Startup is developing orally delivered animal vaccines that could revolutionize animal disease prevention.
Cal Poly Ventures, a donor-supported fund that invests in Cal Poly-founded and -affiliated startups, announced its investment in the US$12 million Series A round of funding for Mazen Animal Health Inc.
Mazen Animal Health is focused on developing, delivering and commercializing novel biological vaccines and therapeutics. The firm’s orally delivered animal vaccines could revolutionize animal disease prevention.
“We’re excited to support the advancement of this cutting-edge vaccine technology for animals. This novel approach got its start right here in the Tech Park at Cal Poly, and we want to do what we can to help bring it to market,” said John Townsend, executive director of the Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship (CIE), home to Cal Poly Ventures.
Mazen’s cross-species platform has flexibility and could be used in swine, poultry, livestock, aquaculture, pets and wildlife — with the potential for vaccine solutions for a wide variety of diseases. It could expand the US$5 billion global vaccine market while dramatically reducing losses. Mazen is focused on swine and companion animals, while expanding its portfolio to all market segments.
The vaccines are produced via recombinant protein production in corn. The technology platform leverages many years of breakthrough research and development led by John Howard, Mazen co-founder and world-leading expert in recombinant protein production in plants. Howard has been a guest lecturer at Cal Poly for nearly two decades and developed the technology on campus in the Cal Poly Tech Park with the support of dozens of faculty members and students.
“Our investors are seeing the tremendous potential of the technology platform to deliver better vaccines more efficiently,” said Mazen CEO Jenny Filbey. “In fact, the technology can help achieve better animal health through disease prevention — rather than treatment — and improve economics, stewardship and sustainability. Our scientific founder is based at the Cal Poly research park, and we are particularly excited to have Cal Poly Ventures participate in this round.”
Series A financing, the first round of venture money after seed and angel investors funding, is an investment in a startup that demonstrates in its business model the potential to grow and generate revenue.
Since 2016, the CIE has supported Mazen’s growth through its Small Business Development Center.
“It’s been a pleasure to work with Mazen co-founder and CEO Jenny Filbey,” said Judy Mahan, the CIE’s economic development director. “We helped them navigate their initial US$2 million Series Seed round and develop a board of directors with deep experience in animal health. We’re thrilled for Cal Poly to be able to participate in this next stage of growth as an investor.”
By creating vaccines to be delivered orally with animal feed, Mazen Animal Health provides elegant solutions to the challenges associated with injectable vaccines. The benefits include increased production system return on investment — removing the economic thresholds that control today’s vaccination decisions; providing a safer method of vaccine administration for animals and workers; optimizing vaccine efficacy allowing for reduced antibiotic use; and providing vaccines with a global reach because of ambient temperature stability and ease of transport.
Mazen Animal Health Inc. is Cal Poly Venture’s second investment since its 2021 launch. Cal Poly Ventures is a donor-supported fund operated by the Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship. Investment recommendations are made by the Cal Poly Ventures Investment Committee composed of four seasoned venture capitalists who volunteer their time — Cliff Haas, Peter Moran, Chuck Templeton and Matt Bonner. All investment returns remain with Cal Poly and support the CIE’s mission to be the top interdisciplinary undergraduate entrepreneurship program in the nation and strategic economic development engine throughout San Luis Obispo County.