Next-gen Probiotics for Gut Health | The Enterprise Sessions with Jenny Bailey

The Enterprise Sessions bring together a diverse mix of company founders and researchers who talk openly about their experiences forming spin-outs and start-ups, raising capital, building academic-industry partnerships and translating research discoveries into real-world impact. Each episode aims to inform, inspire and challenge myths and stereotypes about research commercialisation and how businesses and universities can work together to tackle society’s biggest challenges.


How can spin-outs leverage end user feedback to refine products and validate markets? Find out as Professor Michele Barbour talks to Dr Jenny Bailey, the CEO and Co-Founder of Ferryx, a biotech company focused on the commercial production of live bacterial products for the prevention and treatment of gastrointestinal inflammation in humans and animals.



§  Discover how a chance conversation with Co-Founder Dr Tristan Cogan sparked the innovative idea behind Ferryx: the disruption of inflammatory pathways in the gut using live bacteria that flourish in the presence of iron.

§  Find out about the steps Jenny and Tristan took to protect their new intellectual property and take it from the lab to a commercial product

§  Jenny gives her perspective on the pre-accelerator ICURe programme, which encouraged her to step out of her comfort zone, engage with stakeholders, refine the project and test its market viability.

§  Hear about Ferryx’s approach to ongoing product development and testing, including clinical trials and engagement with patient feedback.


🌐 About the Enterprise Sessions

The Enterprise Sessions bring together a diverse mix of company founders and researchers who talk openly about their personal experiences of forming spin-outs and start-ups, raising capital, academic-industry partnerships and the joys of translating research discoveries into real-world impact.

The series aims to inform, inspire and challenge myths and stereotypes about research commercialisation and how businesses and universities can work together to tackle society’s biggest challenges.


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00:00:00 Prof Michele Barbour

Welcome to the enterprise sessions. Today I’m speaking with Doctor Jenny Bailey, who is CEO and Cofounder of Ferrix. Jenny. I’m really glad you found the time to talk to us.

00:00:08 Dr Jenny Bailey

Thanks, it’s great to be here. Thank you.

00:00:11 Prof Michele Barbour

So before we learn about the ferric story, why don’t you tell us a little bit about your background and how you came to be at the University of Bristol?

00:00:18 Dr Jenny Bailey

Sure. I mean, I did my PhD at Bristol, so it started there. Gosh. When was that 2004? I started my PhD at Bristol in and I was. I was working on gut immunology.

00:00:32 Dr Jenny Bailey

It was something that I found interesting in my undergrad degree and then this opportunity arose and and I went for it and I loved my time at Bristol. I think I worked in a great department. I was based at the vet school at Bristol. I really enjoyed my time there and after that it was fortunate enough to be offered a postdoc position at Bristol. And I sort of hopped into a different group, but in the same department.

00:00:55 Dr Jenny Bailey

And it was brilliant. I love the community there. I loved the the research environment and I was really excited about what I was doing.

00:01:03 Prof Michele Barbour

So did the innovation that became the basis of your company come directly from your research or it was more something to around the edge of your research exactly?

00:01:10 Dr Jenny Bailey

So at the time I was working as a pay stop looking at inflammatory bowel disease. So when my immunology background, I was really interested in the inflammatory pathways that happened within inflammatory bowel disease.

00:01:23 Dr Jenny Bailey

And you know, potential ways that we can disrupt those.

00:01:26 Dr Jenny Bailey

The idea behind us, you know, the technology and ferrix came from a chance conversation in a corridor with Tristan Cogan, who’s my my Co founder. So this was around about 2009. I can vividly remember where we were in the university building, standing at the top of the.

00:01:41 Dr Jenny Bailey

Stairs just chatting away, Tristan is a microbiologist.

00:01:45 Dr Jenny Bailey

And his area of interest is really in sort of microbial communities within the gut, how they interact with one another and how they interact with with the host. And we got chatting about why don’t probiotics work in people with inflammatory bowel disease? He’d been doing some work on chickens, looking at how the gut microbiome changes when chickens are stress.

00:02:05 Dr Jenny Bailey

And we came up with this hypothesis that perhaps it’s all down to iron. So when you have a A chronically inflamed gut, you have high levels of iron present in the gut, an iron. Whilst it’s really important for us, it can be a bit dangerous when it’s in the wrong places and it.

00:02:24 Dr Jenny Bailey

Can be used as a growth factor by most bacteria present in the gut, but the species that are convention used as prebiotics can’t use that iron as a growth factor, so they can’t compete. So we’re having this chat in the in the corridor about hang on a minute.

00:02:38 Dr Jenny Bailey

Why don’t we try and do something about this? So I say for a long time this was an unfunded side hustle. It was something that we were both really interested in really curious about, but we both had other jobs to do. We didn’t have any funding for this project, but we used sort of bits of slush money. Tristan was doing some consultancy work, things like that. We used spending like that to just try and keep this ticking over and very slowly.

00:03:00 Dr Jenny Bailey

We we started to get somewhere with it. So it all began just from that chance conversation and that’s led us to.

00:03:09 Prof Michele Barbour

Where we are now, when you get these creative collisions, two people have similar enough expertise, they speak the same language, but different enough they bring something different to the conversation. So the iron accumulates in the guts, owing to the inflammatory condition if you’ve got bleeding.

