The biotech industry has tremendous growth opportunities that can be unlocked through modern capabilities that expedite research and hasten the launch of new innovations. However, keeping up with the rapidly evolving technological landscape and navigating industry challenges like remote work and supply chain disruptions is becoming increasingly challenging for biotech companies.
Jurata Thin Film, a revolutionary Biotechnology Research company, promises to make vaccines and biologics cheaper to manufacture and more easily accessible for patients, no matter where they are in the world. The company’s proprietary technology has the potential to eliminate the need for cold storage and other temperature control measures in pharmaceutical manufacturing, distribution, storage, and delivery.
Its technology stabilizes temperature-sensitive drugs by preserving individual therapeutic particles in a three-dimensional matrix, protecting each particle from the external environment. Jurata’s mission is to increase pharmaceutical manufacturing efficiency and significantly decrease costs associated with the pharmaceutical supply chain.
Here are some key points from the interview with Sheila Ann Mikhail, Co-founder & CEO of Jurata Thin Film, where she discusses the company’s ground-breaking approach to vaccine and biologic storage and transportation.
Brief our audience about your journey as a business leader until your current position at Jurata Thin Film. What challenges have you had to overcome to reach where you are today?
I built my career, spanning over 30 years, on my foundational values of integrity, accountability, and relentless perseverance, all underpinned by a passionate commitment to improve the lives of others.
While working as a lawyer, focusing on the needs of life sciences companies, I met my long-time business partner, Dr. Jude Samulski. Jude asked me for help in starting a company to commercialize the AAV gene therapy vectors and process he had developed while a professor at UNC Chapel Hill. We agreed to start and grow our gene therapy company, Asklepios Biopharmaceuticals (Askbio), on the foundation of helping as many people around the world as possible.
Every company I have started has been built on the same foundation of accessibility; Jurata Thin Film is no different. Our thin film technology has the potential to significantly increase accessibility to gene therapies, as well as vaccines and many other biologics. Every therapeutic I have helped develop could benefit from stabilization in Jurata’s thin film technology, and I am doing everything I can to make it accessible to every patient, everywhere.
Enlighten us on how you have been impacting the logistics and supply chain industry through your expertise in the market.
My previous company, Asklepios Biopharmaceuticals (Askbio), provided gene therapies that require ultra-cold temperatures for distribution and long-term storage. Using Jurata’s thin film technology, we were able to ship Askbio’s therapeutics across the country without any cold packs or dry ice, store them at room temperature for six months, and still see therapeutic activity in a preclinical animal model. Jurata’s technology will enable gene therapy, vaccines, and other biologics developers to access patients in low-resource regions around the world, increasing their societal impact.
Describe in detail the values and the work culture that drives your organization.
We are a women-led and women-owned company with an incredibly diverse work force, especially in positions of high leadership. We exhibit the values of equity and equality in our daily operations by treating our employees fairly and respectfully, as well as doing our best to offer them benefits uncommon in a company of our limited size.
Undeniably, technology is playing a significant role in almost every sector. How are you advancing towards technological innovations to make your solutions resourceful?
The elimination of cold-chain distribution represents an enormous reduction in energy usage (e.g., refrigerated trucks) as well as environmental waste (e.g., Styrofoam coolers). Additionally, our manufacturing process uses significantly less energy than the current industry standard, freeze drying. Our technology’s ability to enable needle-free administration of many biologics, including vaccines, also has the potential to remove the need for needles and syringes, reducing biohazardous and sharps waste. Taken together, Jurata’s technology promises to greatly reduce the environmental impact of current pharmaceutical supply and distribution.
What, according to you, could be the next significant change in your sector? How is your company preparing to be a part of that change?
We believe that the next significant change in our sector will be the elimination of freeze drying in stabilizing pharmaceutical products. Our thin films are produced at room temperature and up to 18 times faster than a freeze drying cycle, significantly increasing manufacturing efficiency and decreasing energy requirements for pharmaceutical fill and finish.
Where do you envision yourself to be in the long run, and what are your future goals for Jurata Thin Film?
I envision Jurata being either acquired by an existing pharmaceutical developer or CDMO (contract development and manufacturing organization) or developing into a multi-national manufacturer and partner. Jurata has the potential to become an independent pharmaceutical developer by utilizing our novel formulations for the biosimilars market. We are open to either scenario, provided that we identify partners working towards the same goals of increasing patient accessibility.
What would be your advice to budding entrepreneurs who aspire to venture into the dynamic logistics and supply chain industry?
Build your team with leaders who want to see the technology succeed, not just for financial gain but also to maximize its societal impact. These team members will be driven, resilient, and highly motivated to do everything they can to make the technology succeed.
Additionally, always remember why you started your company. There will be many long days, weeks, and, potentially, months, but never forget what you’re aiming for. This will keep you on track and grounded and help you recognize the progress you’ve made, even when it feels like things are moving slowly.