Univercells SA, a company that designs single-use cost-efficient bioprocess solutions for the next generation of biomanufacturing, announces that it has received a grant from the Walloon region. Jean-Claude Marcourt, Vice-President and Minister of Economic Affairs, Industry, Innovation and Digital Economy in the Walloon government, has granted the company €466,500 ($509,500). The grant was awarded following recommendations from the DG06 Economy, Employment and Research branch. It will be used to fund part of a two-year research project, UNIVERSCALE, to reduce the cost of vaccine manufacturing. It covers 70% of the budgeted costs of the industrial research part of the project.
The UNIVERSCALE project began in 2013 and is now in it’s final stages, to be completed by the end of 2015. It aims to secure proof of concept for the development of an integrated and continuous in-line manufacturing method for viral antigens (culture, expression and purification). The company’s goal is to reduce the cost of manufacturing vaccines by simplifying the production processes.
The grant will be paid to Univercells by the end of 2015. It is subject to certain conditions including conducting the work in the Walloon region, Univercells joint investment in the project and certain other undisclosed conditions.
“The completion of this project will see a real change of paradigm as we aim to dramatically reduce the costs of cell culture vaccine production by combining incremental innovations,” said Hugues Bultot, CEO at Univercells. “Using the results from the project, our platform will increase the availability and affordability of vaccines across the globe. We plan to increase the production capabilities in areas that are currently in deficit in the supply of much needed vaccines.”
At the end of the industrial research project, Univercells plans to deploy its own manufacturing platform and to commercialize one or two viral antigens within the next five years. It will also set up a multi-product manufacturing platform of over 400m2 within the Charleroi Brussels South Biopark in Gosselies. Production capacity should reach 10 to 50 million doses per year by 2019. The project will see more than 50 jobs created. The company foresees a mixed revenue from its viral antigen platform and multi-product platform of €10m ($11.4m) per year by 2019.
“This is a very exciting opportunity for the Walloon region in terms of job creation and market growth,” said Jean-Claude Marcourt, Vice-President and Minister of Economic Affairs, Industry, Innovation and Digital Economy in the Walloon government. “We are thrilled to support this disruptive innovation that has potential applications worldwide. We also see the potential to attract foreign investors and customers to the area.”
“The Walloon Region is proud to support the Univercells project,” said Michel Charlier, General Inspector of the Operational Direction of Economy, Employment and Research (DGO6). “We are satisfied that the project has met our strategic objectives and the funding conditions set.”
In 2014, the Walloon region invested a total of €26.6m ($29m) in 44 industrial research projects.
Univercells launches its platform in Gosselies, Belgium today; in the presence of Rahul Singhvi, COO of Takeda, Dominique Demonté, director of the Biopark, Jean-Pierre Marcelle, COO of Invest in Wallonia and Michel Kempeneers, General Inspector AWEX - responsible for the Asia-Pacific region.