00:03:24 Prof Michele Barbour

Yeah. OK.

00:03:24 Dr Jenny Bailey

For example, in in the gut, then yes.

00:03:26 Dr Jenny Bailey

That can that can free up iron if you’re stressed as well. Nor adrenaline can act as an iron shuttle so that can supply iron to the to the gut microbiome as.

00:03:34 Dr Jenny Bailey

Well, and also if you’ve got chronic inflammation, many patients are on oral line supplements to counteract the bleeding. So again. Mm-hmm. Exactly.

00:03:40 Prof Michele Barbour

It can be intrinsic or extrinsic, but it’s it’s that they accumulated and specifically to chicken my own understanding, it’s the the probiotic bacteria that might otherwise have certain effects are suppressed or less able to do so in the.

00:03:53 Dr Jenny Bailey

Presence is elevated exactly so things like lactobacilli bifidobacteria, the species that we’re traditionally used as, as privatizes they just can’t.

00:03:59 Dr Jenny Bailey

Design is a great factor. It’s really unusual among amongst bacteria, but they can’t do it. So our idea is if we could find something that could use iron as a growth factor and had anti-inflammatory properties then that could really work during periods of active inflammation.

00:04:13 Prof Michele Barbour

OK. So that great hypothesis. I’m. I’m totally sold on your hypothesis, but how does one go about? Yeah, finding finding a a microbial community or micro variants that can thrive in the conditions where the ones we would usually use.

00:04:26 Prof Michele Barbour

I didn’t get that step particularly as a non microbiologist.

00:04:29 Dr Jenny Bailey

As a non microbiologist, I mean, so Tristan is a microbiologist and he’s also an avid collector of bacteria

00:04:36 Prof Michele Barbour

Which sounds so weird, but I know a few of them as well.

00:04:40 Dr Jenny Bailey

Exactly this is quite, yeah, quite normal in the microbiology world that anything a bit weird and wonderful, you’ll just pop it in the freezer cause you never know. And it might be useful later on. So he has probably thousands of strains of bacteria banks now, just in case they might be useful later on. So we thought that’s a really good.

00:04:57 Dr Jenny Bailey

Way to start. Also, it’s a really cheap way to start. You know, technology has moved on since we first started this project. You could use sort of, you know or of a a genomics approach to to find something like this. But back in 2009 that wasn’t it wasn’t a feasible option for us so.

00:05:13 Dr Jenny Bailey

We came up with sort of a blueprint this these are sort of features that we would want to see in, in a probiotic bacteria and we set about screening and we started off with about 200 isolates and we funneled them down through a series of rational tests. So first and foremost looking for things that could increase growth rate in response to iron.

00:05:32 Dr Jenny Bailey

Looking for indicators of efficacy. So I was using a lot of cell culture models. We also through my other project had access to intestinal leukocytes from patients with inflammatory bowel disease.

00:05:45 Dr Jenny Bailey

So we were able to trial them on that as well. We looked at safety as well, particularly in terms of antimicrobial resistance. There’s obviously, if you’re gonna put a probiotic into somebody, you want to make sure that it’s not carrying a load of antimicrobial resistance genes.

00:06:01 Dr Jenny Bailey

We looked at, you know, production of harmful metabolites. We looked at mutagenicity, so we took them through these series of rational tests and we came out with something at the end, this strain of streptococcus thermophilus called FX 856. And in all our in vitro trials, this performed really well.

00:06:21 Dr Jenny Bailey

So the next thing that we did then was to take that through a mouse model of colitis. So this was a DSS mouse model of colitis, DSS dextran, sodium sulphate. It’s essentially a burn model. So the epithelium is is left off the the colon and produces these lesions, which are similar to inflammatory bowel disease.

00:06:42 Dr Jenny Bailey

And in this model we saw that this strain of bacteria was able to reduce clinical signs of disease.

00:06:49 Dr Jenny Bailey

It reduced body weight loss and it reduced gastrointestinal bleeding. Two of the key symptoms of inflammatory bowel disease, and that was our Eureka moment.

00:06:57 Prof Michele Barbour

Yeah, I can imagine.

00:06:59 Dr Jenny Bailey

I used to again, yeah, I was working from home that day. This was pre pandemic but I was working from home. I can’t remember why and I got the e-mail that came in with with the data.

00:07:09 Dr Jenny Bailey

And I immediately picked up the phone to Tristan. I said this… This is it. We’ve we’ve got something here. It’s absolutely incredible, you know, before that we we’ve got fairly good evidence from in vitro tests, but this was this was the Eureka moment for us.

00:07:25 Prof Michele Barbour

I think it’s really interesting cause I think a lot of people who aren’t scientists and don’t work or don’t know science as well, they picture science.

00:07:32 Prof Michele Barbour

Eureka moment and actually in reality, I think that’s quite rare. I think it’s much more commonly incremental and what you described was incremental clearly. Yeah. But nevertheless, there was this moment when all the hairs on your arms stands up. I mean that what? And 11 amazing moment.

00:07:43 Dr Jenny Bailey


00:07:46 Prof Michele Barbour

At this point, were you still thinking of this as a research project or by this time had this started in your own mind to become a commercial proposition?

00:07:56 Dr Jenny Bailey

We’d had the idea that we discovered this thing. It was performing really well. It almost felt criminal to sort of leave it languishing in university labs. We wanted to do something.

