When Abigail Martin started her PhD journey in 2014, she was envisioning a life ahead as a toxicologist. Little did she imagine that in a few short years she and her PhD supervisor, experienced inhaled biopharmaceutist Victoria Hutter, would be co- founders of a leading biotechnology start-up.
Abigail’s PhD focused on developing a human in vitro model of the lower airways, focusing on the two main cell types found in the small airways of the lung – epithelial cells and immune cells. Currently, chemicals and medicines that could enter the lungs are tested for safety on animal models – usually rats, mice and dogs. Abigail’s research showed that a more human-relevant, reliable and reproducible solution was possible.
Victoria’s expertise in inhaled biopharmaceutics is rare and valuable. Before the inception of ImmuONE, she spent more than fifteen years working in academia and the pharmaceutical industry. Using her specialist knowledge of how inhaled particles, formulations and products interact with the airways, she built up an impressive track record in leading industrial-academic partnerships. Nowadays, Victoria uses her expertise in airway epithelial and immune cells to develop patented cell culture technologies, new approaches to inhalation toxicity assessment and customer-specific tailored services to answer questions about inhalation.
The co-founders received funding from Innovate UK’s ICURE (Innovation to Commercialisation of University Research) in 2018, which enabled them to validate the market need for the model, travelling all over the world to speak with potential clients and industrial leaders.
“I began the career change of a lifetime,” Abigail says. “No two days are the same!” Over the course of the past five years, the company has gone from strength to strength.
From its humble origins in the cell culture lab of the University of Hertfordshire, ImmuONE now has its own 1800 sq ft facilities at Sycamore house in Stevenage, Hertfordshire, and has global reach, working with international clients from the USA, the EU and Asia. With an expanding team and considerable experience…., related to in vitro inhalation within the team, the company is well on track to becoming a leader for in vitro lung products and services and the UK’s only commercial specialist in this area.