Glycovaxyn: the vision of a brilliant ETHZ biochemist turns into reality

It was the spring of 2006 when Michael Wacker and Urs Tuor walked in the Index offices in Geneva, pitching the new company they had co-founded with Michael Stucky.

Michael had just finished his PhD program at ETH in Zurich, one of the highest-ranking schools in Europe. He was convinced that the work he started there could lead to a real breakthrough in the vaccine industry: the possibility to synthetically create glyco-conjugate vaccines that could only be manufactured using cumbersome procedures before. He was just in his very early thirties.

After talking to the network of experts, Index agreed to seed the company and back Michael’s vision. Index and Sofinnova got their teams together and co-led the seeding of GlycoVaxyn with the first US$1m in July 2006. The company got going and set up shop in Schlieren (Zurich) just next door to Molecular Partners (SWX: MOLN), another Index Ventures-backed biotech company.

Pretty early on Urs moved on to other things and Philippe Dro, an entrepreneur with great experience of building start-ups and managing corporate transactions, joined the company. Philippe and Michael have since led the company through difficult and easier periods; attracting EDRIP (Edmond de Rotschild Investment Partners), a key financial backer.

Throughout these years, Philippe and Michael stood strong in their conviction that the fundamental value proposition of Michael’s technology was real. Collaborations signed with GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) and Johnson & Johnson (J&J) along the way clearly confirmed that they were developing the company along the right strategic lines. Paul-Henri Lambert, Michel Greco, Roman Fleck and Gerd Zettlmeissl were all key supporters of Michael and his vision.

Today GlycoVaxyn announces that it has been acquired by GSK. In the words of its leader, Moncef Slaoui, GSK Vaccines is acquiring Glycovaxyn “to develop a new generation of vaccines for common and severe bacterial infections, for many of which there are currently no effective vaccines.”

Congratulations Michael: your vision was spot on.