00:08:07 Dr Jenny Bailey

About it. So even before we got some of that data, when we’re still looking at sort of our invitro data, we’ve spoken to the research enterprise and development team at at Bristol to.

00:08:21 Dr Jenny Bailey

Get some advice on and what do we do with this? How do we protect our? I pay so they’d helped us with the file. The patents for us to help us to protect our IP even before we published papers on their CEO. It’s all all completely protected. And we’ve been talking to them about how we might commercialize this research.

00:08:42 Dr Jenny Bailey

It it sort of, you know, we felt responsible that we wanted to be able to get this out.

00:08:47 Prof Michele Barbour

So at that point, you were ready to move this into a more commercial domain and you could see that that was going to be a necessity if this wasn’t in your was a language in the lab, yes. So what was that step? What did?

00:08:58 Prof Michele Barbour

You do next to.

00:09:00 Prof Michele Barbour

Move that forward.

00:09:01 Dr Jenny Bailey

Yeah. So as, yeah, I I was a postdoc at the time. I had no idea about commercialising research and and how to do it. Unfortunately, our technology transfer officer in, in, in red was absolutely amazing and she.

00:09:16 Dr Jenny Bailey

Held our hand throughout the whole process and and really helped us and the thing the pivotal moment for us came when we did the IQ programme through set squared and this threw me well out of my comfort zone.

00:09:30 Dr Jenny Bailey

Which I was absolutely terrified of it. But it’s the most positive thing that I could have done for for this project and it gave me sort of three months.

00:09:39 Dr Jenny Bailey

Of protected time out of the lab to be able to go and speak to people and find out what was needed. So the challenge was to speak to 100 different people. So stakeholders, potential end users, clinicians, manufacturers, anybody that might be involved in this journey to commercialization.

00:10:01 Dr Jenny Bailey

And to really sort of test the market to find out, are we on the right track? What do people want?

00:10:07 Dr Jenny Bailey

Is there a place for this in the market and it made me learn to talk to people about this, which was which was really important. It made me learn how to make this accessible to people, not get bogged down in the science, which is an academic. Of course, that’s what you want to do. This is this is your baby.

00:10:25 Dr Jenny Bailey

This is what you spend all your time.

00:10:27 Dr Jenny Bailey

Doing exactly you want to talk to people about the intricate details of your science. But when you’ve got 30 seconds to convince somebody to have a further conversation with you, you need to make it sound exciting quickly. And that was really nerve wracking.

00:10:43 Dr Jenny Bailey

But it was fabulous training because my goodness, were we thrown.

00:10:45 Dr Jenny Bailey

In the deep end with that.

00:10:48 Dr Jenny Bailey

So it was. It was brilliant, but it gave us that opportunity to again go out there and talk to people I would never have done that alone. Yeah, I would never have thought we we contacted people like crayons and colitis UK and the reception that we got there was fantastic. It was well, why don’t you come along and and give a talk at one of our medical education.

00:11:04 Dr Jenny Bailey

Events and talk and talk to patients and find out what they want. And we got some incredible data from that. It was absolutely amazing. Those conversations were so valuable and that’s really helped to drive the product development all the way through then. And that was the main.

00:11:21 Dr Jenny Bailey

Where we sort of decided that, yes, we need to do something about this at the end of the programme, you do something called the options roundabout, where you pitch your proposition to a panel of experts and they will then tell you what the best route to market for your product is.

00:11:37 Prof Michele Barbour

And these are commercial and investment experts. These aren’t medical.

00:11:41 Prof Michele Barbour

No immunology, so I get another audience to express what you’re trying to do and why to. So how did that go? I I remember it being quite a nerve racking experience?

00:11:53 Dr Jenny Bailey

It was, it was nerve wracking. It was very nerve wracking and.

00:11:58 Dr Jenny Bailey

We’d sort of been talking about what do we want to get out of this process. And I think, you know, there was three main outcomes of the of the options roundabout. You would either be told you need to do more research. This product isn’t ready to go yet. You’ll be told potentially this is a licensing opportunity or you’ll be told this is a.

00:12:16 Dr Jenny Bailey

Spin out company. We were thinking more of the spin out route, but we came out of the options round about the advice was this is a licensing opportunity.

00:12:26 Dr Jenny Bailey

So we went back to the team at Red and we discussed that.

00:12:30 Dr Jenny Bailey

And our technology transfer Officer was very vocal about the fact she doesn’t always agree.

00:12:35 Dr Jenny Bailey

With the options, roundabout decisions, and you know, If it was so easy to license this product, we’d have done it by now.

00:12:41 Dr Jenny Bailey

But we’d been talking to to companies about potential licensing of this technology and everybody wanted to see more data.

00:12:51 Dr Jenny Bailey

And the best vehicle to to generate that data we thought was was via spin out. So that’s the route that we took and we started I cure in January 2019 and by September 2019 we’d set up.

00:13:04 Prof Michele Barbour

The campaign losing and you’ve you used the word we. So if we so far have picked up you Tristan, you’re sort of academic.

00:13:11 Prof Michele Barbour

Partner. Yeah. And your technology transfer officer.

00:13:14 Prof Michele Barbour

Was there a point at which you realized that you required skills sort of beyond that set? Did you have to bring anyone else into that?

