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A Bath-based start-up that has developed technology to allow vaccines and other biological materials to be transported and stored without the use of fridges has raised £1.2m in pre-seed funding.
Ensilicated Technologies (EnsiliTech) - a University of Bath spinout founded by Dr Asel Sartbaeva and Dr Aswin Doekhie - said it would use the money to help bring its tech to market. The company, which was a finalist at the BathLive Business Awards 2022, said its technology could be applied to existing and new biopharmaceuticals to make them safe and stable at room temperatures.
The funding round was led by Science Angel Syndicate (SAS) and the Fink Family Office, with co-investment from QantX, Elbow Beach Capital, angel investors and Innovate UK. Alexander Fink and Richard Haycock will join the board of EnsiliTech as investor directors, representing SAS, the Fink Family Office and QantX.
Dr Sartbaeva, who is also the company's chief executive, said: "Our goal is to make the transportation of vaccines and other life-saving biological materials more efficient and cost-effective, while also reducing the carbon footprint of this critical supply chain. We are thrilled to have the support of our investors as we work towards this mission."
According to EnsiliTech, its technology can "preserve the integrity" of vaccines and other biological materials at temperatures that range from -20C to +80C. Currently, most vaccines need to be stored at sub-zero temperatures and some – such as the new mRNA Covid-19 vaccine – must be kept at ultra-low temperatures.
Biological products are currently shipped and stored using a 50-year-old global network of refrigerators and freezers known as the ‘cold chain'. According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), around 50% of vaccines spoil and must be discarded as a result of the network's failures.
Dr Sartbaeva, a chemistry researcher at Bath, has spent the past decade working on a technique known as ensilication that aims to prevent vaccines from spoiling. Tiny layers of an inorganic material are applied to the vaccine or other biological material to render it stable outside the fridge or freezer.
The technology uses silica – the material sand is made from - to create individual "protective cages" around the active ingredients. These cages keep the biological material within it intact, according to EnsiliTech, meaning its properties won’t change regardless of variations in outside temperature or humidity.
Dr Doekhie, chief technology officer of EnsiliTech, said: “We express our immense gratitude to all parties that made this investment a reality. Our technology has vast applicability across the biopharmaceutical space where we can deliver impactful improvements. This investment will allow us to develop robust products that have enhanced stability, longer shelf life and do not require continuous refrigeration.”
Lord Stanley Fink added: “Ensilitech's technology has the potential to be used to deliver much-needed vaccines and other treatments to Africa, parts of Asia and large parts of the world that don’t have the infrastructure to cope with the mobile cold storage required for many modern treatments."
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