The pandemic has inspired a surge of investment in drug discovery and particularly vaccine development.
The latest company to emerge in the sector is London-based biotech Baseimmune, which has just announced a $4.8m raise for vaccine development. The company claims that it can design vaccines that are effective against both an original disease and all its variants, using big data.
“I like to think of a vaccine as a dart. Diseases are constantly moving, evolving and changing. “Normally you throw the dart but the dartboard moves before it can hit the target,” says Joshua Blight, scientist and cofounder of Baseimmune.
“We know where the dartboard will be when the dart actually hits. That is our edge.”
👉 Read: How to create an irresistible pitch deck and stand out to VCs
How Baseimmune’s tech works
The company, founded in 2019, grew out of research by Blight and another scientist, Ariane Gomes, who met while studying for their doctorates at Oxford University. They cofounded the company with software engineer Phillip Kemlo.
Baseimmune is not the only vaccine startup to benefit from pandemic-fuelled interest from VCs. Britain-based Vaccitech, Activirosomes and Emergex Vaccines have also raised capital since the start of the pandemic.
Whilst most vaccines are based on combating a single organism that can cause disease, Baseimmune’s prediction algorithm analyses genomic, epidemiological, immunological, clinical and evolutionary data to create a new synthetic vaccine. The team already has a potential design for a malaria vaccine.
“We are on a rapid increase here and vaccines are extremely hot. The pandemic has also highlighted how effective vaccines are. So why not reassess it for diseases that we've already been living with and suffering from?” Blight adds.
“The main reason why we have focused on the diseases that we have is to get a fast proof of concept that can show that the platform works and make us strong enough as a business to go after targets that are much more challenging,” Gomes says.
3x a week
We tell you what's happening across startup Europe — and why it matters.
By using big data and a design algorithm, the company has been able to shorten the time it takes to develop a vaccine.
“It would take more than 10 years of research for a scientist [to do] what the platform could do way better, with much higher resolution in less than a month,” says Gomes.
The company’s proposed vaccines use a "pick and mix" of antigens, a substance that makes the body produce antibodies, to effectively present the immune system with a toolkit of everything it is likely to need to recognise and respond to a particular bacteria or virus, both now and in the future.
The $4.8m round was led by London-based Hoxton Ventures. The round also included early investors Creator Fund and Beast Ventures in London, alongside Cherry Ventures in Berlin and Maki.vc in Helsinki.
“Through Covid, we’ve all learned the importance of having effective and rapidly developed vaccines. With its unique software platform, Baseimmune is setting the bar by leveraging AI to innovate vaccine therapies,” Hussein Kanji, partner at Hoxton Ventures, says.
Baseimmune has only a handful of employees but is planning to scale up operations with the new investment. However, the team says more funding is needed before bringing its first vaccine to market, hopefully in four to five years.