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Stablepharma is a novel technology that aims to provide fridge-free vaccines, reduce vaccine wastage and save lives. In this interview, I spoke with CEO and Executive Director Özgür Tuncer, to discuss his role within the company and upcoming plans for the team.

You can watch the full interview here or read the transcript below:




Hi Ozgur, please introduce yourself.

So, I’ve been in biopharma for over 2 decades now. So, I started with big pharma companies in the US, a company called Pharmacia, which then got acquired by Pfizer. I lead Pfizer’s infectious diseases strategy globally for some time. And I was involved in many licensing acquisition deals. One of which was interestingly the first vaccine technology deal  Pfizer has done back in 2006. And then I moved on to be a managing partner of a boutique advisory firm called SAGA Associates in New Jersey and London, I moved back to the UK. And that company was acquired by IMS Health which is now IQVIA now and I stayed with IQVIA as a senior executive for some time as a consultant – led the consulting business there and built a business around investment, venture capital, private equity, and all of that. And this is one of your questions as well – around the pandemic time I was already a board member of Stablepharma, and I decided that it was the right time – we really need fridge-free vaccines sooner rather than later. So, I decided to take on as the CEO of Stablepharma to advance fridge-free vaccines in the world basically. I’m also a partner in a venture capital firm called Ascension Ventures. And I can tell you more about that, but we invested through that VC fund in 17 companies and I’m on the board of a couple of those companies. So that’s a little bit about me.

Stable pharma is a business taking established vaccines, which are established in terms of the potency and safety, and then we convert them basically to fridge-free vaccines, right? They’re completely thermo stable and they can be outside of the fridge at any given time for the lifetime, so it’s not excursions, just a lifetime of fridge-free vaccines, so that’s Stablepharma. We’re still advanced in many ways and still working on these vaccines in other ways, we’re about 2 to 3 years from market with the first fridge-free vaccine in the world. And we’re still working on it, but we’re also quite advanced in many ways because we have our own vaccines that we’re working with, we’ve proven the technology, we’ve proven the regulatory pathways established the manufacturing pathways, they’re quite well established now and scalable. So, all that work is done.


And can you just tell me a bit about the other businesses you’re involved in as a board member or investor?

Yeah. As I said through Ascension, we are involved in 17 companies. I’m on the board out of those companies. I’m obviously on the board of Stablepharma, which is also an investment through Ascension, but I’m also on the board of 2 other companies. One is called Tailor bio in Cambridge. It’s an oncology companion diagnosis or tailored oncology products company, and the other one is a company called Exceed health, which is a mail fertility company. We’re involved in a very diverse set of businesses through Ascension. A lot of those businesses are not so much biotech, we’re not a biotech investor through that fund. We are more tech-bio investor through that fund. So, a lot of our businesses have technologies that transform healthcare. So, they are in the category of AI, most of them biomarkers, medtech. Tailor bio is again, they basically found a link between CIN the chromosome instability, and the tumours, and they’re basically working on that link to tailor pharmaceutical products to tumours. It’s kind of a tumours selection and targeting business. And Exceed is actually a quite interesting business. They have an optical way to do clinical great sperm analysis and they do that at home without the need to send any samples or go to any lab or any centre IVF centre or anything else. Which is quite interesting. It’s an interesting business, their product is already in the market, their technology is in the market in the UK, you can buy it from Amazon.

And I’m really excited about it in a different way because I mean fertility is a word that’s often of course, unfairly, and inaccurately associated with women and females. And you know, just to put a bit more burden on a man is always a good thing, right?


So, what kind of progression do you envisage with the company over the next few years?

So, we already have a scientific advice from MA, so our regulatory pathways fairly set in stone. I mean, we’re developing two vaccines now, and we can do more of them. And that’s well defined for us. The progression is going to come from more, I think, I would say probably horizontal expansion of our portfolio rather than the path forward. The path forward is very straightforward. We’re now getting into more discussions with other companies in terms of partnerships on their vaccines. So, we can go from two vaccines to 10 or 15 or twenty, right? You scale up basically from that perspective. But the pathway to creating fridge vaccine is not going to be that different, so we can replicate the same model. That’s the way forward for us, basically. I mean, that’s what we’re focusing on – really getting these first vaccines through regulatory approval and then also adding more vaccines to the portfolio to create more vaccines.


