NEW YORK—The Open Society Foundations is investing $6 million in a Belgian biotech company that is seeking to develop new approaches to manufacturing processes that should enable greater global access to biologic pharmaceutical drugs and vaccines.
Open Society’s impact investing arm, the Soros Economic Development Fund, has joined other leading investment funds in a €70million financing round for Univercells SA, a biologics company launched in February 2020.
The initial investment will support work on removing existing manufacturing bottlenecks in the production of COVID-19 vaccines, and further work to develop distributed manufacturing capacities.
Univercells’ distributed manufacturing model seeks to decentralize the manufacturing and licensing of vaccines, as well as other biologics, by establishing production in key middle-income countries globally, thus developing local capacities and expertise that will strengthen regional healthcare systems’ resilience and autonomy.
The fund's involvement is just part of a broad global effort by the Open Society Foundations to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic, ranging from providing relief funds for undocumented workers and their families in the United States to funding measures to protect prisoners in crowded jails in Pakistan. Open Society is also a member of the People’s Vaccine campaign, which is demanding free access to COVID vaccines on a global basis.
“The Open Society Foundations has a long record of supporting global access to essential medicines and treatments,” said Catherine Cax, the fund's director of investments. “We hope our investment in Univercells will help address structural inequalities in the pharmaceutical industry that result in people in lower and medium-income countries being excluded from timely access to new drugs and therapeutics.”
The Soros Economic Development Fund was established in 1997 by Open Society’s founder, George Soros. Now part of Open Society’s Economic Justice Program, it makes impact investments with the purpose of supporting Open Society's core mission of promoting open, inclusive, and democratic societies across the world.