On March 11, 2020 the pharmaceutical industry entered a new era, as the WHO declared COVID-19 a global pandemic: “The speed at which new vaccines were developed is fantastic, and that impetus and investment continues,” says Ann Gidner. “For us it means we no longer have to sell the big-picture benefits of thermostable vaccines. Now is the time for action in our work with pharmaceutical companies and CDMOs (Contract Development and Manufacturing Organizations). We are prioritizing building direct discussions and projects with those organizations.
“There are several synergies and strong connections to previous experiences and positions in my career and I believe I have a relevant network for enabling new partnering dialogues. We have had several initial discussions with industrial players since I started, and I experience a high level of interest in Ziccum’s technology. My specific experience driving new businesses for CDMOs will also be crucial for my position at Ziccum as this group of companies are an important new target for us.”
From vision to action – platforms and projects
Ann Gidner has brought a sharper focus to Ziccum’s projects and pipeline work in her first month as CEO. The company has streamlined its project portfolio down to three high-value ongoing feasibility and evaluation studies – two with leading pharma corporations, and one with a major research institute in vaccination in the Nordic region. Ziccum is also now prioritizing three key, high-potential vaccine platforms, including mRNA.
“It’s all about action and applicability,” says Ann Gidner. “We have eliminated demanding low-value projects and are focusing only on projects which will help accelerate our technology from concept to first licensing deal. Those projects which deliver absolutely the most value for us and our clients – in terms of patent potential and landing licensing deals.”
Ziccum recently announced that an ongoing pilot evaluation study agreement with a leading pharmaceutical corporation has been extended following the completion of the latest stage of the project. Ziccum will ship the dry-formulated study materials from its facilities in Lund to the corporation’s labs at the end of June, where they will be evaluated.
Explore Ziccum’s three key vaccine platforms.
Strong mRNA focus
Ziccum has made major strategic investments too into new facilities and equipment for mRNA/LNP (Lipid Nanoparticles), seen by many as representing a new era in vaccinology. LaminarPace, the company’s ambient drying system, has already achieved first results with early dry formulations of LNP materials, a dataset which will enable further optimization for these crucial delivery vehicles that enabled both the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna COVID-19 vaccines.
“Our work with LNP and mRNA materials is particularly exciting,” Ann Gidner says. “Remember, people were skeptical about mRNA COVID-19 vaccines at first, but the drive, research and investment in developing these created enormous opportunities. And those opportunities continue today. mRNA is one of the most high-potential areas in the industry right now.”
Read about Ziccum’s focus on mRNA vaccines here
Growing industrial maturity
Ziccum is continuously developing the industrial capabilities of LaminarPace, aiming for eventual GMP manufacturing status. The current system is the fourth generation, with nitrogen having replaced air, to further reduce moisture, a new sealed powder collector, to increase safety, and an advanced array of sensors to measure drying flow.
Ann Gidner: “We are very happy to just have the fourth generation equipment installed this week. Our technology development is maturing rapidly, achieved in parallel with ongoing project work, resulting in increased confidence from our external collaborators.”
“I have taken several technologies and products through to market and licensing deals, and I am convinced that Ziccum has excellent potential.” says Ann Gidner.
Read more about LaminarPace’s technology development here.
Another important strategic objective is to secure long-term financing for Ziccum, increasingly important as global financial conditions are becoming more challenging.
“Generating revenues from early co-development and feasibility programs is one very important factor which can contribute significantly. Another opportunity is to continuously evaluate soft funding in the form of specific industry grants where we can identify a strong match with our technology and offering. We are currently working actively on a selection of soft funding opportunities where we believe the chances are favorable for being granted substantial contributions to our long-term financing plan.”