Is there a particular focus for you?

We’re not making our own vaccines, and that’s deliberate. We don’t want to because again, every time you want you make a new vaccine, you start from the beginning of the journey, and it takes 10+ years to get there. Whereas with our approach, we can get there in a couple of years with very light regulatory strategy. So, we don’t want to make our own vaccines. So, if you think about that model, that requires a lot of partnering. The other thing that we’re not doing is to build our own manufacturing capabilities and invest in that capital expenditure and again, the same thing, so by nature of that, you must partner with people to make things happen, rather than having your own manufacturing facility. So, partnering is really the way to go for us. We are a heavily partnering organization, very light and partnering all around basically.


So, in terms of making the vaccines non-refrigerated, is it in a particular disease area you’re focusing on developing those vaccines or is it a target to make vaccines non-refrigerated?

Yeah, we can make most vaccines non-refrigerated. Our scientists think that they can do about 60 vaccines, which is quite a bit – it’s most of the vaccines out there today. The first set of vaccines we’re working with are a tetanus group of vaccines, but that’s by no means kind of a reflection of the science or the technology, it’s just a more of a practical thing, we decided to go into a partnership with a company called Bull bio and they have a tetanus group of vaccines and we’ve taken them, and we stabilize them. But we can do many other vaccines. So, we’re not limited in terms of what we can do.


And you’re the first company ever to be able to do this, is that correct?

Well, there are companies attacking this problem. And I know this one of your questions – why is Stablepharma different? And I think one of the key reasons why we are different is every company attacking the fridge-free vaccine question, is looking at the new delivery technology. So, I mean, I can give you a couple of examples, micro needle patches is one example, there are several companies attacking this through micro needle patches. There are oral vaccines, people are trying oral vaccines and of course, that would be fridge free with oral vaccines. They’re companies using needle free technologies, just putting the vaccine under the skin trans dermal technologies and things like that. So, all of those are basically new delivery mechanisms. None of these companies are looking at the current delivery forms and not changing basically what’s happening in the field today. And that’s the key differentiator for Stablepharma because we’re basically looking at the same delivery. And we’re not changing any of the delivery of the vaccine, so it’s still an injectable vaccine. But what that does to us for as an advantage, is basically we have our regulatory pathway which is much simpler than a new delivery mechanism. Because once you have a new delivery mechanism, you must prove your new delivery mechanism and you must prove every time you change your vaccine you have to prove that they work, right? That’s the main difference.


What do you see being the key challenges for the company moving forward?

I think the key challenge for us really is resources now. It’s the funding environment and the resources. Frankly, I mean, the rest of it is relatively well- resolved. I mean, of course, every time you go through a regulatory journey, there are challenges. But I think there are more kind of day-to-day challenges or operational challenges than strategic, kind of big roadblocks and things like that. So, I don’t foresee any kind of major roadblocks for us or any surprises. I think it’s the day-to-day challenges which again, is quite normal for any company.

But also, I think the big challenge is more funding and resources, because it does take a lot of funding and resources to get new vaccines, even if they are reformulated existing vaccines, it takes some resources and time and money to basically take those things to market. I know that was one of your questions as well, so maybe I’m kind of pre-empting it, but the funding environment this year has been probably one of the worst I’ve ever seen. I mean, it’s just a difficult funding environment, and yes, last year was a difficult funding environment, but I feel like we just got to a complete kind of halt this year. So last year was kind of a downward trend, but you know, there was still some movement. Whereas this year I think it just came to a bit of a standstill – nobody wants to make decisions, nobody wants to put their money anywhere. So, that is I think quite difficult, and many companies are facing existential crisis really, and thankfully we’re not one of those companies, but it is difficult right to make big dreams come true with very limited resources. It’s difficult you need resources to make dreams come through basically.


Why is it that you think that obviously biotech just taken a bit of a downward spiral this year?

