Vienna has a booming life sciences sector that has rapidly grown over the last decade. Here are 15 biotech companies in the city you should know about.
Vienna might not be the first place that springs to mind when thinking of biotech centers of excellence. But Austria has given its bigger neighbors a run for their money in recent years. Since 2010, the number of biotechs in the country has more than doubled. There are now over 150 biotech companies employing over 2,000 people in Austria, at least half of which are found in or near Vienna.
This strong biotech and pharma base in Vienna, which generates billions of euros in revenue each year, is reflected by an equally strong history of academic science and research. The city has five universities, two universities of applied sciences, and eleven research institutes.
The biotech sector in Vienna has a strong focus on health applications, particularly vaccines, diagnostics, and therapeutics for infectious diseases. This allowed several companies to rapidly start Covid-19 programs after the pandemic started. Vienna also has a number of companies working on diagnostics and biomarkers, cancer therapeutics, and the cross-section between biotech, IT, and, medtech.
Many of the city’s younger biotechs have been established at the Vienna Biocenter, a cluster of life science research institutes and companies that houses 38 biotech startups. Following consultation with local experts, we put together a list of the most remarkable biotech companies to know in Vienna, in no particular order.
Valneva was created when the Austrian biotech Intercell merged with the French biotech Vivalis. Now headquartered in France, the company keeps a strong presence in Vienna, as well as offices in the UK, Canada, Sweden, and the US. Valneva is a big Vienna biotech success story, with a market cap of €1.2B on the Euronext Paris stock exchange, and will soon be launching a Nasdaq IPO.
Valneva has a focus on infectious diseases, specializing in prophylactic vaccines. The company has two vaccines already on the market, against Japanese encephalitis and cholera. It also has Zika, Lyme disease, Clostridium difficile, and chikungunya vaccines undergoing different stages of clinical testing. In addition, the company is developing an inactivated Covid-19 vaccine, which is currently undergoing phase III testing.
Hookipa Pharma is developing immunotherapies for treating infectious diseases and cancer. The therapies use arenaviruses to generate an immune response against the desired target.
In November 2020, a phase II trial showed that the company’s lead vaccine candidate is able to prevent infections and complications in patients receiving organ transplants from donors infected with cytomegalovirus. The company has also begun a phase I/II trial with an arenavirus-based therapy for cancers caused by the human papillomavirus.
Hookipa is listed on the Nasdaq stock exchange with a market cap of €431M and collaborates with Gilead Sciences to develop functional cures for hepatitis B and HIV.
Initially, Apeiron focused on developing a drug for acute respiratory distress syndrome. After licensing its drug candidate to GSK, the company broadened its pipeline to immuno-oncology. The company received EU marketing authorization for its antibody drug Qarziba (dinutuximab beta) in 2017 for the treatment of pediatric neuroblastoma, which is licensed to EUSA Pharma. Apeiron has partnered with big players such as Evotec, Sanofi, and GSK.
Last year, Apeiron raised €17.5M to fund the development of a Covid-19 therapy based on its early work to treat patients with severe symptoms that experience acute respiratory distress syndrome. The antibody treatment has recently reported positive results in a phase IIa trial. The company is also developing an autologous cellular therapy to treat solid tumors as its lead oncology candidate.
Phagomed develops treatments for bacterial infections based on viruses called phages, which selectively infect bacteria. The company’s lead drug candidate is an antibacterial chemical called a lysin, extracted from phages, that targets Gardnerella bacteria, known for causing vaginosis. Antibiotics often don’t work against bacterial vaginosis and new treatments are desperately needed. This treatment is still at the preclinical phase, and the company has two other lysins in development for undisclosed indications.
Phagomed is also developing a line of phages to target joint infections from Staphylococcus aureus, which often occur after joint replacement. The first patient was successfully treated using these phages at the end of March. The company has so far raised more than €6.5M in private investments and public grants.
F2G is a company with offices in Vienna and Manchester that develops novel drugs to treat life-threatening fungal infections. Antifungals are hard to develop and new solutions are urgently needed to meet the growing challenge of antifungal resistance.
The company has produced a new class of antifungals called orotomides. Its lead candidate drug, olorofim, is being tested in two phase IIb trials in patients with fungal infections that have no alternative treatment options. The drug targets an enzyme called dihydroorotate dehydrogenase, which is essential for the fungi to be able to replicate their DNA.
F2G remains a private company and has raised more than €175M to date, including a €50M round in August 2020 to fund the late-stage development of olorofim.
Haplogen was founded as a spin-out of CeMM, the Research Center for Molecular Medicine of the Austrian Academy of Sciences, and is located at the Vienna BioCenter. The company develops antiviral therapies using a genomics platform to identify promising drug candidates. Its most advanced candidates are antivirals targeting the rhinovirus, which is the main cause of the common cold as well as exacerbations of respiratory disease and asthma.
