CEO SPOTLIGHT Flic Gabbay managing partner, tranScrip

Riding the waves of Covid

Flic Gabbay, managing partner of Wokingham- based pharmaceutical services company tranScrip, has spent the past year playing whack- a-mole with the Covid-19 virus

Her team of specialists have helped pharmaceutical companies conduct over £50 million of research since she co-founded the company in 2008, and the past year has been marked by an unprecedented urgency in the field.

Each time tranScrip tried to implement potentially life- saving drug treatment trials, the coronavirus wave would change direction. Either it was so high that everyone was too busy saving lives, or the wave was too low and there weren’t enough trial subjects. Against this backdrop of pressing need and the accelerated development of treatments and vaccines, tranScrip has been successfully navigating the seismic changes in the pharmaceutical industry.

“There’s not a chance we’ll go back to where we were before Covid-19, but I’m very excited about what we can do going forward,” she said, referring to everything from regulatory support to drug development timelines, new drug trial structures to remote working and digital applications. Gabbay for one is pleased with this new pace.

‘There is going to be a lot of change, society will begin to understand and contribute more to healthcare development. There’s so much to do,

now it’s a question of what to prioritise’

tranScrip’s priority is global growth, funded by a recent investment by private equity backer Palatine’s social impact fund. Gabbay can envision 20-30% annual growth in the next few years, more if acquisitions are forthcoming. But she is also president elect of the Faculty of Pharmaceutical Medicine, and here her priority is to build on the collaboration between pharma, the research community, regulatory and government organisations like the NHS.

Building on solid foundations

Like the coronavirus vaccines – which have been developed so quickly because they are built on the foundations of years of related research – tranScrip’s consultancy in Covid-19 treatment trials is the accumulation of decades of research into respiratory illnesses and treatments. As far back as 1995, Gabbay was

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involved in the development of a respiratory illness treatment still in use today, and the methodology is currently being expanded for wider use by the NHS in light of the Covid pandemic.

‘For over a decade, tranScrip has been working with Synairgen, a company founded by three Southampton University professors, whose viral treatment was one of the first to publish trial results for the treatment of Covid-19, right in the midst of the pandemic last year’

“When Covid hit, it became obvious that the Southampton spin-off drug would be very useful. It could potentially stop people with the virus needing intensive care, and might stop them going into hospital altogether,” Gabbay said.

Synairgen had already planned a trial of the drug for patients with lung conditions but pivoted towards Covid-19 patients when the outbreak hit. While the world watched reports of overstretched ICU wards, exhausted doctors and alarming death statistics, tranScrip worked with Synairgen to set up an initial trial in hospital sites in the UK led by University Hospital in Southampton. The results, published in June, showed the drug significantly reduced the odds of developing severe disease by almost 80%.

Meantime another promising treatment candidate went into a trial and that’s when the game of whack- a-mole started. The team had to find suitable places to run both another trial and the next phase of trials for the Synairgen candidate, places that weren’t overwhelmed by a Covid-19 wave but had enough patients to ensure the results were clinically significant. They managed, and the first international phase III patient was dosed in January. At the same time, tranScrip and the other company neared completion of a phase II trial of an oestrogen-based treatment for Covid-19.

“We had to completely change the way we do trials,” Gabbay said. “Not only that, normally we would go in to verify what’s happening in the trial centres but you can’t go into the hospitals now, so everything has to be done remotely.”

A changing pharma landscape

tranScrip’s team of highly-skilled pharmaceutical and regulatory experts take on complex consultancy projects for big pharma, small pharma, biotech firms and other stakeholders that have emerged as the

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