I think there are many reasons. I don’t think there’s a single reason. I do think people got ahead of themselves in 2020, where you know, during the pandemic, I think all the money got poured into healthcare and tech. Essentially, I mean, people said we’re going to take our money and either stick it into tech companies, and you are still relatively in a low interest rate environment which was great. And so, you’ve got a big kind of boom, right in our industry as well as tech. And then of course, you get that correction I mean, one of my philosophies for me is everything regress to the mean, right? That’s just the rule of life. If everything is too good, they’re too good and they just regress to the mean and if everything goes very bad then and this is also one of the silver linings that I think for this year is it must regress to the mean and go back up again, it must, right? It’s not going to stay at this level. I don’t think we’ve ever seen, and this is just my opinion, I don’t think we’ve ever seen the macro environment, impacting biotech, this much ever in the past, several decades, at least, right?


I would agree. I’ve been doing this for 15 years, and I’ve not seen this before.

It’s the macro environment. I think this time it did impact quite a lot. I think pharma and biotech – the macro environment. And it’s the wars and the interest rates really. I mean, it sounds silly. It has nothing to do with biotech, but that’s really what’s happening. Yeah. And people don’t want risky assets, right? Because biotech is perceived to be a risky asset category and they just want to save money and you know, they can get five, six, seven, 8% uh, risk free. So why not do that rather than going to a risky asset class like biotech. I think that’s how they’re thinking.


And just in terms of maybe a bit more of a controversial question is obviously a lot of these companies when they have the vaccines, and at the end of the day, they must be thrown away because obviously they’re longer in the fridge, that obviously might affect their sales. Is that something they would be concerned about?

Concerned about in the sense that yes, we’re not always going with the flow of profit motive for, I guess big pharma. Yes. I mean, that’s absolutely correct. But you know, I always give the same example because I think it works. I mean 15 years ago, companies like Volkswagen, BMW, the giants of automotive industry had no incentive whatsoever to make electric cars. They’re all now saying they’re going to be only making electric cars. So, something has happened, something has shifted them, and I think that something is called Tesla. Really, I mean, anybody can claim whatever they want, but I think it was Elon Musk who came in and said, look, this is possible, and this is interesting, and this is attractive, and this is environmentally the right thing to do, and the list is list goes on and we’re here. I mean it’s just a fascinating journey, because again, these companies were making their diesel cars, polluting the environment, very happy. It just doesn’t fly anymore. And I think we’re going to get to that stage with the vaccine industry. We’re really in a similar situation – they’re happy selling and wasting half of the vaccines that they manufacture. So, it’s 50%. They’re very happy doing that. They’re very happy generating their carbon emissions, which is insane. They’re very happy making big fridge companies rich, which is insane.

But I think if we follow a similar path to Tesla and Volkswagen, I think we’re going to end up in a different world if we’re successful with these vaccines value. So, this could be quite a disruptive game changing industry. And of course, once somebody goes to market and says, look, it’s entirely possible. You can make a whole range of vaccines entirely fridge-free, you don’t need refrigeration, you don’t need wastage anymore, you can keep these things in the warehouse for a long, long time. Then what happens? And of course, the end customers like the government and healthcare workers, they’ll say ‘oh, so this is possible. Why aren’t we doing this?’


Yeah, absolutely. I mean, in general, it’s just better for the overall health care system, regardless.

Yeah. Again, very relevant this example because, remember everybody said ‘oh, electric cars were available, have been available for 100 years. So, it doesn’t work. Surely it has been there for 100 years.’


What would you say your plans are then for 2024?

As a company we’re very much focused on, obviously going through this journey and getting closer to making fridge-free vaccines a reality. I mean, that’s really our vision. I think I’ll sleep well at night once we kind of show the world that this is possible. I mean, I think it’s more for us, it’s a bit more than just the company and profit. It’s just to show that this is possible. This is doable. So, 2024 is quite an important year for us because we’ll be going into clinical trials. We need to do it small, very targeted clinical trial with this vaccine. So, it’s going to be a very important year for us. So that’s what we are almost 100% focusing on, in addition to of course, the partnerships and things that I talked about. We’re also working on MRNA – I didn’t mention the MRNA vaccine, which is obviously very important. And we think we can thermo-stabilize them so they can be at room temperature. I think we’re getting there. Still kind of a lot of work to be done, but we need to partner on that front as well.

And for me I think 2024, my hope is that we would get back to a bit more of a normal market environment in 2024 really, I think for everybody’s sake not just Stablepharma’s, but everybody working in this industry trying to make good things happen. That’s my kind of hope for 2024.



To find out more about about Stablepharma, take a look at their website

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