Liège, Belgium, January 23, 2018 – VitriCell SA, a biotech company providing innovative and efficient solutions for cryopreservation of even the most sensitive cells, discloses today that it closed a series A round of fundraising in the second half of 2017 totaling over €1 million ($1.2M). This consists of equity capital of €712,000 ($872K) from a group of investors comprising Spinventure SA, Gesval, private investors including Jean-Pierre Delwart and members of the Be Angels network, and more than €300,000 ($367K) in the form of grants and loans from the Walloon Region and the WBC incubator.
These funds will enable VitriCell to launch the first products based on aseptic vitrification, a new cell cryopreservation method. From February onwards, the company will offer a product that vitrifies embryos in a single 60-second step. Products currently on the market take at least seven minutes in three steps.
VitriCell also intends to invest in R&D for innovative products adapted to different sectors of the growing cell cryopreservation market. This new single-step technology, adapted to handle cells by the million and not individually as in the case of embryos, is currently undergoing validation on human cells. The process has proven quick, safe and easy to use on preclinical models, saving both time and money.
“Since late 2013, the start of the First Spin-off program, VitriCell has been able to exceed all milestones, which lead to the creation of the company in June 2017. This is thanks to the support of the Walloon Region, the University of Liège and the WBC incubator, as well as the vision and personal commitment of the founders,” said Delphine Connan, CEO and co-founder of VitriCell. “This first round of fundraising will enable us to move into the commercialization phase and continue the development of our products.”
VitriCell primarily targets the biopreservation of cells used as tools, which comprises cells used in drug development, pharmacological and toxicology screening. The company also aims to meet the requirements of MAP (Medically Assisted Procreation), cell therapy and animal artificial insemination fields. The global biopreservation market represented $2.1 billion in 2015 and is expected to reach $3.7 billion in 2020. The sectors targeted by VitriCell represent approx. 30% of this market. No other company in this market is currently offering aseptic vitrification products for cells outside of MAP.
“We are very pleased to be involved in the fundraising round for VitriCell, a company that has proven itself in developing innovative technology in the field of MAP,” said Marc Foidart, chief executive at Spinventure and vice director at Meusinvest.
“The cryopreservation market is booming; there are numerous potential applications,” added Claire Munck, CEO and director of Be Angels.
Unlike freezing, vitrification is a solidification process that does not result in the formation of ice crystals, which are harmful for all cell membranes. It is widely used in MAP for the cryopreservation of embryos and oocytes. The unique technology developed by VitriCell makes it possible to use an effective, biologically safe version of vitrification on cultured cells requiring mass treatment, whereas with MAP, embryos and oocytes are treated individually. Vitrification means cells can be cooled and heated much more quickly than with conventional slow freezing, at around 2,000 to 3,000 degrees per minute. This is more than 1,000 times faster than conventional freezing. As with freezing, the vitrification technology developed by VitriCell makes it possible to preserve and handle millions of cells at once. This patented technology has been validated on preclinical models of embryos and pluripotent cells.
“The product developed by this team of university founders, with strong R&D experience, is close to commercialization,” added Jean-Pierre Delwart, business angel. “This is what drew me to this cryopreservation specialist.”
The company, which moved to new premises in the GIGA tower in Liège (Belgium) last October, intends to recruit several new employees this year, particularly in sales.