Biotech startup Mynvax raises angel funding from former Nokia exec, others
Photo Credit: Bhakti Nair/VCCircle

Mynvax Pvt Ltd, a biotech startup, has raised its angel round of funding from a clutch of individuals, one of the investors told VCCircle.

Angel investor Ajith Sukumaran, who has already backed two startups earlier, said he is one of the lead investors in the company. He, however, did not disclose the identities of other investors and the amount pumped into the company.

Sukumaran alone typically invests Rs 2-3 crore in a startup.

Mynvax, which was incubated at the Indian Institute of Science, was founded in 2017 by Raghavan Varadarajan and Gautham Nadig. The company, which is in research mode at present, develops next-generation vaccines for influenza using a recombinant technology that will be used to create broadly protective vaccines which may not require annual updating. In addition, the technology allows for very rapid, large-scale and low-cost production of vaccines that could potentially be used to protect people when there is a pandemic.

According to the latest WHO report, influenza is an infectious disease that causes around 650,000 deaths worldwide each year, said Sukumaran.

“In developed countries, it is almost mandatory to take a flu vaccine every year but in populous countries like India and China, less than 1% of the population takes the vaccine," he added.

According to a report by market research firm RNCOS, rising disposable income, growing incidences of influenza, the introduction of new vaccines, entry of new players and rising R&D investments are set to boost the market’s growth.

Key players in the influenza vaccine market in India include big drugmakers such as Sanofi-Pasteur and Abbott. They have been using WHO-specified vaccine components in either the traditional egg-based production or cell culture. These vaccines are not known to be broadly protective and require the vaccine to be updated every year and their underlying production technology has been in use for decades.

Mynvax’s founder Varadarajan is a biophysicist and a professor at the Indian Institute of Science. He is a recipient of the Shanti Swarup Bhatnagar Prize for Science and Technology, one of the highest Indian science awards. Nadig was a co-founder of agricultural biotechnology company Metahelix Life Sciences Ltd, which was acquired by Rallis India Limited in 2010.

Sukumaran, an alumnus of Harvard Business School and Cambridge University, has 20 years of experience across strategy management, financial planning, investment management and more. He previously led strategy planning in Nokia’s corporate strategy division.

He made his first angel investment in December 2016 in clinical research and data analytics company THB, which earlier this year raised fresh funding round led by early-stage venture capital firm Blume Ventures and healthcare-focused VC firm Healthquad.

His second investment was in a space technology company Astrome Technologies Pvt. Ltd in early 2017. Astrome is transforming terrestrial and space internet infrastructure (with LEO Satellite constellations) through patented technology.

Sukumaran said that the latest investment was made after evaluating over 100 startups. “I primarily prefer to invest in startups doing deep tech & science,” he added.

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