In 2014, the company’s genomics platform was spun out as Haplogen Genomics and in 2015 it was acquired by the Horizon Discovery Group. Haplogen has been partners with the German biotech giant Evotec since 2012 and with the big pharma Bayer since 2018.
Ribbon Biolabs is one of the few non-pharmaceutical biotechs in Vienna. The company focuses on making synthetic DNA for use in genetic engineering and genome building. Ribbon Biolabs is developing a technology that writes genetic code using DNA-synthesizing enzymes, which could make the process faster than chemical synthesis, a method that’s been largely unchanged since the 1980s.
The company raised over €1.5M in 2018 to fund the development of its technology, and is currently in the process of raising a new round of investment. Some partners are already using Ribbon’s technology, but the new funding will allow the company to expand both technically and commercially.
Austrianni, based at the Vienna Biocenter, is developing antibody therapeutics and antibiotics to prevent and treat tuberculosis. The company has a big library of small drug candidates to draw from, as well as access to the antibody discovery platform developed by the US-based company Trianni, founded by Austrianni CSO and Chairman Matthias Wabl.
Austrianni started out with €3M in funding and has since formed partnerships with other companies, such as Evotec.
Origimm has a focus on preventing and treating microbiome-related diseases, particularly dermatological conditions relating to the skin microbiome. The company’s screening technology allows it to find antigens that confer protection against damaging bacteria.
Origimm’s lead therapy candidate targets Propionibacterium acnes, the pathogenic bacteria that cause acne and implant-associated infections. Its aim is to both limit the growth of P. acnes and to prevent the scarring and skin damage caused by the bacteria. If proven effective, the therapy should act both as a prophylaxis and treatment.
Based at the Vienna Biocenter, a:head bio is growing human brain organoids that can be used to test treatments for neuropsychiatric disorders. The organoids are designed to carry out high-throughput screening of drugs targeting the central nervous system. From a therapeutic perspective, the company’s main focus is on Dravet syndrome, a rare but severe genetic form of epilepsy.
The company attracted more than €4M private and public seed funding in 2019. In February this year, a:head closed another undisclosed “7-digit” fundraise from European investors.
Allcyte uses single-cell image analysis to test the efficacy of cancer drug candidates. The technology allows the quantification of cell phenotypes individually, which combined with machine learning and statistics is used to advise clinicians and drug developers on the best course of action for their patients or drug candidates.
The company’s drug testing platform has been used in a clinical trial of late-stage blood cancer patients to assess which drugs the patients were most likely to respond to. Those in the group undergoing personalized drug selection using Allcyte’s platform were more likely to respond to treatment and had longer progression-free survival.
In March, Allcyte raised a €5M seed funding round following the positive results from the cancer trial.
Ares Genetics is a subsidiary of German diagnostics firm Curetis. It was set up to investigate the genetic foundation of antibiotic resistance, and to develop new approaches for the rapid diagnosis of antibiotic resistance in infected patients, as well as tools to accelerate antibiotic research.
The company’s core technology is a database of genetic antibiotic resistance and susceptibility data, originally developed by Siemens. In 2019, Ares launched an ‘early access’ program for an antibiotic susceptibility test based on using artificial intelligence and the company’s database to interpret DNA sequencing data. In 2020 the company was an early industry responder helping to track and control Covid-19.
Proxygen is a young startup supported by Boehringer Ingelheim, as it won the big pharma’s innovation prize last summer. This gave the company financing for both office and laboratory space for a year at the Vienna Biocenter.
The company specializes in developing a class of drugs they call ‘molecular glue degraders.’ These molecules can target and destroy harmful proteins previously thought to be undruggable by reprogramming the cell’s natural protein recycling machinery.
Boehringer Ingelheim and Proxygen announced in December 2020 that they have agreed to collaborate to identify molecular glue degraders that are able to target various types of cancer.
Nabriva Therapeutics has a focus on developing new antibiotics, with an FDA and EMA-approved antibiotic on the market, called Xenleta (lefamulin), for the treatment of community-acquired bacterial pneumonia.
Nabriva is currently trialing lefamulin as a treatment for other indications, including acute bacterial skin and skin structure infections, sexually transmitted infections, ventilator-associated bacterial pneumonia, hospital-acquired bacterial pneumonia, osteomyelitis, and prosthetic joint infections.
In 2015, Nabriva was the first Austrian biotech company to list on the Nasdaq stock exchange, raising €82.6M. The company now has a market cap of €43.5M and has opened additional offices in the US and Ireland.
OncoOne is a young biotech company specializing in developing cancer immunotherapies for patients with solid tumors that has offices in the Austrian town of Klosterneuburg and the Vienna Biocenter. The company is researching drugs to target the oxidized form of a protein called MIF that plays an important role in the immune system and a potential anti-cancer target, particularly in solid tumors. OncoOne raised a Series A round in March 2020 of €13M with funding from Austrian investors.
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