In March 2020 however, the company faced a huge challenge. When Covid-19 took hold in the UK, Stemnovate had just finished two years of R&D phase, co-funded by an Innovate UK Health and Life sciences grant, and its planned commercialisation launch. But, the country went under lockdown, which affected customers in pharma, academia and research institutions, who suspended operations. The company went from having a 2020 forecast of £600k to a 90% loss in turnover.
“It was a really hard time,” says Dr Ruchi Sharma, CEO at Stemnovate. “Everything was on hold and we couldn’t meet investors or travel anywhere." Stemnovate used that time to focus on research and development.
A precision drug discovery platform
The drug discovery platform uses multi-organ modeling to evaluate drug molecule metabolism and toxicity, an approach that leads to better clinical trials and patient safety. It uses live stem cells derived exclusively from blood and skin cells, eliminating the need for animal testing. The company is innovating organs-on-chips platforms, integrating cell research and tissue engineering to provide a physiological alternative to cancer lines and animal models for advanced, precision drug discovery.
In 2017, Stemnovate was the recipient of an £831,782 Innovate UK grant to develop Liver on Chip, its product that detects hepatitis, liver disease and yellow fever within ten minutes. The two year project was successful, with approximately £100k of revenue generated during beta testing. It led to a patented innovation that will be soon be launched in the marketplace.
Investment strategy support
In 2020, Stemnovate also received Covid response support from Innovate UK EDGE, to help the company recover from the fallout from the pandemic. Innovation and Growth Specialist Gary Douglas Beet has worked with Dr Ruchi Sharma for several months now, focusing on investment strategy support. In particular, he has focused on:
- identifying key areas of improvement to secure investment through pitch development
- support to improve pitch presentation skills
- identifying potential investors
Gary is also assisting with marketing and sales, identifying key sales channels and how to approach and secure projects with top pharma companies.
As a result of the partnership with EDGE, Stemnovate secured £1.05m from angel investors, Thomas Haizel, an investor that works closely with Innovate UK EDGE. The company closed two big pharma contracts, has multiple projects in the pipeline and is on track to create over £1m in revenue. It is also in talks with six other big companies, which is expected to lead to multi-million pound contracts in the next few years. The company has taken on a new site in Cambridge, has increased its headcount to 15 people, with more recruits planned.
Dr Ruchi Sharma says having Gary as an adviser has been hugely beneficial. “The Stemnovate team was working on establishing project agreements with pharma and during that critical time, Gary’s input was really helpful – from introductions to investors to pitch decks. The engagement with Gary has been just brilliant, as have been the Innovate UK programmes.”