“Good to meet you, Sherry. Can you tell me more about Plasma4?”
The idea for Plasma 4 was conceived five years ago, with the underpinning research predating that by another five years. Rob Short, one of Plasma4’s other co-founders, and I have a track record in life science start-ups – this is our fifth venture – so the combination of our experience and the team’s +50 years’ collective expertise in plasma and materials led to us creating Plasma4.
It’s important to start with what we mean by ‘plasma’. We aren’t talking about blood plasma, we mean plasma as an electrically excited gas (think of the Northern Lights or a plasma TV) – a unique source of biologically important molecules, many of which are shown to promote healing.
At Plasma4, we are developing a platform to harness their healing potential and safely deliver them to human tissue by filtering out the unwanted components of plasma. As far as we know, we are the first company to do this.
Our unique platform allows us to also deliver therapeutic agents using plasma deep into tissue. This combination of plasma, materials and therapeutics opens up a host of possibilities for the treatment of a range of clinical conditions, including infections, wounds, certain cancers, autoimmune and skin conditions, which have a significant impact on patient populations.
There are a number of potential benefits in this approach, for example speeding up healing, creating more effective treatments through targeted delivery of drugs and potentially reducing the amount of therapeutic agent required.
What’s even more exciting is the potential to target conditions with either no current effective treatment modalities, such as vitiligo or those where current treatments have adverse side-effects, such as psoriasis.
“What would you say have been your successes on your start-up journey?”
We are very early in our Plasma4 journey – however, lots of things are now coming together at the right place and the right time. In a spinout it can take a while to be in that position and we now have that momentum and support network. From spin out concept to reality, it’s been a long 18 months but I’m glad we persevered!
We are making progress in our proof of concept research in specific clinical indications – supported by over £3M research grant funding – and we believe our platform is a real game changer.
Our research includes infected wounds where there are many challenges with antibiotic resistance. Wound infections are responsible for 37,000 deaths a year within the EU at an annual cost of 7 billion euros – it’s a huge problem. With our ability to deliver plasma and antimicrobials locally and preclinical evidence of faster healing, you can see how use of our technology can start to make a difference.
Some of our other early target indications include fungal infections, such as onychomycosis which accounts for one-half of all nail disease and affects 10% of the adult population, where current treatments take time or are ineffective; and aggressive ovarian cancers where current standard treatments have debilitating side effects and 80-90% of patients diagnosed at an advanced stage of ovarian cancer develop resistance and succumb to the disease.
The potential of our technology in addressing some of these serious unmet needs, spurs us on. It’s incredibly rewarding and motivating when a patient tells you about the difference you have made to their life.
“What connections / partnerships are you seeking to make for the next stage of your business growth?”
We want to demonstrate our technology proof of concept in 4-5 clinical applications.
We are acutely aware of the importance of engaging with the clinical community in technology development and we are seeking input and insight from the start. You can develop the best medical technology in the world, but if it can’t be adopted for clinical use you have a problem!
Our technology is being developed in collaboration with a major wound care company and partner clinicians, and we are seeking to establish more partnerships in further clinical indications with key opinion leaders, and clinical researchers to inform development and market implementation.
Further to our proof of concept across different clinical indications, we shall be engaging with relevant commercial partners to deliver more effective and targeted treatments.
We also anticipate we’ll be raising funds in the next six months or so to take us to our next stage of growth.
“And finally, can you tell us about your experience of participating in the P4SY Accelerator Programme?”
I said earlier that ‘spinout land’ can be very start and stop. Eighteen months has felt like a long time, waiting for everything to fall into place. And now it has.
One of the factors has been engaging with P4SY as the last bit of the puzzle as we relocated to Sheffield. P4SY has supported us to build our network and personal ecosystem early on, i.e. to get like-minded people around us who are in life sciences and who understand the medtech environment. I know we are in the right space.
Pippa and Tamara have been fantastic – the Plasma4 team are glad to be here!
To find out more about Plasma 4 or to get in touch, visit their website.