00:13:22 Dr Jenny Bailey

Yeah. We’re at the very centre of the.

00:13:23 Dr Jenny Bailey

Company. Absolutely. So as part of the IQ program, we were assigned a A business mentor and our business mentor was a guy called John Fox. John’s got 30 years experience in the Pharmaceutical industry.

00:13:36 Dr Jenny Bailey

These direct at all levels of drug discovery, from bench to bedside. He’s run clinical trials and he’s just a really good guy.

00:13:44 Dr Jenny Bailey

So he was our mentor throughout the IQ process and we realised just and I realized quite early on, we want to keep John

00:13:51 Dr Jenny Bailey

On board and John’s now chair of our board. But he’s far more than that. He’s involved, you know, we I probably touch base with John at least every other week and he’s always been really great for.

00:14:04 Dr Jenny Bailey

For advice and for just bouncing ideas off, he’s absolutely fantastic.

00:14:09 Prof Michele Barbour

A good chair is a precious, precious thing. Did you go straight in as CEO or did you start with a different role and work towards C?

00:14:11 Dr Jenny Bailey


00:14:16 Dr Jenny Bailey

So when we originally talked Tristan and I, when we originally talked about setting up the company, I thought I feel comfortable in the role of Chief Scientific Officer.

00:14:29 Dr Jenny Bailey

I was clinging on to my academic roots at that point and I thought, you know, part time because I was doing a bit of lecturing at the university. I was really enjoying that. I felt like my academic career was was going somewhere. And that’s sort of the path that I thought I would go down. And then this opportunity arose and I thought Chief Scientific Officer, that’s very similar. I could do that.

00:14:49 Dr Jenny Bailey

That time I can carry on with the lecturing.

00:14:51 Dr Jenny Bailey

That’s how it will be.

00:14:54 Dr Jenny Bailey

And John very kindly put together a business plan for us before we set up the company and again it came into my e-mail inbox and I was reading through it and it said CEO Jenny Bailey and I thought, oh, hang on a minute. That’s not exactly. I’ve got no idea what that entails. You know, I I that’s.

00:15:08 Prof Michele Barbour

Tell him. Sign up for that.

00:15:15 Dr Jenny Bailey


00:15:16 Dr Jenny Bailey

There was nobody else to do it, so I fell into the role and that’s where I still am now and fortunately we’ve had some great support. That’s.

00:15:28 Dr Jenny Bailey

Enabled me to to grow into that role and I still got a huge amount of learning to do. It’s, you know, it’s.

00:15:33 Dr Jenny Bailey

A constant learning process but.

00:15:36 Dr Jenny Bailey

Yeah. So it’s been a it it was.

00:15:38 Dr Jenny Bailey

A bit of a shock but.

00:15:40 Prof Michele Barbour

Yeah, I mean it, that’s sort of four more than four years ago now and I want to explore what you’ve achieved in that four years. Yeah. But quite clearly you are thriving in that role. And I, I, I have a real issue when when people, I’ve had investors tell me that scientists don’t make it CEO’s and I’ve seen so much evidence to the contrary.

00:15:58 Prof Michele Barbour

All their skills from your academic career that proves to be useful in the CEO role. Are there things that you realised were transferable from that more academically?

00:16:09 Dr Jenny Bailey


00:16:10 Dr Jenny Bailey

Absolutely. I mean, I think one of the key things for me is you know I was, I was lecturing at the University of Bristol and being a CEO, the biggest one of the biggest parts of that is being.

00:16:20 Dr Jenny Bailey

Able to talk to people.

00:16:21 Dr Jenny Bailey

And being able to present your your data so.

00:16:25 Dr Jenny Bailey

I slotted quite well into the role of pitching. I felt quite comfortable with that immediately because I was used to standing up and talking in front of people, so that’s an immediate similarity there. That was, that was really quite helpful.

00:16:40 Dr Jenny Bailey

In academia, you’re doing project management. You’re managing budgets with, with grants and things like that. It’s not that much different again, in a in a start up, you know we’re not talking about huge budgets here, it’s it’s.

00:16:52 Dr Jenny Bailey

It’s not hugely different to running running a grant. Yeah. You’re managing people. You’re you’re assimilating data.

00:17:00 Dr Jenny Bailey

There are a huge amount of of similarities. Yeah, absolutely. And.

00:17:05 Prof Michele Barbour

Then you touched on investment that so you’ve done the IQ program.

00:17:09 Prof Michele Barbour

Funding from an 8 OK at the end of that or that? No. OK.

00:17:11 Dr Jenny Bailey

No, we didn’t, no.

00:17:13 Prof Michele Barbour

So how did you go about financing the company? How did you set that up?

00:17:19 Dr Jenny Bailey

Well, we when we originally set up the company, September 2019, we had a heads of terms agreement for a licensing deal that would have brought revenue into folks that would bootstrapped the company to allow us to get going. So we said at the company.

00:17:39 Dr Jenny Bailey

In November 2019, that fell through.

00:17:42 Dr Jenny Bailey

Through no fault of our own, just it was just one of those things. It just it was the only one.

00:17:44 Prof Michele Barbour

It it happens, but when it’s the only one, it’s devastating.

00:17:50 Dr Jenny Bailey

And at that point, we weren’t quite sure what to do so at that point we.

