Business backstory

The global life sciences sector is booming – no more so than in the field of cell and gene therapies. In 2021, alone, cell and gene therapy companies raised more than $23 billion dollars in funding and the sector continues to flourish as regulators around the world give the greenlight to new innovative solutions.

Helping to anchor this fast-moving but highly intricate ecosystem is Cardiff-based TrakCel. It specialises in cell and gene therapy orchestration solutions – helping companies in the sector monitor and control their complex supply and value chains. By doing so, they ensure that life changing therapies reach patients safely and efficiently with a secure and transparent audit trail of the entire treatment pathway.

It’s really important for the success of the treatment that therapy developers and physicians are able to track both the chain of identity and the chain of custody,” says Dr Fiona Withey, CEO and co-founder to TrakCel. For the past decade, she and her colleagues have been pioneering new techniques to integrate cellular orchestration solutions to achieve just that. In 2021, TrakCel launched OCELLOS, a software as a service (SaaS) platform to track the complex cell and gene therapy supply chains. It has already proved successful enough to be lauded as one of the top innovations of the year by Scientist magazine.

That a relatively small Welsh-based company (TrakCel has 90 employees) can play such an influential role in one of the world’s most important life science sectors shows not just the power of digital-led business but also the potential for any business in Wales to excel on the world stage if it has the right idea and right understanding of its market.

Why Wales?

TrakCel benefited from having a founding team with experience in ultra-low temperature-controlled supply chain management for biotech and the pharmaceutical sector. It was also able to tap into a wealth of expertise housed in Welsh academia – notably a team from Swansea University with deep knowledge of self-managing complex supply chains.

Being able to draw on that academic expertise was vital for us,” says Withey. “Wales is very lucky in that respect. We’ve got eight universities and 13 educational colleges in what is a small country. That creates a strong talent pool - I think about 30% of the population are college graduates.”

Withey is a Welsh university graduate herself and, like many company leaders, appreciates being in Wales not just for the business and network opportunities but also because of the quality of life it offers her employees – an increasingly important factor in luring and retaining talent, and in winning new overseas business.

We meet with new clients all the time and often, they travel to Wales to audit our facility before they start working with us. As well as demonstrating the quality of our work, we also tend to take them on a cultural experience of Wales – maybe St. Fagans National Museum, the Glamorgan Heritage Coastline or Cardiff Castle. That way they can understand the history and culture of Wales and they are always intrigued and energised by the experience,” says Withey, adding: “Sometimes I feel like I’m also a bit of a travel agent for Wales!”

How has the Welsh Government helped?

TrakCel also understands the importance of having a supportive government when you’re a small company in a highly competitive field. The Welsh Government have offered support with graduate recruitment and also with exploring new export opportunities.

I know the First Minister has recognised the importance of science and research innovation for the Welsh economy and the government have some key priorities that fit in with the UK's overall life sciences vision,” notes Withey, adding: “TrakCel is proof that Welsh companies have a critical role to play; over the last ten years TrakCel has become a market leader, supporting the delivery of ground-breaking medicines globally, and we are continuing to innovate and launch new products and services. Looking forward, it’s clear that life sciences in Wales will continue to go from strength to strength.”

Learn more about TrakCel on the TrakCel website.

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