EnsiliTech, a British-based biopharmaceutical company, announced in January 2023 that it had raised £1.2 million in pre-seed funding to “aid the development of a pioneering refrigeration-free approach to transporting vaccines and other materials”. Using their patented platform technology “ensilication”, they hope to ensure that new and existing biopharmaceuticals are “safe and stable at room temperatures”. The funding was led by Science Angel Syndicate and the Fink Family Office, with co-investment from QantX, Elbow Beach Capital, angel investors, and Innovate UK.
The statement from EnsiliTech indicates that this investment will be used to “establish proof-of-concept and preclinical validation with selected animal vaccines and antibodies”. It will also advance commercial partnerships to facilitate licensing opportunities.
Reliance on refrigeration
The team at EnsiliTech are keen to reduce our “dependence” on refrigeration. The current system is a “50-year-old global network of refrigerators and freezers”: the cold chain. This has an annual running cost of £28 billion and is “prone to failure”. The WHO estimates that around 50% of vaccines spoil and are consequently discarded.
EnsiliTech’s strategy could be most useful in developing countries, where “access to reliable refrigeration can be a major barrier to healthcare”.
Many vaccines must be stored at sub-zero temperatures. Others, like mRNA COVID-19 vaccines, must be stored at “ultra-low temperatures”. EnsiliTech suggests that their technology “preserves the integrity of vaccines and other biological materials at temperatures that range from –20C to +80C”.
Through ensilication, tiny layers of an inorganic material are applied to the biological material to keep it stable outside the fridge or freezer. This uses silica to create “individual, protective ‘cages’ around the active ingredients”.
Silica is “biocompatible, inert, and cheap”. When the product is ready to be administered, the “cage” cracks open and falls away, leaving the active ingredient in its “pure, safe, fully functional form”.
Co-founder and CTO of EnsiliTech is Dr Aswin Doehkie, who feels “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.”
A more sustainable and equitable future
Co-founder and CEO of EnsiliTech, Dr Asel Sartbaeva, hopes to make the transportation of vaccines “more efficient and cost-effective, while also reducing the carbon footprint of this critical supply chain”. Co-founder of Science Angel Syndicate, Dr Jonathan Matlock, identifies the “unique platform” at EnsiliTech, which “could revolutionise how we think about the distribution of these important therapeutics”.
Richard Haycock, Co-founder and CEO of QantX, is “delighted to be able to support the team” on their “mission” to solve the problem of “inequality” and the “incredible need for a globally coordinated response to infectious diseases”. Lord Stanley Fink is “proud” to invest in a scheme to deliver “much needed vaccines and other treatments” to “large parts of the world that don’t have the infrastructure to cope with the Mobile Cold Storage required for many modern treatments”.
“There will also be a huge carbon saving for the planet as cold storage and transportation is a major contributor to carbon emissions.”
For more approaches to cold chain revolutions come to the World Vaccine Congress in Washington in April.