00:17:54 Dr Jenny Bailey

Thought. OK, let’s try and get some investment. So having not prepared for anything at all, we had this, you know, immediately call on the support services in our in our local networks. We went back to the university

00:18:05 Dr Jenny Bailey

We were, and we still do, rent office space at at future space. We went to them and they helped us as well. And it was all then about pitch training. It was how to put together a pitch deck and making the introductions to investors. So very quickly we were able to pull something together.

00:18:24 Dr Jenny Bailey

We were starting to get some interest, some traction in that and we had pitches lined up.

00:18:30 Dr Jenny Bailey

Which unfortunately were then cancelled because we went into lockdown. Ohh.

00:18:36 Dr Jenny Bailey

So we had to change tactic again.

00:18:38 Prof Michele Barbour

Everything was thrown at me, wasn’t it? Ohh.

00:18:41 Dr Jenny Bailey

Yeah, but.

00:18:43 Dr Jenny Bailey

When the world went into lockdown.

00:18:45 Dr Jenny Bailey

Katie Ann started doing a series of webinars and through the IQ programme I’d met someone at KTN who got in contact and said would you like to give a webinar? That’s absolutely brilliant. Yeah, that would be fantastic. So I talked all about what we’re what we’re doing and the human applications of what we’re doing. But having historically been based at the vet school while we’ve been developing this product and having conversations with our veterinary cola.

00:19:10 Dr Jenny Bailey

There’s been a great deal of interest there as well, and we’d run a couple of trials of this product. So we’d run a trial of it in dairy carves on the farm at Bristol University. We’ve got some really positive data out of that. We’ve got ideas to use it in chickens as well. And so I threw in one slide about the veterinary applications of this and on the back of that, we were contacted.

00:19:30 Dr Jenny Bailey

By AB Agri, a global animal healthcare company who were really interested in using FX856, our lead product to improve productivity in chickens.

00:19:42 Dr Jenny Bailey

That webinar got us a deal worth £150,000.

00:19:47 Dr Jenny Bailey

And that kept us going until then. The world has sorted itself out a bit, and we were able to get investment.

00:19:54 Prof Michele Barbour

I love that story, though, because it illustrates something that I often like to talk to, whether it’s to students, to call it anything is.

00:20:00 Prof Michele Barbour

Sometimes take an opportunity because it’s interesting because it’s a way to showcase what you do. You don’t know what it’s going to lead to. You didn’t do that to get a deal. You didn’t do that to get investments. You did it. I’m guessing it was an interesting thing to do and you wanted to get the story of your, your innovation out there and yet see where it led you exactly, yeah.

00:20:08 Dr Jenny Bailey

No, no, no.

00:20:18 Dr Jenny Bailey

And yeah, all that came from just that one.

00:20:21 Dr Jenny Bailey

Webinar when everybody was sitting at home.



00:20:23 Prof Michele Barbour

Wonderful one. Yeah. Wanting to look at interesting things. Brilliant. So let’s talk about where that led you. You mentioned that you base your company at future space. So do you wanna say a little bit of work a bit about, I suppose what that is for people who aren’t familiar with future?

00:20:35 Prof Michele Barbour

Space, but also what what benefit you derive from it? Absolutely. I mean, you know, we we rent office.

00:20:40 Dr Jenny Bailey

Space there. There’s lab space available as well.

00:20:43 Dr Jenny Bailey

But we just use the the office space, but I think the real thing that I like about future space is the community that you’ve got there.

00:20:52 Dr Jenny Bailey

They do an awful lot of work to bring the community together, and yeah, once a week the founders will sit down for a for a a founders for and where you can talk about what’s gone well, what’s not gone so well. And there’s this feeling of solidarity. Everybody’s in the same boat and it’s that sharing, sharing success but sharing.

00:21:11 Dr Jenny Bailey

Failures as well and just being able to support each other, provide advice and and it’s great and I think that’s a really important piece of the the community up there.

00:21:25 Dr Jenny Bailey

You also get the support services as well, so they have companies that will provide pro bono support and things like accountancy, legal marketing on an array of different support services where you know you don’t have as a new starter company, you don’t have the budget to be able to to bring somebody in to do these things in house, you’ve got a a quick question that you.

00:21:45 Dr Jenny Bailey

Want to ask a lawyer?

00:21:47 Dr Jenny Bailey

You don’t want to have to.

00:21:49 Dr Jenny Bailey

Bringing somebody in to to do that, but through these sort of support services, you can access, you know, half an hour free phone call to just ask those questions.

00:21:58 Prof Michele Barbour

I think that’s enormously valuable, isn’t it? You don’t. You can’t afford that resource, but often you only need it for 10 minutes.

00:22:02 Prof Michele Barbour

At a time.

00:22:03 Prof Michele Barbour

And you can’t contract someone for 10 minutes. And I absolutely agree with what you say about that. That community of founders, because it’s quite lonely. It can be lonely, as a founder, isn’t it? And.

00:22:12 Prof Michele Barbour

And while the stories we tell are often about the successes, the successes can mask 10 tenfold more failures, little micro failures, sometimes big, spectacular failures, and it’s really important to have someone to share those experiences with and learn from one another.

