Global Agriculture

InvestEU: EIB agrees €18 million loan to Estonian biotech Icosagen for innovative R&D technologies and new cGMP production facility

08 February 2023, EU: The Estonian biopharmaceutical innovator Icosagen AS has reached a €18 million financing agreement with the European Investment Bank (EIB) — backed by the InvestEU programme — to further strengthen its drug discovery, development and production services. The funds are part of Icosagen’s €40 million investment into increasing its innovative contract research and development capabilities as well as into a new current good manufacturing practice (cGMP) facility to produce innovative drugs for clinical trials.

The agreement seeks to provide a major boost to the biological drug development industry in Estonia.

The construction of the new 1 600 m2 production plant expands on Icosagen’s existing laboratories in Tartu, Estonia, and will be completed in September 2023. The plant is expected to become operational in 2024. This new facility will help Icosagen become a one-stop shop for its biotechnology and pharmaceutical clients, and a full contract research, development and manufacturing organisation (CRDMO), offering seamless discovery, development and manufacturing capabilities of mammalian protein drug candidates.

European Commissioner Paolo Gentiloni added: “InvestEU is playing an important role across Europe in helping businesses access the finance they need to innovate, expand and create jobs. This agreement is an excellent example of InvestEU channelling finance to support research and production that will allow Europe to maintain its leadership position in the development of innovative drugs. It will also serve as an important catalyst for the development of the pharmaceutical industry in Estonia.”

“We have steadily been working towards this important milestone for a long time,” said CEO and founder of Icosagen Professor Mart Ustav, Ph.D. “Developing novel technologies and workflows will help increase our competitiveness in providing contract research and development service to our clients in Europe and other regions of the world. The cGMP facility will provide further state-of-the-art training and employment opportunities for local and regional scientists and, at the same time, expand the capabilities and impact of the European biopharmaceutical drug production industry. We are very grateful to the EIB for their crucial support in this endeavour.”

EIB Vice-President Thomas Östros stated: “The biopharmaceutical industry is expected to grow significantly in the future, based on superior efficacy and safety of biologics compared to small molecules, as well as increasing adoption for the treatment of chronic diseases. We at the EIB are proud to support this industry’s growth. By providing financing to Icosagen, an innovative and fast-growing company, we will enable it to provide its clients with a more complete range of services and products in the field of biologics in Europe and beyond.”

Senior Director Business Development of Icosagen Cell Factory Dr Oliver Schub added: “In 2022, Icosagen Cell Factory worked with over 100 protein drug/vaccine developing companies, in well above 500 projects, producing more than 3 000 different recombinant proteins. Our partner clients can now seamlessly proceed from antibody discovery, over transient preclinical protein production, into stable CHO cell line development, and right into clinical GMP manufacturing, all from one team on a single site. Our unique CRDMO concept results in minimised development timelines, costs and project management efforts.”

Background information

Icosagen Group: Icosagen was founded in 1999, is privately owned, independent and employs 170 CRDMO experts. It is based in Tartu, Estonia, with offices in San Francisco, California (United States), and Berlin (Germany). Icosagen is a research-driven, experienced mammalian protein drug specialist . Icosagen Cell Factory CRDMO is a contract research, development, and manufacturing organisation service arm for biotechnology and pharmaceutical companies globally, combining CRO and CDMO capabilities for recombinant antibodies and proteins. Icosagen Cell Factory offers seamless end-to-end service covering antigen production, antibody discovery, mammalian protein expression, protein purification, and characterisation. With its proprietary IcoCell® stable CHO cell line development platform and the new GMP facility, Icosagen Cell Factory expands its range to large-scale protein manufacturing for clinical trials. This unique all-in-one concept enables greatly accelerated biopharmaceutical development programmes.

The European Investment Bank (EIB) is the long-term lending institution of the European Union and is owned by the EU Member States. The EIB Group has adopted a Climate Bank Roadmap to deliver on its ambitious agenda to support €1 trillion of climate action and environmental sustainability investments in the decade to 2030 and to deliver more than 50% of EIB finance for climate action and environmental sustainability by 2025. As part of the roadmap, all new EIB Group operations have been aligned with the goals and principles of the Paris Agreement since the start of 2021.

The InvestEU programme provides the European Union with long-term funding by leveraging substantial private and public funds in support of a sustainable economy. It helps generate additional investments in line with EU policy priorities, such as the European Green Deal, the digital transition and support for small and medium-sized enterprises. InvestEU brings all EU financial instruments together under one roof, making funding for investment projects in Europe simpler, more efficient and more flexible. The programme consists of three components: the InvestEU Fund, the InvestEU Advisory Hub, and the InvestEU Portal. The InvestEU Fund is implemented through financial partners that invest in projects using the EU budget guarantee of €26.2 billion. This guarantee increases their risk-bearing capacity, thus mobilising at least €372 billion in additional investment.

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