Biotech firm with major Ottawa footprint taps into US$12M in new financing

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A vaccine-maker with a major Ottawa presence that is working on a locally developed COVID-19 jab as well as vaccines that target diseases such as cancer and hepatitis B is tapping into millions of dollars in new financing.

Massachusetts-based VBI Vaccines says it’s drawing a US$12-million tranche from a previously announced debt financing facility with K2 HealthVentures, a specialty finance company focused on the health-care sector. 

The firm has agreed to provide VBI with up to US$52 million to help the company conduct its research. 

VBI employs about 35 people in Ottawa, where it operates an R&D facility on Hunt Club Road. The company is partnering with the National Research Council to create its coronavirus vaccine, which is being manufactured by Mississauga-based Resilience Biotechnologies, and earlier this year it received a multimillion-dollar funding boost to work on a new version that will target more transmissible variants of the virus. 

The latest funding came through after the firm hit certain clinical milestones in its vaccine trials on patients with recurrent glioblastoma, an aggressive cancer that attacks the brain and spinal cord, and chronic hepatitis B.

The company said two additional tranches of up to US$10 million remain available in the future upon certain conditions.

VBI also received $56 million last summer from the federal government’s Strategic Innovation Fund to ramp up development and testing of its initial COVID-19 vaccine candidate. 

Now headquartered in Cambridge, Mass., the company was originally known as Variation Biotechnologies before merging with Paulson Capital Corp. in 2014. In addition to offices in the U.S. and Ottawa, it also has a manufacturing facility in Israel.