P | P | P feat. Stablepharma

We caught up with Özgür Tuncer, CEO and Executive Director of Stablepharma, as part of ‘Product | People | Potential’. StablevaX™ made by Stablepharma, is a novel and disruptive technology that aims to produce fridge-free vaccines to eliminate the need for the global Cold Chain, reduce vaccine wastage and save lives through better immunisation.

The purpose of article series ‘Product | People | Potential’ is to feature and showcase the very best UK start-ups with great potential, truly inspiring businesses that are shaking up their sector. We capture and share the stories behind the name. We collate authentic peer to peer real-talk, while celebrating the growth and success thus far and gather a glimpse of what’s ahead.

Zoe @ADLIB: Hi Ozgur, great to meet you! Please can you kick us off with an introduction to yourself and StablePharma.

Özgür: Hi, I am Özgür and was appointed CEO of Stablepharma in April 2021. For the past three years, I have been an active board member of Stablepharma and have supported the growth and achievements of the business along the way.  I am lucky to have had a lot of experience in the biopharmaceutical industry, mainly strategy, M&A and investments, including start-up investment funds. Prior to taking on the role of CEO, I worked at IQVIA and before that was at Pfizer in the US for over six years, overseeing portfolio strategy and investments in infectious diseases. 

Our vision is to be a fridge-free vaccine company to eliminate the need for the global ‘Cold Chain’ so that vaccines can be transported, stored and administered at room temperature. StablevaX™ is a platform technology that does just this. Stablepharma is a UK based company, although we have an office and laboratory in Madrid, Spain with a rapidly expanding team.

Zoe @ADLIB: Can you share the story behind the origin of Stablepharma?

Özgür: Stablepharma’s founder Dr Bruce Roser MB BS, PhD, FRCPA has worked on pharmaceutical stabilisation for the past four decades and founded Stablepharma based on his scientific work using ‘Trehalose’.  He identified and patented the process of using Trehalose to achieve a state of ‘suspended animation’ in a sugar glass to thermally stabilize many vaccines. Trehalose is a naturally occurring sugar with remarkable chemical stability that can stabilise delicate molecules against very hostile environments. This property is observed naturally in some living organisms, most notably in the case of the “resurrection” plant in the desserts of the world. This is exactly what we are doing with StablevaX™ – we keep the vaccine in a suspended state for a long period of time, and then bring it back to life with sterile water.

Currently, Stablepharma is working with partners on two major stabilisation programmes: the European vaccine manufacturer BB-NCIPD Ltd (Bul Bio), to develop a thermally stable version of the Tetanus diphtheria (Td) vaccine using the patent StablevaX™ formulation and device, moving onto FIH (First in Human) clinical trials with StablevaX Td (Tetanus diphtheria).  And Stablepharma’s COVID mRNA programme in partnership with the University of Strathclyde.

Zoe @ADLIB: Can you share some challenges you have faced when looking for people to join?

Özgür: We are growing the team both in the UK and in Spain. As we work on more programmes and grow our pipeline, we will be increasing the workforce to support this. It is always hard to recruit good talent as a lot of the time when you are looking for people, they are already employed and not necessarily looking to move.

Zoe @ADLIB: What has been your approach to understanding and implementing product market fit?

Özgür: The market fit for Stablepharma is clear. This has been reinforced by the pandemic, where the challenges of delivering vaccines to countries with poor or unreliable infrastructures, has been magnified. There is a definite need to be less reliant on the ‘cold chain’ so that fridge-free vaccines can be distributed to everyone, everywhere. This is validated through the statistics produced by the WHO, which states that roughly 50% of vaccines are wasted due mostly to failures in the cold chain. Stablepharma stands to revolutionise the vaccine industry, by helping to protect vaccines from temperature-related deterioration and wastage and ultimately, save lives.

Zoe @ADLIB: What challenges have you had to overcome to create Stablepharma?

Özgür: In the case of Stablepharma, we have clearly evidenced with data, that the science is already working, so we have no doubts about what our novel StablevaX™ technology can deliver. The challenges that we face as a company are the same for all Biotechs, – when launching a new technology in the market, meeting the high GMP manufacturing standards and regulation, which are especially rigorous in such a highly regulated industry.

Zoe @ADLIB: Investment can often be a challenge for start-ups & scale-ups. Do you have any piece of wisdom you could share around best approach?

Özgür: Investment is a really interesting, challenging and can be frustrating area for start-ups and scale-ups.  From my experience in the field, the two areas I believe are most important when going through investment rounds are meeting and achieving your milestones.  This is key and must be clearly evidenced with data. The second is the ability to craft and communicate your story, from concept to commercialisation, so that it appeals to your target audience, in this case your investors. Again, this must be supported by data and a robust business plan.

My advice is to work backwards, for example, think about what you want to achieve by your next fundraise and what story you want to tell your investors? This will help you visualise what you need to achieve between now and then.

I must say, we have recently closed the first round of our Series A of £2m in a very short span of several weeks over the summer! We are very fortunate as the pandemic significantly increased the appetite of investors for vaccine technologies.

Science & Innovation Product | People | Potential features the UK’s most inspirational start-up and scale-up stories about growth and success within Science & Innovation. View all articles

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