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The Interview Series – Chris Wheatcroft, Ascension Life Fund

Chris Wheatcroft manages the Ascension Life Fund, which is an investor in Stablepharma Ltd, as part of their portfolio of early-stage TechBio investments.

Chris has extensive experience in the early-stage market, where he has managed four tax-efficient funds and syndicated investment for more than 150 businesses over a 13 year period.

I asked Chris, given his experience with start-ups and early stage companies, what was it about Stablepharma that convinced him, and the investment team at Ascension, to invest in 2021, in a relatively unknown Biotech, looking to progress the development of fridge-free vaccines?

“Although I am not a scientist by background, I can appreciate the huge value that vaccines, not requiring refrigeration, could have in the world – it’s hard to believe that this solution does not already exist, particularly after the enormous challenges we experienced around the world during the pandemic, with wasted vaccines due to substandard or failing refrigeration’. ‘We were attracted by the scale of Stablepharma’s ambition and the size of the potential market, and if they could bring their innovative technology to market” said Chris.

Stablepharma’s technology platform, StablevaX™ converts existing approved vaccines, therapeutics and diagnostics into thermostable products that will then not require refrigeration to preserve them, thereby addressing the global challenges of the cold chain.

Chris started his career as an entrepreneur, building a retail and wholesale salad business. This taught him a huge amount about how to run a business including strategy, fundraising, accounting, operations, people management and food preparation (and how tricky the food and beverage industry can be!). He then worked for an AI company digitising customer engagement which grew exponentially before exiting (long before AI became ubiquitous).

Moving from the entrepreneur to the investor side of the equation, he set up and ran the Tech and FinTech practice for Angels Den where he built an extensive network of contacts in the early-stage technology investment scene including accelerators, incubators, angel investors, VCs and Family Offices.

When he moved to Ascension, he set up and ran a B2B SaaS and FinTech fund before setting up the Ascension Life Fund in 2021. “I love what I do and it’s a privilege to meet incredible entrepreneurs every week and, in some small way, helping them realise their vision’. ‘We see a lot of deal flow and, in most cases, our team decides that they are not a fit for our thesis, but that does not mean that they cannot succeed in the future or with another investor’. ‘We have a focus on businesses that add value to or disrupt the pharma industry, so vaccine stabilisation was a good fit for the fund”, added Chris.

Stablepharma are at an exciting stage in making their vision of making fridge-free vaccines a reality. “They have made significant progress in the past 12 months, signing two exclusive supply agreements for vaccines with BB – NICPD Ltd (Bul Bio), formally starting the development of SPVX02 for the treatment of Tetanus diphtheria’. ‘In addition, they have also received formal scientific advice from MHRA and EMA, and are paving the way forward to launching the world’s first fridge-free vaccine”.

“This is great progress from the team at Stablepharma, particularly the recent results regarding the stabilisation of mRNA, which was a long term goal when we doing our due diligence in early 2021’. ‘It’s also very encouraging to know that the R&D Team in Madrid has identified up to 60 vaccines that could be converted to fridge-free versions’. ‘We’re very excited about the commercial and scientific progress that Stablepharma are making and believe that the future is extremely bright for the company”.

“The Ascension Life Fund investment into Stablepharma is a ‘double bottom line’ investment, in that, we believe that it will provide a significant financial return as well as providing better healthcare and reducing CO2 emissions”.



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