Three investors have poured 1 million euro into Nepalese vaccine developer BioVac. Now the resources have arrived after a lengthy bureaucratic process, founder Dibesh Karmacharya is gearing up for action. “We have done our homework, now it’s time to execute.”
Attracting foreign investment is no easy job for any Nepalese company. And even when you do succeed to convince foreign investors, it requires maneuvering through complex process of getting fund transferred to your bank account. With the help of One to Watch, BioVac founder – Dibesh Karmacharya overcame all bureaucratic hurdles and got all paperwork signed in order to receive the 1 million Euro investment from the Nepal Impact Investment Community (NIIC), the Dutch government, a Nepalese microcredit company -Manushi and Nepal's first Biotech company - Intrepid Nepal, in his company’s bank account.
The only advantage of going through a lengthy bureaucratic investment process, reflects Karmacharya, is “it gave me time to prepare and plan the whole project extensively. We have basically been dry running the project, polishing the plan bit by bit. Also, this provided enough time to identify the right team members to execute this project. Now the money has come in, we can hire them straight away, expand our team and get to work right away. Honestly, it feels as if we are working on steroids, now the financial resources have arrived.”
Fighting Newcastle Disease
Karmacharya’s ambitious plans consist of three components. First of all, BioVac will execute extensive research on the variations of pathogens that cause Newcastle Disease throughout Nepal. “Newcastle Disease is killing a quarter of all chickens annually in Nepal, hurting rural incomes and taking away a vital source of protein for rural populations. Especially children are badly affected. We want to map out the disease, characterize the virus and develop a new vaccine.” BioVac has already started research planning in collaboration with the world's leading experts from institutions like the Pirbright Institute (UK) to carry out extensive landscape based genomics research on Newcastle Disease and Avian Influenza.
The vaccine will be developed and tested in the new lab that BioVac will build 20 km outside Kathmandu - the second component of Karmacharya’s plan. “It will be a comprehensive and state-of-the art vaccine research and development lab, which will add new capacity of animal disease detection, surveillance and prevention in Nepal.” Once the vaccine is produced, BioVac will undertake a clinical trial and test the efficacy of the vaccine in the field. The most innovative part of the undertaking is that the new vaccine will be room temperature stable and hence does not need to be cooled. This is a major solution for farmers in rural areas who often receive vaccines that are ineffective because they are not properly cooled during transport.
Karmacharya: “Many farmers in developing countries now pay for vaccines against Newcastle Disease that are ineffective. The vaccines are not tested properly for the specific variations of Newcastle in their area. The lack of cooling further undermines the vaccination effort. We, by contrast, will have a thorough scientific bedding. Our vaccines will be well tested and validated in Nepal. And our vaccines do not need cooling.” The commercial value is clear: when backyard chicken farmers can prevent the disease, they can sell a lot more eggs and chicken meat, and make more money. Karmacharya: “Manushi, one of our new investors, serves 18.000 farmers with microcredits. Many of them are small-scale chicken farmers. Manushi wants them to start using our vaccines as soon as they are developed and tested. It helps Manushi reduce risk on their loans.”
BioVac will be setting a new trend in initiating innovative science and technology based entrepreneurship in Nepal. It aims to be a global leader in vaccine development and research. This will change the paradigm to prove how investing in high technology based industry can contribute greatly towards economic activities with high social impact - creating high end job opportunities in Nepal, and creating products that will provide solution to the pressing global challenge of food security.