The Nepal Impact Investment Club(NIIC) is investing more than six hundred thousand euros in the biotechnology company, Biovac, which, among other things, develops and produces innovative vaccine to prevent fowl pest in Nepal.
“There is so much to do in Nepal. I almost wish we had competitors,” said the molecular biologist and entrepreneur, Dibesh Karmacharya. Born in Nepal, Dibesh got a scholarship to study in the US when he was 19 years old and afterwards rapidly made a career for himself, including working for GE Healthcare in Boston. After 14 successful years, he felt restless. “I wanted to go back to Nepal, to my family.” He also realised that back home challenging business opportunities were waiting for him. “In Nepal, there is a great lack of vaccine and awful lot here.”
For instance, tackling the contagious disease known as Newcastle disease. “Chickens all over the world are vaccinated against this disease but in Nepal there is a chronic lack of vaccine. Half the stock is not vaccinated and the chicken farmers who can get hold of vaccine are only supplied with a container vaccine that does not work properly. Just like every contagious disease, Newcastle Disease has all kinds of strains. The consequences are catastrophic; loss of income when chickens succumb to the disease and lack of protein in children, arresting their development and causing chronic (brain) damage.”
When he returned to Kathmandu Dibesh set up “Intrepid” to specialise in diagnosing and preventing diseases in humans and animals. Now, in a joint venture with NIIC, Biovac has been set up to focus on diagnosing and developing vaccine against the various strains of the diseases affecting chickens in Nepal. Biovac is also looking into a method to freeze-dry vaccine, which would cut out the problem of keeping vaccine cool during long-distant transport. “This is not only innovative for Nepal but also the whole world”. Biovac is working in conjunction with the University of Oxford on this project.
Apart from NIIC, the Dutch government and the Nepalese micro-credit institution Manushi, are also investing in Biovac. The Dutch government is primarily investing in expertise. Manushi represents 22,000 female members, mostly chicken farmers. This makes the sale and distribution of vaccine considerably easier. Moreover, commercial poultry farmers as well as development agencies focusing on food security are potential customers. But, says Dibesh, “our sales market doesn’t stop in Nepal because these problems occur in almost every developing country”.