A Belgian manufacturer looks to pit its freeze drying process against mRNA — and beyond
When the Covid-19 vaccine was first rolled out by drugmakers, Dippin’ Dots was on the minds of scientists. Not because they were excited to eat the “ice cream of the future” at baseball games and county fairs again, but because the beaded dessert must be stored at -49 degrees Fahrenheit, similar to the doses of Pfizer and Moderna’s mRNA vaccine. In a crunch, Dippin’ Dots was called upon to help transport the first of the vaccine doses before freezers were more widely available.
RheaVita CEO Thomas De Beer has never heard of Dippin’ Dots, and his company has another solution to the problem: developing those vaccines through a freeze-dried process. Nearly half of EMA- and FDA-approved products are freeze-dried to extend shelf life without the need for an expensive cold chain.
On Wednesday, De Beer’s company, RheaVita, secured a sweet $3 million in Series A financing. The round was co-led by VC Novalis Biotech Acceleration and investment company Participatie Maatschappij Vlaanderen.
The company, which was developed in 2018 as a spin0ut from Ghent University, has developed the world’s first end-to-end freeze-drying solution for product development, supply and manufacturing. Its technology crunches the manufacturing process into a continuous production line, allowing for quick development and efficient manufacturing, the firm claims.
The company’s tech is capable of being used for several types of treatment — gene therapy, antibodies, biological therapies — but mRNA has emerged on to the mainstream through the popularity and necessity of Pfizer and Moderna’s Covid-19 vaccines.
“We’re so much more than just that. I see RNA is hot at this moment, I understand,” De Beer said in an interview with Endpoints News. “But what I can say is at this moment, we have done over 20 studies with different pharmaceutical companies through a very wide range of products and in all of them we have been successful.”
The company’s continuous freeze-drying tech avoids scaling issues, reduces cycle times and reduces the time it takes for a product to get to market, the company said. Currently, it has a single-vial system and a non-GMP prototype available to test. With its Series A funding, De Beer and his team will be able to finalize and assemble the GMP compliant freeze-dryer. It will also accelerate the commercialization and grow its team, De Beer said.
“What I want to emphasize is that we don’t sell stainless steel. We sell manufacturing solutions,” he said. “So that this is actually a combination of manufacturing equipment but also together with the services that are needed to properly and, in a fast way, develop functional products.”
Novalis’ Kjell Mortier and Stefan De Waele of PMV will join the company’s board of directors as a part of the deal.