Nexvet – Case Study

Hudson Institute is looking to foster more biotech start-ups following the successful incubation of Nasdaq-listed pet biopharmaceutical company, Nexvet.

It was a ‘nugget of an idea’ that spawned a biotech start-up. Now, Nexvet employs more than 30 full-time staff, is worth around US$63 million and is one of a very small group of biotechs of Australian origin to be listed on the Nasdaq stock exchange in the United States.

For the past five years, Nexvet’s research and development has been based within the Hudson Institute in Clayton, Victoria.

Nexvet co-founder and Chief Scientific Officer, Dr David Gearing was working in commercialisation at Monash University when he recognised a gap in the market for antibody based therapeutic drugs and pain relief for companion pets.

Friends and contacts provided seed funding, while the Hudson Institute provided a lab bench and a part-time scientist so Nexvet could set about testing the hypothesis that animals could respond to antibody therapies.

“That was the start, half a bench and half a scientist,” Dr Gearing said.

“The Hudson Institute gave us a huge advantage in the start-up stage by providing us with a managed laboratory space and a collaborative environment, it’s an excellent environment for anyone wanting to start a biotech. The Institute’s done a fantastic job of nurturing our business.”

The initial experiments led to the validation of PETization, Nexvet’s proprietary platform technology, which allows monoclonal antibodies (mAbs) to be recognised as ‘native’ by an animal’s immune system. This technology led to the development of Nexvet’s product candidates.

Professor Bryan Williams, says Nexvet’s success story provides a strong precedent for other biotech start-ups looking for a base.

“At the Hudson Institute, we have a can-do attitude, and access to the expertise and lab space of an MRI is invaluable and fertile soil for biotech start-ups,” Professor Williams said.

The Institute is now courting a number of biotech start-ups to be based within a new, state-of-the-art federally-funded $87.5 million Translational Research Facility (TRF), which the Hudson shares with its partners, Monash Health and Monash University at the Monash Health Translational Precinct in Clayton.

“Clayton is already a medical and biomedical hub, with the Hudson Institute, Monash Health, Monash University and several drug companies all based within a few square kilometres of one another,” Professor Williams said.

“Our partners will soon be collaborating within the same space at the TRF,” he said. “Nexvet’s success has shown that a positive attitude towards start-up ideas, the right support and perseverance can help shape a spark of an idea into a successful international enterprise.

“There’s no reason why the Hudson Institute and Clayton can’t also become a hub of sorts for these types of biotech start-ups.”

Within three years, Nexvet’s staff had grown tenfold from 0.5 to five staff members. Now, with around 35 employees, the company’s size warrants its own laboratory space, necessitating a move off-site.

Professor Paul Hertzog said Nexvet’s presence also was mutually beneficial to his staff within the Hudson’s Centre for Innate Immunity and Infectious Diseases (CiiiD) where the company was incubated.

“The Nexvet ‘incubation’ worked perfectly in both directions as CiiiD scientists benefited from the expertise of Nexvet scientists in protein production and purification, and vice versa.” Professor Hertzog said.