Top 5 Biotech Private Companies in South Africa

Biotechnology companies are prevalent in the mature life sciences industry in South Africa. We’ve listed five private biotech companies that have racked up heads in the past few years.

South Africa boasts of being the second largest economy in Africa after Nigeria. While it is famous for its Rich mineral wealthSouth Africa’s economy has diversified widely in the past decades to include industries such as pharmaceuticals and biotechnology.

One of the biggest success stories of the South African biotech industry has been Kapa Biosystems. The company was founded in 2006 to create DNA sequencing tools and was sold to Roche for $445 million in 2015.

Several incubators and financiers are seeking to build on biotechnology in South Africa such as BioVentures and OneBio Seed Investment Fund.

Here we list the top five biotech companies that have recently made headlines in the South African biotech scene. These companies cover a range of healthcare and industrial biotechnology sectors, and have received funding rounds in the past few years.

Shutterstock Cape Town, South Africa
Cape Town, South Africa. Image/Shutterstock

biocertica

was established: 2019

headquarters: Paarl, Wilmington, United States

BioCertica is a genetic testing platform that uses an app to provide personalized genetics information to the user. The company provides the user with data from their genome that can inform them about lifestyle and health-related decisions.

To fund its business development, BioCertica raised $650,000 in a preliminary round in early 2021 and an initial round of $1.6 million in April 2022.

BioCertica works in a similar way to what was created genetic testing companies Like 23andMe, which offers consumers key genome screening tests to discover genetic data related to health and origins. BioCertica targets its services for African populations, and claims to be the first in Africa to incorporate polygenic risk scores into its genetic analyses: an estimate of an individual’s genetic predisposition to a given condition based on several genetic changes.

BIOVAC

was established: 2003

headquarters: Cape town

The COVID-19 pandemic has reinforced the importance of equitable distribution of vaccines around the world. Nearly two decades before this world-changing event, Biovac was set up as a public-private partnership to boost local manufacturing capacity for vaccines in South Africa and neighboring countries.

At present, the biotech industry in South Africa and the rest of the continent as a whole lacks muscle manufacturing for life-saving vaccines for a range of infectious diseases. To correct this problem, Biovac is developing manufacturing and supply know-how from multiple partners including the University of Cape Town, the World Health Organization, Sanofi Pasteur and Pfizer.

To date, Biovac has invested more than $44 million building its operations. Earlier this year, the European Investment Bank awarded Biovac $14.3 million (15 million euros) to boost the organization’s ability to manufacture vaccines in future pandemics. BIOVAC also expects investments totaling more than $166 million (€175 million) over the coming years, with support from South African and international financing partners.

Bixbeo

was established: 2020

headquarters: Cape town

In late 2021, BixBio was selected by the Illumina Accelerator, a program designed to provide funding and support for entrepreneurs to innovate in the genomic medicine sector. The startup is driving the development of precision medicine in Africa.

BixBio is fulfilling this mission by building artificial intelligence-based bioinformatics tools. The company is keen to harness the huge untapped genetic diversity in Africa’s population to discover genetic links to disease and discover new drug targets.

Cape Bio Farms

was established: 2018

headquarters: Cape town

Cape Bio Pharms, a subsidiary of the University of Cape Town, took home a grand prize of about $49 million in late 2020. The company uses the cash to fund the production of diagnostics and laboratory reagents using a type of tobacco factory called Nicotiana Pantamiana.

The company uses plants to manufacture therapeutic and diagnostic proteins because they have a number of advantages over traditional forms of protein production, including cell cultures, live animals and microbes. For example, plant-based manufacturing is often cheaper and faster to prepare and use than traditional techniques. It is also easier to scale to meet fluctuating demand.

One application of Cape Bio Pharms’ strategy is to produce reagents used in COVID-19 tests, which can be distributed cheaply across African communities. Another is the diagnostic reagents to combat HIV and other infectious diseases.

To increase its capacity, Cape Bio Pharms and its manufacturing subsidiary Cape Biologix are currently building an aquatic manufacturing facility in Mauritius.

Alban de Novo

was established: 2021

headquarters: Cape town

De Novo Dairy aims to produce proteins for the nutrition industry, focusing on infant feeding products, a sector that is largely dependent on cow’s milk.

Instead of getting protein components from animals, De Novo Dairy is developing a way to mass-produce similar proteins using a technology known as Precision fermentation. This involves fermentation of proteins using modified strains of yeast.

By utilizing micro-fermentation, the company aims to increase the supply of vital proteins currently harvested at great cost from cow’s milk. It could also provide a more sustainable alternative to animal husbandry, which requires significant emissions of greenhouse gases and land use.

To fund the development of its technology, De Novo Dairy raised its pre-incorporation round in February 2022, with additional investment from UM6P Ventures in September 2022.

De Novo Dairy plans to partner with major food brands to introduce micro-fermentation proteins into their products, and expects it to be ready for commercial launch in 2024.

Supporting the emerging biotechnology space in South Africa

While South Africa hosts a number of innovative biotechnology companies, General position in space Is that South Africa lags behind other countries. However, there is great potential for growth with the right enablers, such as R&D universities, research institutions and incubators.

With more venture capital financiers with an appetite for risk, and greater government support, South Africa could see strong growth in innovation in the coming years.

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