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The Interview Series – Nick Child, VP & Co-Founder, Stablepharma

Nick Child is a co-founder of Stablepharma Ltd, The Fridge-free Vaccine Company. He has, since his initial encounter with leading scientist and co-founder, Dr Bruce Roser MB BS PhD, had a passion and commitment to fulfil Stablepharma’s vision of making vaccines accessible to everyone without the requirement for cold chain storage.

I asked Nick to tell us how he first met Dr Bruce and what drove him to focus his time and energy on taking Stablepharma from initial concept, to progressing to the point of launching the world’s first fridge-free vaccine.

“I’d love to say that we bumped into each other in the local and over a ‘cold one……..’, and the rest is history! But in fact, we were introduced by a mutual contact who was involved in a Venture Capital company. At the time, I had a specialist pharmaceutical distribution company and the VC was interested in incorporating our technology into a New Co and building out the business from there. The VC plan turned out to be somewhat underwhelming, shall we say, so Bruce and I took the decision to go it alone, and started Stablepharma Ltd in 2012”.

“If I take a step back, it was a bit of a lightbulb moment, once I had truly understood the science behind the invention and Bruce’s absolute passion, I was able to grasp the enormous impact this invention could have around the world, on the proviso we could get it to market, to make fridge-free vaccines the norm”.

The reality of getting our product to market, has been without question, challenging. And, apart from all of the usual problems that a start-up encounters along the way, with restricted funding, piecemeal salaries, incredibly long days etc. some of our biggest hurdles have been the pessimists, ‘you will never achieve your vision’, ‘nobody needs this solution’, ‘you will never get a patent’, ‘you will never get the partners you seek’, ‘you won’t get the regulatory approval’…… and the list went on.

How wrong they were! We have achieved all of above-mentioned milestones and many more, which has been truly rewarding. We have been fortunate over the years to attract significant equity funding from an amazing and ever-growing cohort of investors, who understood the value of our technology, the health implications of how fridge-free vaccines can impact people, all around the world. I particularly recall a quote from one of our ‘founding investors’ viz; “I make this investment, half for the impact on world health and half for my finances”.

With pending clinical trials in 2024 on our first fridge-free vaccine (SPVX02) for the prevention of Tetanus and diphtheria, and a recent funding round which currently values Stablepharma at c. £50 million (our first round in 2013 was at c. £1m) hopefully, we are now ticking those boxes for our investors!

To be honest, the company really exists because of one man, his vision and tenacity. The invention was originally discovered and developed by Dr Bruce Roser, who I like to call “our resident genius”. He was originally a clinical doctor by trade, with the gift of a very inquisitive mind. The eureka moment came when Bruce investigated the unique properties of the Resurrection Plant that can achieve life after death by adding H2O, he understood that the underling ‘chemistry’ has the ability to thermally stabilise many vaccines (approximately 60 suitable vaccine candidates identified to date) and pharmaceutical products, that normally require refrigeration. Dr Bruce went on to patent the science of Trehalose which is used by many pharmaceutical companies around the world today – I think he has over 50 patents to his name and continues to publish white papers on the subject”.

Nick went on to explain that one of the main benefits of the invention is that vaccines can now be stockpiled without the need for refrigeration – this is the enormous advantage we have with StablevaX™, not only for countries with an unreliable infrastructure but also for developed countries. Nick recalled during the Covid pandemic reading about a problem in Texas where thousands of expensive vaccines were destroyed ‘due to failures in the refrigerated storage system’. The reality was that the cleaner unplugged the fridge for an hour whilst he vacuumed the facility!

As I am not a scientist, but have built a strong commercial background over the past four decades, my mission was focussed on the initial fundraising stages, marketing and awareness strategy, early partnerships, setting up the laboratory in Madrid and supporting the scientists. The first eight years of the company were, for sure, challenging, with a serious requirement to achieve milestones and the funding to pay for them, we probably even came close to failure a few times.

The game changing milestone came about 4 years ago when we achieved successful in- vivo trials proving that we could ‘cook’ a StablevaX Td vaccine (Tetanus diphtheria) at the ridiculous temperature of +45⁰C for c.12 months and it was still as effective as the original vaccine that required refrigeration. Whilst we knew with reasonable certainty that the trial would produce the results we were looking for; we could now use the data to prove it to the rest of the world that the StablevaX technology worked.

Satisfyingly, and as part of that acceleration programme, we have been able to build a remarkable team of people, all of whom have contributed to of our achievements. There is no doubt that this will continue and I am going to take the opportunity to mention a few of the ‘originals’ in despatches here, Arcadio, Juana, Laura, Karen, Martin (RIP), Robert, Charlie, Neil, Ozgur, and of course, all of team who now sail on the good ship Stablepharma, good on you, and thank you for your incredible contributions.

Under orders from my fantastic and long-suffering wife of 24 years and a very demanding Jack Russell Terrorist, (despite being a workaholic) it’s probably time to consider winding down a bit next year. I’m increasingly looking forward to spending more time in France, even with my limited vocabulary restricted to being able to order two beers and a croissant!

On reflection, it’s not often that you get to mingle with a genius, let alone work with one! And as Dr Bruce Roser leaves his thumbprint firmly on the planet, I would like to say that it has been an extraordinary privilege to assist him on his mission……it’s even better when we get the chance to enjoy a ‘cold one’ together!

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