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Dalan Animal Health raises $3.6M for honeybee vaccine

Illustration of honey bees buzzing around a syringe with a droplet of vaccine.

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Dalan Animal Health, a biotech startup making an oral vaccine for honeybees, raised $3.55 million in seed funding, the company exclusively tells Axios.

Why it matters: Dalan is among the first companies to develop an effective vaccine for insects in what could become a shift in thinking around sustainable agriculture production.

Details: At One Ventures and Veterinary Angel Network for Entrepreneurs led the all-equity round at an undisclosed valuation. The round closed roughly two weeks ago, CEO Annette Kleiser tells Axios.

  • At One Ventures also got an observer board seat as part of the round.

How it works: Dalan Animal Health has created an oral vaccine for American Foulbrood, a bacterial disease that spreads among bee colonies.

  • The vaccine is given to the colonies' queen bees who portect the larvae before they hatch in a process called transgenerational immune priming.
  • Dalan distributes the vaccine to commercial beekeepers in the U.S. with hopes to expand in Canada and abroad in 2023 following respective approval processes.

State of play: Honeybees should be considered the same category as livestock or other production animals, Kleiser says, but their status as insects has held back research and development of vaccines.

  • Until recently, it was believed that insects like honeybees did not have immune systems and therefore could not be vaccinated against pathogens.
  • Honeybees are integral to ecosystems because they are pollinators.

The bottom line: "We know bees are dying. It's a problem that we throw our hands up and say we cannot fix, but we are not going to address climate change or pesticide use overnight. Vaccines we can do right away," Kleiser says.

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