HBAN (Halo Business Angel Network), the all-island organisation responsible for the promotion of business angel investment, and a joint initiative of Enterprise Ireland and InterTradeIreland, today announces that its syndicates, Irrus Investments and WxNW, have led a €1.1M oversubscribed funding round in Ovagen, the world’s first producer of germ-free eggs. Funding also came from the Western Development Commission (WDC) and an existing shareholder.
Ovagen’s groundbreaking proprietary process is a world-first and addresses a problem that sees up to 20% of egg-based vaccine batches being destroyed. Due to the significance of its product, Ovagen expects to add 65 jobs over the next five years, with revenues reaching €42M by year-end 2027.
Every year, in excess of one billion eggs are used globally as ‘bio-reactors’ to support the development of life-saving human and animal health vaccines. Viruses are injected into the eggs to propagate the virus, which vaccine manufacturers can then use to develop vaccines for diseases including the flu, yellow fever, mumps and measles. However, currently, one-in-five eggs become contaminated, leaving the vaccines they create unfit for use. It is a multi-million-euro problem for the world’s vaccine manufacturing industry.
Following seven years of research and development, Ovagen has now addressed this issue with its superior quality-verified ‘germ-free’ eggs, produced in the company’s Ballina, Co. Mayo, headquarters. The process and technology – which is protected by patents and trade secrets – ensures no bacteria can enter an egg through its porous shell after it is laid.
The latest funding brings the total amount received by Ovagen to-date to more than €19M. It will be used to carry out R&D evaluation trials on vaccine batches, to officially launch the world’s first germ-free eggs, targeting major world drug manufacturers and the appointment of key additional personnel. The company will also seek to prove that its germ-free eggs give a higher viral yield, which the founders believe can significantly reduce the large number of eggs required to produce vaccines – and with it, the costs and logistical issues of transporting those eggs.
Ovagen expects that from its site in Ballina, it will be producing four million eggs annually by 2027, with revenues reaching €42M by the end of that year. This will be supported by increasing the team to 77, up from 12, over the next five years. The company also has plans to build three additional facilities in Ballina, as well as establishing global satellite facilities close to drug manufacturing sites.
Dr. Catherine Caulfield, co-founder and CEO, Ovagen, said: “Currently, vaccines are developed using Specific Pathogen Free (SPF) eggs. While these are free of many bacteria and viruses, they are not germ-free and a significant proportion become contaminated with bacteria.
“Our funders have been instrumental in supporting us on our long journey to make a concept a reality. At critical stages in our development, our angel investors have not only provided us with their financial backing, but they have also introduced us to other potential investors, as well as their highly influential industry contacts. Their support, along with the tireless dedication of the Ovagen team, puts us in a very strong position as we prepare to go to market with the world’s first germ-free egg.”
Declan MacFadden, spokesperson for HBAN’s WxNW syndicate, said: “The Ovagen team has shown incredible perseverance in pursuit of an idea that many deemed was impossible. The global potential of the company’s technology is vast and that is why this is the second time HBAN syndicates have backed Ovagen. Our investors were also impressed by the unwavering ambition and track record of the founders, who previously sold a company for €25M, giving some early investors a 68X return on their investments.
“Angel investment is a key enabler for early-stage businesses as it helps them to leverage additional funding, while also providing them with access to industry experts who can provide strategic support and introductions to their network of contacts. Ovagen is now in prime position to launch its product and we are excited to see the impact that this groundbreaking development has in a highly lucrative global market.”
Allan Mulrooney, Interim CEO of Western Development Commission, said: “The WDC is a long-term investor of Ovagen. The company has continued to grow and innovate to create a world class, economically sustainable product. This round of Investment supported by WDC will enable Ovagen to expand their market and create up to 77 high level roles from its base in Ballina, Mayo. This investment underlines the importance of supporting innovation driven enterprises, leading the success of the existing biotechnology ecosystem in Ireland’s western region. This is a great example of a local company operating on a global scale.”
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