00:22:26 Dr Jenny Bailey

Yeah, absolutely. And I think that’s something that in Bristol Works, works really well through you know future space through set square, there are these ecosystems of founders who are all willing to talk and and share ideas. I am a big.

00:22:42 Dr Jenny Bailey

Big believer in the sisterhood, in women supporting women, and in Bristol again, we’ve got that, that thriving ecosystem of female founders we all champion each other. We all support each other. We all console each other and I think that’s that’s hugely valuable. And I’m so proud to be a part of that.

00:23:01 Prof Michele Barbour

And a growing body of female investors, which actually, if you look at the figures, women are more on more under represented an investment that even in founder community, I can see I’m seeing a real sea change in that at the moment. I think that’s a fantastic thing.

00:23:09 Dr Jenny Bailey


00:23:14 Prof Michele Barbour

So you’ve you’ve weathered the storm of I, you’re telling you it was a licensing opportunity and you said no getting a deal on the table that fell through getting a pitched it ready lockdown hit in you you whether last or?


Wondering now.

00:23:30 Dr Jenny Bailey

Why we did this?

00:23:33 Prof Michele Barbour

And one of the things that.

00:23:36 Prof Michele Barbour

I don’t cause a cliche because sometimes it is true, but one of the cliches of being a founder, particularly a CEO founder, yeah, is that this is all consuming that the rest of life has to take a back seat and some people do operate in that way. But I like to feel there are other ways to do this. So how do you manage?

00:23:56 Prof Michele Barbour

Your your work life balance your you know your work, work balance when you started because you would do this. But how do you?

00:24:02 Dr Jenny Bailey

Manage it. How do you find that? I found actually being CEO of a spin out company to be hugely benefit beneficial to my work life balance. We set up the company in September 2019 by March 2020.

00:24:16 Dr Jenny Bailey

We were in lockdown and my five year old son had been sent home from from school with the joys of home schooling and unfortunately the same time my my marriage broke down so.

00:24:29 Dr Jenny Bailey

Six months into the company, I was a single parent living through a lockdown.

00:24:34 Prof Michele Barbour

With the five year olds and no school and yeah.

00:24:34 Dr Jenny Bailey

With a 5 year old.

00:24:36 Dr Jenny Bailey

No school.

00:24:38 Dr Jenny Bailey

So it was fun times, but I think one really, really positive thing that’s come out of that pandemic is that flexible working works.

00:24:52 Dr Jenny Bailey

And I think being part of of a spin out with a really supportive team as well.

00:24:58 Dr Jenny Bailey

Has allowed me that flexibility to be a mum as well as to be a founder.

00:25:05 Dr Jenny Bailey

Both hugely important roles in my life. You know, my son’s now now 8 and obviously schooling is all back to normal, but it gives me that flexibility that you know, if he doesn’t have an after school club that he wants to go to, I can pick him up at 3:15. He’s of course now have an age where he’s too cool to hang out with, with, with me when we get home.

00:25:26 Dr Jenny Bailey

In school anyway, he wants to be doing things with his friends, which means that I can get on and work. Then when he goes to bed in the evening, I can do a bit more.

00:25:34 Dr Jenny Bailey

Then it’s totally flexible. Yeah, I’m going to be sports day in a couple of weeks, and I don’t even have to to worry about how I’m going. No, exactly. I’ve got that flexibility. And because I love what I do, and I’m doing this for me and for the impact, I can see this is.

00:25:40 Prof Michele Barbour

Like the time off, yeah.

00:25:54 Dr Jenny Bailey


00:25:56 Dr Jenny Bailey

It doesn’t feel like a chore if it’s, you know, a Saturday morning and he’s away and I have to sit down and work. I’m I’m quite happy to do that. It just feels easy to to slot everything in.

00:26:07 Prof Michele Barbour

I think that’s something we don’t talk about as much as we should. There are founders that give it 24/7, although I’d like to feel that they would still say what you did, that this is not a job for them.

00:26:16 Prof Michele Barbour

At all for them because they enjoy it. Yeah, but actually I absolutely agree and have very similar experiences in terms of that ability to choose how you spend your time, yeah. And therefore, prioritize what matters to you, whether that’s work.

00:26:27 Prof Michele Barbour

Or home life, or something else altogether.

00:26:29 Dr Jenny Bailey

I think for well-being that’s that’s huge, not just for my well-being, but for my sons as well. You know, he’s not stuck in enough a school club that he’s miserable and when he could be at home doing something that he enjoys and still work from home, a lot of the time as well, which again, it just gives you that.

00:26:47 Dr Jenny Bailey

That flexibility to be able to work when works for.

00:26:51 Dr Jenny Bailey

You yeah.

00:26:53 Prof Michele Barbour

Wonderful. Thank you. But tell us where you are now. So you’ve launched your first product now this is actually out there in the marketplace. So how is that going and?

00:27:02 Prof Michele Barbour

Having done that, like are you done or are there more?

00:27:05 Prof Michele Barbour

Things you want to do.

00:27:06 Dr Jenny Bailey

Yeah, absolutely. So we had our first investment at the beginning of 2022 and that enabled us to really focus on on product development. So one of the great things about our product is that whilst eventually we want to take it through clinical trials and have it as a pharmaceutical product.

00:27:24 Dr Jenny Bailey

To, you know, be available on prescription for people with we’ve got inflammation because of its safety profile. We have immediate access to the food supplement market.

