A new Scottish pharmaceutical firm is looking to raise its first round of investment as it prepares to start pre-clinical trials of its controlled drug release technology.

Based on the work of co-founder Alex Mullen, whose research group at the University of Strathclyde developed the technology, Fitabeo’s stamp-sized soluble film provides slow-release medicines to those who have difficulty swallowing traditional pills and capsules. By reducing the need for hospitalisation and direct intervention by healthcare professionals, Fitabeo estimates it could save the global healthcare system more than £600 million annually.

“Fitabeo’s technology is suitable for around two-thirds of drug applications, potentially replacing many tablets, liquids, nasal/gastric tubes or injections,” Professor Mullen said. “Serious or terminal illness is a fact of life but by reducing any trauma associated with required therapies, we could help millions of people every year around the world to get on with living.”

Oral thin films are less intrusive to administer than other methods of drug delivery, providing rapid effects. Many people find it easier to tolerate saliva-soluble thin films on their tongues, allowing even those receiving palliative care at the end of their lives to maintain greater autonomy by managing pain outside of clinical care settings.

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Fitabeo’s technology allows the release of one or more drugs for up to 12 hours. The company says this will enable the development and commercialisation of drugs that reduce medicine intake to twice a day, replacing traditional dosing and invasive treatments.

Mallikarjun Chityala, co-founder and chief executive of Fitabeo, said: “We seek to enhance the quality of life for patients and their families by providing medicines using our new, controlled-release technology.

“By improving patient autonomy and reducing the need for hospitalisation and intervention by health care professionals, we estimate that our medicines could enable healthcare across the world to save more than £600m a year by 2030.”

Set up in 2021, Fitabeo is hoping to raise a total of £4.5m in two rounds of fundraising taking place this year and next. This will allow the company to complete its spin-out from the university, after which Professor Mullen will divide his time between the university and his post as chief scientific officer of Fitabeo.

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The company is currently developing two pain management products that are about to begin trails healthy volunteers. It is anticipated that these products should be ready to go to market in 2026.

It has been supported to date by Strathclyde Inspire, the university’s entrepreneurship initiative, and was also the winner of the Scottish Universities Converge Challenge in 2021, receiving £50,000 in cash. Additionally, Fitabeo has received a grant of £200,000 from the high growth spinout programme run by Scottish Enterprise.

Debbie Stack of Strathclyde Inspire said: “Fitabeo is a great example of the Scottish entrepreneurial ecosystem at work; supporting the successful interfacing of scientific and clinical expertise and helping innovators achieve wider social and commercial benefits.”