When Israeli antibody therapies company BiondVax Pharmaceuticals (Nasdaq: BVXV) reported a failed advanced clinical trial in October 2020 for its lead product, a universal flu vaccine, it seemed uncertain whether the company had any future. The company's market cap fell 86% from its peak of $600 million.
Today the company has a market cap of $4.6 million but its CEO Amir Reichman, who arrives with experience of setting up vaccine plants and managing their supply chains for Novartis and GSK, and he believes that he can drag BiondVax out of the mire.
At the beginning of 2021, Reichman told "Globes" that he wants to convert BiondVax's plant into a manufacturing plant for other companies. This fitted in with the government's plans to set up such a factory in Israel and he was able to raise $12.8 million. However, in the meantime, the German biotech company BioNTech, which developed the Pfizer Covid vaccine, has decided to set up a factory in Israel and it seems that the country is not currently actively promoting the establishment of another new vaccine factory.
Due to the new situation, Reichman changed the plan. He now offers to use the factory to produce vaccines and any other biological products for Israeli startups conducting clinical trials. "At our factory, they can pay in shekels, speak Hebrew and qualify for expenses from Innovation Authority grants," explains Reichman, "and this while in Europe subcontractors for drug production for trials are busy with work, waiting times are long and there is priority for big companies, and prices are also very high. Reichman is eager to get the plant operating quickly. "Maintaining it costs me about NIS 500,000 a month, not including depreciation of equipment. We must keep it running."
His longer-term plan is based on patented products that originally came from the Max Planck Institute: eight antibodies for autoimmune diseases such as psoriasis, arthritis, asthma and retinal degeneration. They are based on nano-antibody technology. "They are similar to antibodies, but they are not exactly an antibody," says Reichman, "With this technology, you expose an animal to an antigen and allow it to produce a wide variety of antibodies against it, and then choose from among them and clone the selected antibodies. The advantage of this technology is that you get a much smaller antibody, which provokes less of an immune response.
"Our product is produced in camel-related animals," Reichman says. "In our case it is alpacas. Ablynx, which was sold to Sanofi for $3.9 billion, produces antibodies in llamas, as does MoonLake, which is traded for $2.5 billion.
Reichman recounts that it was Ablynx's founder who introduced him to the technology. "He managed a soccer team and my son played in his team, and then he told me, 'Bring the boy, we'll show you our llama farm.' When Reichman was looking for new vaccine technology for BiondVax, he remembered this and found the technology at the Max Planck Institute.
The first product being developed by BiondVax is for psoriasis, given by injection into the lesion. The company hopes to capture the market share of mild to moderate psoriasis, compared to MoonLake, which produces nano-antibodies for severe psoriasis, which are administered systemically.
In the future, if there is success in this area, additional antibodies will be transferred from the Max Planck Institute, for example for asthma and inflammatory bowel diseases.
In six months, the company hopes to begin a clinical trial for treating psoriasis, about 18 months behind the major companies in the field, in the hope that Biondvax will indeed succeed despite its meager resources in meeting deadlines.
Published by Globes, Israel business news - en.globes.co.il - on July 12, 2023.
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