Novak Djokovic is the controlling shareholder in a Danish biotech firm aiming to develop a treatment for Covid-19 that does not involve vaccination, it has emerged.
The world No 1, who was deported from Australia this week after the government cancelled his visa in a dispute over a medical exemption relating to his unvaccinated status, bought an 80% stake in QuantBioRes in 2020.
Ivan Loncarevic, the company’s chief executive, confirmed the investment to Reuters. He subsequently told the Financial Times that he had not spoken to Djokovic, who has won more than $150m in prize money, since November and that the tennis star was “not anti-vax”.
Djokovic flew out of Australia on Sunday after losing a legal challenge to overturn the cancellation of his visa by Alex Hawke, the country’s immigration minister, who said Djokovic’s presence in Australia might risk “civil unrest” as he was a “talisman of anti-vaccination sentiment”.
QuantBioRes has about 11 researchers working in Denmark, Australia and Slovenia, according to Loncarevic, who stressed the company was working on a treatment, not a vaccine. The company’s website says it started developing a “deactivation mechanism” for Covid-19 in July 2020.
Djokovic, who may also be barred from defending his French Open title in Roland Garros in May after the French government ruled on Monday that all athletes will have to be vaccinated in order to attend and compete in sporting events, acquired his stake in the company in June 2020.
The company is developing a peptide, which inhibits the coronavirus from infecting the human cell, and it expects to launch clinical trials in Britain this summer, Loncarevic said.
A spokesperson for Djokovic did not immediately respond to a request for comment.