ViAqua Therapeutics Announces $8.25M Investment Led by S2G Ventures to Scale RNA-Based Solutions in Aquaculture
Funding will enable ViAqua to bring its first product to market, invest in R&D for future products, and prove the platform's ability to deliver RNA-based solutions at scale.
HAIFA, Israel, Sept. 5, 2023 /PRNewswire/ -- ViAqua Therapeutics, a biotechnology company and developer of an orally administered RNA-particle platform to promote and improve animal health in aquaculture, announced it has completed a US$8.25M round led by S2G Ventures with participation from Rabo Ventures, The Trendlines Group Ltd., Agriline Limited, Nutreco, I-Lab Angels and Circle Investments LLC.
Aquaculture is essential for improving food security, providing a healthy and sustainable food source, and protecting wild fish stocks in the face of growing demand for marine protein. But disease management is currently the biggest issue facing the aquaculture industry, resulting in more than $8.5 billion in economic impact for the shrimp industry alone, according to an analysis from Kontali.
To address this problem, ViAqua has developed a biotechnology-based oral delivery platform for the targeted administration of RNA-based solutions to improve disease resistance in aquaculture.
"Oral delivery is the holy grail of aquaculture health development due to both the impossibility of vaccinating individual shrimp and its ability to substantially bring down the operational costs of disease management while improving outcomes," said Shai Ufaz, chief executive officer of ViAqua. "We are excited to bring this technology to market to address the need for affordable disease solutions in aquaculture."
Shrimp, one of the most widely consumed seafood products globally, in particular, are very susceptible to disease due to their lack of adaptive immune systems, and there are currently no products available that address shrimp disease today. The company's first product is a feed supplement to enhance resistance to viral infections in shrimp, with the initial application targeting White Spot Virus (WSSV), which causes an annual loss of around $3 billion and a 15 percent reduction in global shrimp production. This solution will provide much-needed production stability for farmers while also creating the opportunity to increase production per farm without increasing disease risk.
"Aquaculture is critical for the sustainable supply of marine protein," said Kate Danaher, managing director of S2G Ventures' Ocean and Seafood fund. "ViAqua's platform technology will enable the company to move beyond WSSV to address numerous other diseases in aquaculture while similar technologies are still years away from reaching the market."
ViAqua produces its capsule products using commercial, industrial processes and is scaling production to take its first product to market. With plans to begin production in India at the beginning of 2024, the company has established a commercial partnership through a joint development and marketing agreement with Skretting, a Nutreco company, to bring the product to the market. While ViAqua is currently focused on shrimp production, the delivery technology has numerous applications in aquaculture and beyond, which the company is excited to explore.
"We are truly excited by the potential of ViAqua's technology because of the value it unlocks for the planet and the farmers. Diseases cause mortality rates of up to 50%, which result in 25-30% of shrimp farms failing annually. This is tremendously unproductive and hurts a lot of livelihoods," explained Shishir Sinha, investment director at Rabo Ventures. "Our bank's aquaculture specialists Gorjan Nikolik and Novel Sharma were impressed by the game-changing impact potential of having a solution for an issue that has plagued the sector for decades and can make a meaningful difference in the lives of the smallholder farmers, who represent 80% of supply."
About ViAqua Therapeutics
ViAqua was established to address the growing need for effective, specific, and affordable health management of diseases in aquaculture. One of the major challenges facing the shift to sustainable aquaculture practice is the prevention and treatment of disease. ViAqua is developing a biotechnology-based, oral delivery platform for administration of nucleic acid-based solutions for promoting health in marine species.
About S2G Ventures:
S2G Ventures, the direct investment team of Builders Vision, partners with entrepreneurs who are working on solutions to some of the world's greatest challenges across the food, agriculture, oceans, and clean energy markets. We provide capital, mentorship, and value-added resources to companies pursuing innovative market-based solutions that generate positive social, environmental, and financial returns. We provide our partners with flexible capital solutions that can range from seed and venture funding through growth equity to debt and infrastructure financing. For more information about S2G, visit s2gventures.com or connect with us on LinkedIn.
About Rabo Ventures:
Rabo Ventures, part of Rabobank, partners with early stage companies across the value chain to support their growth ambitions and enable the vital transitions needed in global Food & Agriculture. We invest behind stellar management teams building solutions for real problems with a focus on driving innovation and sustainability. With a local presence in 25 countries and over 100 dedicated sector specialists and researchers, Rabobank is the global leader in Food & Agriculture banking. As part of Rabobank's captive investment franchise, Rabo Investments, we leverage the banks platform, knowledge and network to help sustain and grow your business while accelerating transitions that matter.
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SOURCE ViAqua Therapeutics