00:27:34 Dr Jenny Bailey

So we chose to go down that route for a couple of reasons. Firstly, we can use it to generate data which can help us enter plan our clinical studies. It can inform the design of our clinical trial and it can deed risk. The proposition for further investment as well. We’ve already got some data that shows that we get efficacy of this product.

00:27:53 Dr Jenny Bailey

Then that can really be beneficial for us, for us moving forwards. Also it’s another revenue stream.

00:28:00 Dr Jenny Bailey

Having a product on the market having sales coming in then it reduces the amount of investment that we need further down the line. So we launched our first product for our COM at the end of of 2022. So we spent last year doing all the branding around it, working out the manufacturing process and getting that to be a finished.

00:28:20 Dr Jenny Bailey

Beautiful product, I will say we had it, we we we hired a designer who’s done an amazing job. We get so many compliments on the on the packaging and I’m so proud of this of this product.

00:28:31 Dr Jenny Bailey

We launched it at the back end of last year.

00:28:33 Dr Jenny Bailey

We are currently selling that via our website, but say we’re not just doing that to generate revenue. We want data as well. So when we launched, we conducted a trial in 25 individuals with gut symptoms run by a contract research organization. So this is independent data and we were asking people to take the product for eight weeks.

00:28:55 Dr Jenny Bailey

At the start and end of that, they were asked to give a stool sample for microbiome analysis, and they underwent a physical examination by a GP, and then every two weeks they were interviewed by a nurse to to track their symptoms and their quality of life.

00:29:11 Dr Jenny Bailey

We’re starting to get the data through from that now. It’s amazing. I can’t tell you what it is at the moment, but it’s absolutely amazing and I’m I’m really, really excited. We’re also running our own trial as well, whereby anybody who buys a product from their website if they buy two months supply, then again they’re being sent the same surveys, they’re self reporting their symptoms.

00:29:31 Dr Jenny Bailey

Every two weeks and again, we’re getting some amazing data back from that. We asked people to try the.

00:29:36 Dr Jenny Bailey

Product for eight weeks.

00:29:39 Dr Jenny Bailey

We didn’t expect that within the first two weeks of taking the product, 68% of people say they feel better.

00:29:45 Prof Michele Barbour

That’s extraordinary. And what sorts of symptoms are they reporting? Have alleviated what? When they say better, is there any substance or no substance? Is there any more detail you can give on that?

00:29:46 Dr Jenny Bailey

It’s incredible.

00:29:56 Dr Jenny Bailey

Yeah, absolutely. I mean, so we’ve been asking people generally, do you feel better? But then we’ve been asking them to, to to quantify their symptoms. So on a scale of not to 10, how severe is their bloating, loose stool, Constipation, abdominal pain.

00:30:10 Dr Jenny Bailey

Mean cramping. So we’re looking at these sort of common features that are part of things like irritable bowel syndrome. So a lot of our customers will suffer from IBS X 15% of the global population, if you don’t have it yourself, you’ll know somebody who does. It’s somebody, it’s something that affects so many people.

00:30:27 Dr Jenny Bailey

And we are seeing real improvements in these parameters. People are giving us testimonials. They’re giving us reviews on Trustpilot, which is amazing, saying about how this has made them feel so much better. I had one through last week from somebody who said that they’re now able to eat the food that they want to eat.

00:30:47 Dr Jenny Bailey

Previously, their diet being quote restricted, but through taking this product now they can eat what they want to eat which is incredible.

00:30:54 Prof Michele Barbour

Well, seeing those testimonies, the data is the scientist and you must be enormously satisfying the testimonials for for the human being must be very warming. What would? What would Jenny of, let’s say 2009? Yeah. Have thought if you could have sort of, you know, sent those testimonials back in time and said do this. This is what you’re going to see.

00:30:58 Dr Jenny Bailey

Absolutely, yeah.

00:31:15 Prof Michele Barbour

Like, how would that have been would?

00:31:17 Dr Jenny Bailey

I would never have believed it. It’s like I still don’t. You know the emails come straight through to my e-mail inbox and I and I don’t mind admitting that the first one that came through when we got the 1st results back from the first person who said this has really made a difference in my life. I cried. Yeah, because I just. I couldn’t believe that. You know something that we started as.

00:31:34 Dr Jenny Bailey

This side hustle. Just curious.

00:31:36 Prof Michele Barbour


00:31:37 Dr Jenny Bailey

Yeah, it actually benefited someone and that’s a really special moment. It’s when you see that impact.

00:31:45 Dr Jenny Bailey

That is such a special moment.

00:31:47 Prof Michele Barbour

That’s that’s so wonderful. It must be so satisfying to see this. This science really affecting individual peoples lives. So IBS, a huge a huge problem that blights so many people’s lives, so enormous benefits to be found there, are there particular conditions that you see?

00:32:06 Prof Michele Barbour

That you would prioritize for the pharmaceutical use of this down the road. So you mentioned colitis, for instance. Yeah. Is that somewhere you see as having a particular application? Are there other?

00:32:15 Dr Jenny Bailey

Conditions. Absolutely. So we’re looking primarily at inflammatory bowel disease and our first trial will be in patients with ulcerative colitis.

