Billionaire philanthropist Bill Gates has invested €15 million in the biotechnology company Univercells, based in Gosselies near Charleroi.
This is the fourth time Gates has put money into the company, which has developed a sort of miniature production line capable of turning out large volumes of vaccines at low cost. His introduction to the company came in 2016, and he has invested some €30 million since.
The latest financing round has the backing of not only the Microsoft founder, but the federal and Walloon investment agencies, as well as business and personal investors.
The company has so far declined to comment on the capital round, apparently because it is not yet complete, and Univercells hopes to attract more investors.
However it is known that the company intends to set up more production lines for vaccines, including for Covid-19. Univercells currently produces a polio vaccine whose low production cost makes it cheaper to distribute to parts of the world where the disease is still a problem.
There are also production lines in the pipeline for rubella, rabies and measles.
Univercells is working on its Covid-19 vaccine together with ReiThera of Italy and Leukocare of Germany.
The development and production of a Covid-19 vaccine could create tens of jobs, to add to the 300 jobs already created this year by four other companies sharing the BioPark in Gosselies, created as a hub for biotechnology firms.
The Flemish biotech company Ziphius Therapeutics, based in Oostkamp just outside Bruges, is the first Belgian company to develop its own Covid-19 vaccine, which it intends to have produced by Univercells.
Meanwhile a near-neighbour of Univercells, Novasep of Seneffe will produce the active ingredient for the vaccine currently being developed by AstraZeneca of Cambridge in the UK.