the solution of this divide. Here are 5 startups developing vaccine solutions.
Despite a flu vaccine market worth billions of dollars, influenza still has devastating effects on public health. 15.000–70.000 European citizens die every year of causes associated with influenza. Osivax, based in Lyon, France, is working to change that, along with other common communicable diseases.
A clinical stage biotechnology startup developing a pipeline of vaccines and immunotherapies, it already has a universal flu vaccine as well as a malaria vaccine in the trial phase. The company was founded in and closed a seed funding round of €2.7 million in 2017.
With about 35 million people having died of HIV/AIDS and as many who are currently infected, HIV is one of the most persistent targets for vaccine development. Kymab is a Cambridge-based biotech/pharmaceutical drug-discovery startup. It is manipulating antibodies, a key component in human immune systems, to create vaccines for various communicable and non-communicable diseases, varying from HIV to malaria.
Founded in 2010 and with a $229.4-worth total funding, Kymab is backed by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.
AELIX Therapeutics is another startup developing a vaccine targeting HIV, one of the fastest reproducing viruses. The startup is a clinical-stage biotechnology startup based in Barcelona, Spain, focused on developing a therapeutic HIV vaccine to be used in cure strategies. Founded in 2014, it has aggregated a total amount of €11.6 million in funding.
The startup signed a deal with Gilead, a leader in the HIV drug field, to test a combination of AELIX’s vaccine and Gilead’s HIV drug in a first-in-human clinical trial as an alternative to lifelong therapy, due to start this year.
Can vaccines cure cancer, the leading cause of death worldwide? Nouscom is giving it a shot. A Swiss-Italian biotech startup, Nouscom is developing immunotherapies for cancer. One of the technologies this startup is developing consists of genetic vaccines that protect against cancer targets.
The startup, founded in 2015, with €54 million funding in total and an early stage venture, is still in preclinical development with its therapies but is attracting lots of interest.
Despite the massive effort to deliver vaccines even to the most remote areas around the world, poor temperature control, risks of reduced potency and poor availability are serious obstacles, particularly in developing countries and more so in remote areas.
Founded in 2000, CureVac, a biopharmaceutical startup in the field of mRNA-based drugs based in Tübingen, Germany, is harnessing mRNA to instruct the human body to produce its own proteins to fight diseases. Since their mRNA-based vaccines do not require a cold chain during transport and storage, it aims to enable rapid production and transportation of life-saving vaccines to people worldwide in safe and affordable ways.
With €46 million investment from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the total amount of funding CureVac has received is a massive $382.2 million.
*Bonus* Vacunas 3.0
You don’t know much about your immunisation schedule, or which vaccines you need? Vacunas 3.0 is a mobile application that provides information on everything from childhood and adult vaccinations or vaccine recommendations when traveling to other countries.
Developed in Spain by Everyware Technologies, a spin-off of the University of Granada, it also includes vaccine calendars of the communities, cities and the Pediatric Association in Spain. The app is free to use and is available in English, German and Spanish.
Startups: Shaping Innovation Through Policy
Through innovative research and development, startups in healthcare tackle some of the most pressing global health issues. While bridging the gap between traditional health systems and patients through cutting-edge technology, startups also enhance communication between them, which is much needed in the vaccination debate.
To address the shortcomings of healthcare even more effectively, startups need to be part of the policy debate and interact with the policymakers of the health and technology sectors. As startups continue redefining diagnosis, treatment and prevention in healthcare, we will keep tabs on how they shape health debates.