Pharmaceutical firm Fitabeo Therapeutics is about to start pre-clinical trials of its first two products, developed using its oral thin film drug delivery system. The stamp-sized, soluble film is intended to provide slow-release medicines to those who have difficulty swallowing traditional pills and capsules.  

Mallikarjun Chityala, CEO 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-professionals, we estimate that our medicines could enable healthcare across the world to save more than £600 million a year by 2030.”     

Valuable advantage

Oral thin films offer a valuable advantage over current oral and injectable products, being super-easy to administer and providing rapid, less intrusive, reproducible effects.

Fitabeo Therapeutics’ technical team achieved a breakthrough with this technology, enabling the complex release of one or more drugs on a fast dissolving, single layered film, capable of releasing drugs for up to twelve hours. This technology will enable the development and commercialisation of drugs that reduce medicine intake to twice a day, replacing traditional dosing and invasive treatments.

Many patients find it easier to tolerate saliva-soluble, thin films on their tongue, allowing even those receiving palliative care to maintain greater freedom and autonomy, by successfully managing pain and other symptoms outside of clinical care settings.  

Professor Alex Mullen, whose research group at the University of Strathclyde developed the novel technology, said: “Fitabeo’s technology is suitable for around two-thirds of drug applications, potentially replacing many tablets, liquids, nasal/gastric tubes or injections. 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.”

Entrepreneurial ecosystem

Fitabeo Therapeutics has been supported throughout by Strathclyde Inspire, the University’s entrepreneurship initiative. Fitabeo was the winner of the Scottish Universities Converge Challenge in 2021 and also received a grant of £200,000 from Scottish Enterprise as part of its High-Growth Spinout Programme.

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.”   

Fitabeo is currently developing two products in the pain management area and is just about to commence trials with healthy volunteers.  The global market for pain management involving use of opioids, is estimated to be worth £20 billion annually.

It is anticipated that these products will be commercialised in global markets from 2026.