Aimed at Increasing Vaccine Access, Vaxess Raises the First Part of a $3.75M Series A

By Lauren Landry, BostInno

After taking home $25,000 in Harvard Business School’s 2012 New Venture Competition, Vaxess Technologies went on to win another $70,000 from Harvard’s inaugural President’s Challenge. Within a year, the team was securing another $50,000 through Harvard Business School’s alumni business plan competition and, Thursday, have even more news to unveil.

Vaxess has closed the first tranche of a $3.75 million Series A financing, led by Norwich Ventures. Angel investor Jeffrey Walker also participated in the round for an undisclosed amount.

The Boston-based company uses silk-derived proteins to stabilize vaccines without refrigeration, eliminating the need for cold-chain transport. To date, 98 percent of vaccines have to be stored between 35 and 46 degrees Fahrenheit. In low-income, rural areas, however, there isn’t an infrastructure for cold storage, making the task nearly impossible.

That was, before Vaxess.

“The medical community has a long history with silk-based products in patient care,” said Norwich Ventures Aaron Sandoski, who will be joining the company’s board of directors, in a release. “Norwich Ventures is excited to be working with the Vaxess team to dramatically improve the availability of vaccines around the world.”

Vaxess reports they will use this round of funding to “enhance internal product development capabilities, advance silk-stabilized products through preclinical development and continue collaborations with pharmaceutical and global health partners.”

The team’s technology originated in the labs of biomedical engineering professors David Kaplan and Fiorenzo Omenetto. Vaxess’ founding team rallied around the duo’s work in a Commercializing Science class while at Harvard and, four months later, the company was born.

“Vaxess’ proprietary technology offers vaccine manufacturers a unique opportunity to improve product stability, thereby enabling lower distribution costs, increased global access and reduced waste,” said Vaxess CEO Michael Schrader in a release.

After seeing how far Vaxess has come in the last year, only bigger headlines are expected for the year to come.

Daktari Diagnostics Collects $7M in Funding

By Patricia Resende, Boston Business Journal

Daktari Diagnostics Inc. has landed another round of funding. The Cambridge, Mass.-based developer of diagnostic tests for HIV, hepatitis and tuberculosis secured $7 million in equity financing, according to documents filed with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission.

In addition to Bill Rodriguez, co-founder and CEO, listed as directors in the filing are Aaron Sandoski, managing director at Norwich Ventures; Roger Kitterman, a partner at the Partners Innovation Fund and a co- founder of Mass Medical Angels; Edward Roberts, professor at the MIT Sloan School of Management; Stanley Lapidus, CEO of SynapDx Corp.; David Rubin, principal in Merck’s Global Healthcare Innovation fund; and Christopher Earl, president of Innotrove, LLC.

The latest round of funding comes just one month after Daktari said it will expand into Scotland and hire 126 new employees. The company said it will enter that region with its HIV blood monitoring technology, a battery-powered CD4 white blood cell counter used in monitoring HIV patients that will marketed for use in developing and emerging countries.

Before this last round of funding, Daktari received a $5 million tranche of a planned $10 million financing round announced in December 2011. That financing was led by Merck & Co. Inc. (NYSE: MRK) venture capital arm, Merck Global Health Innovation Fund, which was joined by the company previous investor group, led by Norwich Ventures and the Partners Innovation Fund. Previous backers of Daktari have also included, Launchpad Venture Group, Hub Angels Investment Group and Boston Harbor Angels. In August 2011, Daktari landed $1.25 million in debt financing.

Daktari was co-founded in 2008 by Rodriguez, former chief medical officer of the William J. Clinton Foundation, and Mehmet Toner, a professor of engineering at Harvard and MIT. Requests for comment were not returned before deadline.

Social Entrepreneurship and MedTech

BBC News recently published an online article titled, “Small firms which want to profit from doing good.”  The article highlights the growing trend of social entrepreneurship and how great entrepreneurs are creating new business models to bring profitable solutions to the billions at the bottom of the pyramid.  MedTech plays a central role in social entrepreneurship since finding solutions to disease and the economic burden of poor health are critical in order for countries to thrive.  We were delighted to see one of Norwich’s portfolio companies as the article’s leading case example.

Here is a link to the article: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-21351648