Stirling Ultracold

Stirling Ultracold in The Plains. Photo by Ben Peters.

Stirling Ultracold, a privately-held developer and manufacturer of ultra-low temperature (ULT) freezers, signed a definitive merger agreement on March 22 to be acquired by publicly-traded BioLife Solutions.

In the last year, Stirling Ultracold has been at the forefront of COVID-19 vaccination efforts by providing the only line of ULT freezer systems capable of storing any mRNA vaccine requiring -20°C to -86°C thermal protection, according to an Ohio University press release.

“This pandemic has galvanized pharmaceutical research. With critical medicines and therapies coming to market faster than ever before, and new advances in science testing the limits of treatment, ultracold storage must be ready to support the breadth of needs in the biopharmaceutical, government and academic research, clinical trials, biobanking, and cell, regenerative and gene therapy markets,” said Dusty Tenney, CEO of Stirling Ultracold, in a release.

The company possesses over 80 patents on various applications of the Stirling technology.

The size of the acquisition makes it the largest venture-backed exit in southeast Ohio and one of the larger exits in the state, indicated Lynn Gellermann, executive director of TechGROWTH Ohio and Ohio University’s Voinovich School of Leadership and Public Affairs’ associate dean of innovation partnerships.

“This merger is a testament to the partnership between Ohio University and Ohio Third Frontier, along with the Ohio Development Services Agency, to form TechGROWTH Ohio, and the role that higher education and the state can play in building tech-based economic development in rural communities,” he said in an OU release.

TechGROWTH Ohio, a program of Ohio University’s Voinovich School of Leadership and Public Affairs, was the original lead investor in Stirling Ultracold at its inception in 2010 and provided multiple rounds of follow-on funding during the company’s startup and growth stages.

TechGROWTH also provided services to the company, including business plan development, service on the board of directors, executive recruitment and investor network development.

“After nearly 12 years of sustained investment, services and talent from TechGROWTH Ohio and the Ohio Innovation Fund, Stirling Ultracold’s success story is an outstanding example of how Ohio University and our regional partners are assisting local companies and expanding regional economic opportunity,” Ohio University President M. Duane Nellis said in a press release.

An emerging manufacturer of ULT freezers based in Athens County, Stirling Ultracold employs more than 150 people located mostly in the region.

Following the early second quarter 2021 close of the transaction, BioLife intends to keep the Stirling Ultracold brand and staff members intact, the press release stated.

“This is a great example of the importance of supporting local and regional innovation and entrepreneurship, in order to make a global impact,” Voinovich School Dean Mark Weinberg said in the OU press release. “By leveraging investment made by the state of Ohio, along with Ohio University resources, Voinovich School programs have generated more than $3.6 billion in economic impact since 2015.”

More than 2,300 area start-ups and entrepreneurs, including Stirling Ultracold, have generated over $678 million in additional local economic activity with TechGROWTH Ohio’s support.

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