>@Blitz Agency/EIB
  • ExeVir signs €25 million venture debt financing with European Investment Bank to develop a llama-derived nanobody COVID-19 therapeutic, labelled XVR012.
  • Project expected to have important public health impact, addressing underserved therapeutics market for immunocompromised and elderly people.
  • Venture debt financing is part of EIB’s COVID-19 response and is guaranteed by the InnovFin programme under the EU’s Horizon 2020 budget

The European Investment Bank (EIB) and ExeVir BIO BV (ExeVir) have signed a €25 million venture debt financing agreement to advance the development of ExeVir’s novel COVID-19 therapeutic. The financing is part of the EIB’s COVID-19 response and is backed by the InnovFin Infectious Diseases Finance Facility (IDFF) under Horizon 2020, the European Union’s research and innovation programme. ExeVir is harnessing its llama-derived antibody (VHH) technology platform to generate multi-specific antibodies for prophylaxis and treatment of infectious diseases. The EIB financing will help advance ExeVir’s lead asset, XVR012, into clinical trials for COVID-19.

In addition to bringing this product to the market in the coming years, ExeVir intends to expand its pipeline to other infectious diseases as part of its pandemic preparedness strategy. The EIB financing will thus be of a high added value to ExeVir as it will provide stable, long-term and non-dilutive capital to support ExeVir’s R&D activities and clinical development. The company’s initial focus is on prevention of COVID-19 for immunocompromised patient populations (approximately 3% of the general Western population) with a high unmet need due to the limitations of current vaccines and therapeutic approaches.

EIB Vice-President Kris Peeters said: “Developing advanced therapeutics for infectious diseases is key to protect our population, especially the most vulnerable. The EIB Group has worked closely with the European Commission to mobilise billions for both the urgent and the long-term response to COVID-19  in recent years. Our support for ExeVir is another example of how the EIB, as the EU bank and a public lender, has backed promising startups thanks to the guarantee of the European Union’s InnovFin programme. This programme has enabled us to build momentum in the all-important biotech, medical and health sectors and help create a truly European ecosystem in which innovation flourishes, and focused R&D can generate real benefits for our economies and, ultimately, our citizens.”  

Supporting innovation and R&D in Europe is one of the EIB’s key goals, and biotech companies such as ExeVir are instrumental for the EU economy and European scientific knowledge and progress. This investment will undoubtedly strengthen Belgium’s and the European Union’s position in the innovative COVID-19 therapeutics market as well as in pandemic preparedness.

Dr Torsten Mummenbrauer, CEO of ExeVir, said: “The ExeVir team has quickly developed significant expertise in leveraging its modular nanobody platform to address COVID-19. We are now using that experience to find rapid, effective solutions for new variants of this infectious disease, particularly as interventions to protect and treat the immunocompromised population that continues to live in fear. COVID-19 has proven to be a devastating and highly unpredictable disease for this most vulnerable population. We are extremely pleased to secure the EIB’s support and endorsement at such a pivotal time for the company, to ensure this unmet need in relation to COVID-19 is addressed and preparations are in place for future pandemics.”

Fiona du Monceau, COO of ExeVir said: “This funding from the EIB will support the development of our lead asset, XVR012. It will allow us to advance on our scientific roadmap, as well as help us to pursue our ambitious growth strategy and establish us as a truly European biotech champion combatting infectious diseases with high unmet medical needs. With EIB’s help, we can continue to focus on protecting populations for whom vaccines are not sufficient and who are unable to use antiviral therapies, such as the immunocompromised, as well as on preparing for future pandemics. We aim to bring our first product to market which has the potential to become a critical instrument in the toolbox for combating COVID-19.”

With this commitment, the EIB will catalyse the development of an innovative COVID-19 therapeutic, providing an important signal of confidence to other investors, while creating significant long-term value and impact. The loan could not have happened without the backing of the European Union’s InnovFin Infectious Diseases Finance Facility (IDFF), which enables the EIB to fund high-risk projects that aim to combat infectious diseases, develop compounds, drugs or medical devices, and support their future commercialisation.

European Commissioner for Innovation, Research, Culture, Education and Youth, Mariya Gabriel, said: “We are pleased to join the EIB in support of the biotech company ExeVir aiming to develop a nanobody COVID-19 therapy. This novel therapy will offer an important solution to the most vulnerable Covid-19 patients today and will contribute to better preparedness for the future pandemics.”

Background information

ExeVir Bio is a clinical stage biotechnology company developing nanobody based therapeutics focusing on infectious diseases. The company is harnessing its llama-derived antibody (VHH) technology platform to generate multi-specific antibodies for prophylaxis and treatment of infectious diseases. ExeVir’s initial focus is on prevention of COVID-19 for the immunocompromised patient population where there remains a high unmet need due to the limitations of current vaccines and therapeutic approaches.

ExeVir’s lead asset, XVR012, is a potent COVID-19 neutralising antibody that targets the S1 and S2 regions of the coronavirus. Both are highly conserved regions in the virus, meaning it is less likely to mutate into an escape variant. ExeVir has demonstrated it can progress its candidates from research to the clinic in under one year, execute on Phase 1a and Phase 1b studies and conduct scale-up manufacturing. Leveraging this past experience, its XVR012 asset is being developed for regulatory submission in 2023.

VHHs can be linked together like building blocks into a single molecule to tackle different epitopes or act through different mechanisms of actions all at once in order to address the “arms race” in more complex and co-evolving infectious diseases. VHHs are smaller in size than whole antibodies, giving them access to hidden epitopes that traditional monoclonal antibodies are unable to reach with potential for deeper tissue penetration and simpler, more cost-effective manufacturing.

ExeVir has initiated research in dengue, a migrating disease becoming an increasing global health burden due to global warming and urbanisation.

ExeVir is a spinout of VIB, the leading Belgium-based life sciences research institute. It is backed by strong investors including Fund+, which led the series A of €42 million, together with an international consortium including UCB Ventures, FPIM, V-Bio Ventures, VIB, SRIW, Noshaq, Vives IUF and SambrInvest. ExeVir has received support from VLAIO, SPW-Recherche and the European Union, leading to a total of €16.5 million in non-dilutive funding.

Find out more on ExeVir’s LinkedIn or on ExeVir’s website.

The European Investment Bank, the EU bank, is the long-term lending institution of the European Union and is the only bank owned by and representing the interests of the EU Member States. It makes finance available for sound investment in order to contribute towards EU policy goals and works closely with other EU institutions to implement EU policy. Belgium owns 5.2% of the European Investment Bank.

The InnovFin Infectious Diseases Finance Facility is dedicated to supporting the fight against infectious diseases. This joint European Commission and EIB Group initiative is part of Horizon 2020, the 2014-2020 EU research and innovation programme. Delivered directly by the EIB, the facility enables the Bank to provide between €7.5 million and €75 million of funding to innovative players in the development of vaccines, drugs, medical and diagnostic devices and research infrastructure for combating infectious diseases, and mainly goes to projects that have completed the preclinical stage and require clinical approval for further development. The facility has been increased by €400 million to boost its capacity for tackling the outbreak of the coronavirus, with the total EU contribution to the facility via Horizon 2020 estimated at almost €700 million.

At the end of 2022, signatures under InnovFin IDFF amounted to € 646.5 million with the financing of 28 operations throughout the European Union. A further €30 million from the IDFF budget was used under the InnovEFSI product to support an EFSI Equity COVID-19 operation.