Partner Content by Octopus Investments

How this EIS company is aiming to change the vaccine market

Jessica Franks, Head of Retail Investment Products at Octopus Investments, looks at an exciting EIS-backed company.

Most vaccines – including those protecting against Covid-19 – must be kept on ice and within a precise temperature range to work.

Vaccination programmes therefore rely on an unbroken “cold chain” of refrigeration, from production through to distribution and storage. Any break in this chain can spoil vaccines.

How big a problem is it?

Research from the World Health Organisation back in 2003 estimated that up to half of vaccines were going to waste every year.

More recently, in 2019, research revealed the industry loses approximately $35 billion annually because of failures in temperature-controlled transportation.

Innovation is underway to tackle the problem and the Covid-19 pandemic accelerated this.

Imophoron Ltd

One business trying to help solve the cold chain problem is Imophoron, a health technology company set up by highly experienced co-founders Professor Imre Berger and Frederic Garzoni.

Imophoron is a Bristol-based biotechnology business developing a vaccine platform called ADDomerTM. This platform facilitates the development of vaccines that remain stable at regular temperatures of up to 55°C, removing the need for refrigeration. It also intends to enable vaccines to be administered via the nose, facilitating over-the-counter vaccine delivery in the future.

Imophoron has the potential to revolutionise the industry, reducing waste, helping vaccines to be developed more rapidly, and improving the distribution of vaccines in countries with warm climates.

The EIS opportunity

Imophoron is an excellent example of a company the Octopus Ventures EIS Service has backed which is aiming to transform an industry and improve people’s lives.

The Enterprise Investment Scheme (EIS) was introduced by the UK government to support long-term investment in young businesses which are important to the health of the UK economy. 

For a company to qualify for EIS funding, it must be in the early stages of its growth journey. The company must also be unquoted (which includes being AIM-listed for these purposes). 

Buying the shares of these kinds of companies can come with significant growth potential because they’re at the beginning of their growth curve. However, it also comes with significant risk to target that growth.

To compensate for some of the risk of investing in early-stage businesses, EIS-qualifying investments allow investors to claim several tax reliefs.

These tax reliefs can be useful for a client’s tax planning and include:

  • Income tax relief on up to 30% of the amount invested.
  • Any growth in the value of EIS-qualifying shares is tax-free, which can be powerful as EIS companies often have significant growth potential.
  • Losses made on an EIS company can be offset against either a capital gains tax bill or an income tax bill, depending on which better suits their needs. (Loss relief can be claimed even if overall portfolio performance is positive.)
  • If an investor decides to reinvest the capital gain on the sale of another asset into an EIS-qualifying company, they can defer the capital gains tax due until their EIS shares are sold.
  • EIS shares held at death should qualify for Business Property Relief if they have been held for at least two years, meaning they can be passed to beneficiaries free from inheritance tax.

High growth potential means high risk

Investing in EIS companies is high risk. An investment could fall in value, potentially to nil, and investors may not get back the full amount invested.

There are also tax, volatility and liquidity risks to consider.

Shares in unquoted companies cannot easily be sold, as it may take time to find a buyer. When investing in an EIS portfolio, an exit is only possible when each individual company is sold. So a client’s investment should be considered illiquid and a long-term investment.