Helico Raises Seed Funding for Producing Therapeutics and Medicines in Plants

AUCKLAND, New Zealand–(BUSINESS WIRE)–#biopharma–Biopharma Helico has completed an AUD $1.8 million seed funding round, attracting international interest in its plans to produce therapeutic compounds from plants and, ultimately, ‘edible medicine’.

Led by Icehouse Ventures, investors included Custos Privatestiftung, the family office of Austrian billionaire Wolfgang Leitner, and existing investor David Ross.

Ilya Vensky, co-founder and CEO of Helico, says Leitner’s investment is particularly relevant as he is a former CEO of listed plant and equipment manufacturer Andritz.

“Andritz has expertise in industrial insulin purification and insulin is Helico’s first target,” Vensky says. “Getting regulatory approval for the human use of any drug can take years, but we are optimistic that recent moves in the United States to approve biosimilar drugs made from living organisms will mean a quicker approval pathway.”

Helico has strong backing from the New Zealand Government’s Callaghan Innovation, which has bought into the deep-tech startup’s vision to “replace large, expensive pharmaceutical factories with growing high-value therapeutic compounds via low-tech agriculture”.

Vensky says Helico is developing a proprietary computational platform for synthetic biology research using the latest modelling tools and AI-based prediction algorithms.

“Our models make our research and validation procedures less constrained by time and resources, allowing them to accommodate more scientific breadth and precision, as well as create a cleaner, greener R&D process for producing pharmaceuticals in plants,” he says.

The capital raised will extend R&D and staff numbers. Hiring international staff has just become easier with New Zealand opening visas to specialist skills Helico will need through a new “green” list.

Helico is based at the new, deep-tech facility Outset Ventures in Auckland. The facility has GMO-certified labs and Helico has gained New Zealand Environmental Protection Authority approval for R&D using genetically modified organisms.

However, Vensky says that the company is looking to scale up the production overseas, in Australia or US for example, where the regulatory frameworks for larger GMO production are well known.

The long-term aim is to develop a seed bank of different drugs able to be licensed to grow medical supplies in confined greenhouses anywhere in the world.

“After their experiences with COVID and supply chain issues, many countries are looking at producing more of their own pharmaceutical supply,” Vensky says.


For more information:

Ilya Vensky

Co-founder and CEO

Mob: +64 22 398 1248

Email: ilya@helico.bio
Website: www.helico.bio

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