Vaccine-maker's Ottawa R&D efforts get boost thanks to millions in fresh funding

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A vaccine-maker with a major Ottawa presence is stepping up its efforts to create vaccines that target COVID-19 and other coronaviruses as well as diseases such as cancer and hepatitis B thanks to tens of millions of dollars in new funding.

Massachusetts-based VBI Vaccines says it has refinanced its debt facility with existing partner K2 HealthVentures, a specialty finance company focused on the health-care sector. 

Under the deal, VBI will immediately have access to up to $50 million (all terms U.S.) in cash, consisting of $30 million in refinanced funding from K2 as well as $20 million in new non-dilutive financing.

In addition, K2 is committed to providing up to $25 million in future tranches that will be available provided VBI achieves certain clinical and financial milestones. A further tranche of $25 million will be available at K2’s discretion.

VBI employs dozens of people in Ottawa, where it operates an R&D facility on Hunt Club Road.

Partnership with NRC

The company is partnering with the National Research Council to create its coronavirus vaccine, which is being manufactured by Mississauga-based Resilience Biotechnologies. Last year, it received a multimillion-dollar funding boost to work on a new version that will target more transmissible variants of the virus. 

VBI’s hepatitis B vaccine, branded as PreHevbrio in the United States, has been approved for use in the U.S., European Union, the United Kingdom and Israel. The company said the additional capital will help finance its efforts to commercialize PreHevbrio and research other vaccines.

“The K2HV team has proven to have a deep understanding of our business and the science driving VBI, and we are grateful for their support of and investment in VBI’s future,” Jeff Baxter, VBI’s president and CEO, said in a statement.

Now headquartered in Cambridge, Mass., VBI 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.