00:32:24 Dr Jenny Bailey

Us so when we look at the current treatments that are available for these patients, they often come with really negative side effects. We’ve spoken to patients, we’ve spoken to clinicians and they both agree that well, we have these treatments, they are sub optimal. There are improvements to be made. I mean one of the best tolerated drugs for inflammatory bowel disease is something called mesalazine.

00:32:44 Dr Jenny Bailey

And this is thought to not have too many side effects. It’s it’s OK and it’s sort of the first line treatment for mild to moderate disease. 60% of people who prescribe this medication don’t take it as they’re supposed to.

00:32:59 Dr Jenny Bailey

And that’s primarily because of the side effects.

00:33:02 Prof Michele Barbour

Yeah. So that’s hugely underperforming then for those people are taking it less than they.

00:33:06 Dr Jenny Bailey

Should or not at all. Yeah. And that increases their risk when the disease escalating and the step up in terms of side effects, when you compare mesalazine to the next line up, the next line up, things like steroids, immunosuppressants and the biologics.

00:33:20 Dr Jenny Bailey

They come with really significant side effects and when we talk to patients, they say I’ll do anything to avoid taking the steroids. I don’t want to take those they.

00:33:27 Prof Michele Barbour

Make me feel lousy, whereas your techno.

00:33:29 Prof Michele Barbour

Of you being a probiotic, am I right in saying a different probiotic from the ones you buy in the supermarket but a probiotic? Nonetheless, it’s it’s familiar. I guess it’s a concept that people have come across before. You’re not selling the whole concept of.

00:33:44 Prof Michele Barbour

Use these bacteria the way that 15 years ago must been quite hard to sell, I think.

00:33:47 Dr Jenny Bailey

Actually, yeah. The vast majority of people with IBD that we spoke to said they tried probiotics and they will try a a variety of different things trying to find something that can alleviate their symptoms rather than having to take the drugs.

00:34:04 Dr Jenny Bailey

These are chronic, debilitating conditions.

00:34:08 Dr Jenny Bailey

Which at the moment say we have we have treatment options for, but they come at a cost.

00:34:13 Prof Michele Barbour

So if we were to look forwards 5 years, I suppose, where would you like to see your company? Where would you like to see your products? What would you what’s your wish list?

00:34:26 Dr Jenny Bailey

So at the end of five years, we will have completed our clinical trial.

00:34:30 Dr Jenny Bailey

Just so we’ll still be looking at the at the data from that, but if we can demonstrate efficacy in a clinical trial in our first clinical trial that will be sort of a phase 1B2A, then we’ll be looking to take that further and that will be by partnering with a pharmaceutical company. We’ll need some of the big guys on board to be able to take it to the next stages. So that’s where we’re looking to get to.

00:34:51 Dr Jenny Bailey

With that, with the FERRAKOHN, the food supplement side of things, we’ve got plans for a range of different products around that sort of terracom brand. So to expand our product portfolio there, we’d hope to have a number of those on the market by that time and that would be a profitable side of the company.

00:35:08 Dr Jenny Bailey

We’ve also still got our eye on the Veterinary market as well.

00:35:11 Prof Michele Barbour


00:35:11 Dr Jenny Bailey

But we see more that more as a licensing opportunity. It’s not the core focus of the business, but we’ve got these things. They work. Why not? Let’s see if we can license them out to to a company who can, who can develop them as well, so.

00:35:24 Prof Michele Barbour

So I love this so often. Really early in an enterprise turning like this, you have to decide is it license, is it spin out and if it’s a product is it is it veterinary, is it medical, is it pharmaceutical, is it off the shelf? Yeah, you’ve done all of those.

00:35:35 Prof Michele Barbour

Things all of the things, yeah.

00:35:39 Prof Michele Barbour

So if you were looking back to Jenny interest at the top of the stairs in 2009, yeah, what would you say if you if you parachuted into that conversation? Yeah. What? What advice would you give?

00:35:51 Dr Jenny Bailey

Just do it. Don’t hold back. Just just do it. I think you know, back in those days it was well, this is interesting. Let’s just see what we can do with it, you know, but uh, but I’ve got a lecture and I’ve got students and I’ve got this other project going on and.

00:36:06 Dr Jenny Bailey

Don’t let it lapse. Go with it. Keep focused, keep going. And don’t be afraid.

00:36:14 Prof Michele Barbour

Is there anything you would do differently if you were to do this again?

00:36:20 Dr Jenny Bailey

I think it would have been very difficult to do any sort of the science and if we could have accelerated that through more funding then that would have that would have been great. But I think personally for me myself, it was let go of the fear.

00:36:33 Dr Jenny Bailey

Just give it a go and see and see what happens. Don’t be afraid, just just try it. I think I was quite blinkered in my view of when my career was going.

00:36:40 Dr Jenny Bailey

And, you know, four years ago, it took a complete different direction. And I love it. It’s the best thing that I I could have done. I’m thoroughly enjoy what I do. I find it incredibly fulfilling. I’m learning new things all the time and and it’s and it’s great. So yeah, just.

00:36:56 Dr Jenny Bailey

Go for it.

00:36:57 Prof Michele Barbour

That’s all for this enterprise session, but join us again soon to hear more about the way our amazing staff and students are translating their enterprising ideas into real world impact. And do please click on the links if you’d like to contact the University of Bristol.



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