Kiwi start-up gets Government funding to develop COVID-19 vaccine

25 May 2020

Auckland: Kiwi start-up, COVID-19 Vaccine Corporation (CVC), has secured $488,000 interim funding from the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE) COVID-19 Innovation Acceleration Fund to begin development of a COVID-19 vaccine for both New Zealand and the rest of the world.

The company has also closed on $1 million in private company funding, with $500,000 last Friday and a further $500,000 to follow shortly. The investor group is led by software entrepreneurs Guy and Susie Haddleton, and includes Dr Stephen Strother, the Markon Trust, the CJ and JS Reeve Family Trust and Takapuna Investments. The investors have a facility to follow on with a larger amount that would potentially fund the company to allow it to complete a clinical trial up to a total of $8 million.

Jeffrey Douglas, managing director of New Zealand’s largest pharmaceutical company Douglas Pharmaceuticals, is chair of the new company.

“With funding in place, the company is ready to start immediately to develop a vaccine candidate using unique nanobead technology developed right here in New Zealand. This technology will enable us to manufacture the vaccine much faster and more cost-effectively than other methods,” explains CVC chief executive Dr Robert Feldman.

“The vaccine avoids traditional egg-culture and uses no animal cells in its manufacture.” Dr Feldman says the company aims to complete its first human trial of the new vaccine by the end of 2021. 

“We’re not aiming to be the first on the market, but we are aiming to be better, with an improved response rate and easier, more cost-efficient production,” he says.

The CVC team includes Dr Robert Feldman, a global biotech expert and medical doctor with vaccine and start-up experience; Dr Andy Herbert, an expert in pharmaceutical development and manufacturing; Tara Craven-Carpasso, a regulatory, quality and biotech expert with extensive international experience; and Helen Teale, who has global clinical trial management expertise.