Tate & Lyle Ventures backs Cambridge University spin-out Lumora Ltd
11 January 2007
Tate & Lyle Ventures today announced its first investment. The Fund has invested in food safety diagnostics company Lumora Ltd, a spin-out from Cambridge University, UK. Lumora has developed a revolutionary DNA-based test that will identify and measure specific food borne pathogens within a matter of hours. The Lumora test is extremely rapid, highly sensitive and, importantly for the food sector, cost effective and easy to use. The investment by Tate & Lyle Ventures will enable Lumora to produce its next generation prototypes and install them within a range of food sector companies.
The new technology is derived from years of work on healthcare diagnostics and uses a novel version of the luciferase gene that enables fireflies to glow in the dark. The presence of minute quantities of bacteria or viruses will cause samples, quite literally, to glow under highly sensitive cameras. Not only can the system identify the specific type of pathogen contaminating a food sample, it is extremely sensitive and can measure the precise amount of contamination. The new technology is also cost-effective compared with other DNA-based techniques, and much faster than more traditional culture-based systems – bringing detection times down from three to five days to a few hours. Lumora’s system will enable food companies to bring real-time testing in-house rather than sending samples out to specialist external laboratories.
While the detection platform will primarily focus on bringing cost-savings and efficiencies to pathogen detection, there are multiple applications for the technology within the food sector such as the detection of minute quantities of GM ingredients in products, or in combating growing levels of food fraud by assessing the provenance of natural food ingredients. Outside of the food sector, Lumora’s DNA-based detection platform has wide applications in human healthcare diagnostics, animal welfare, and even counter-terrorism, where Lumora’s cost-effective approach would be equally attractive.
Lumora was established by two leading academics in the field of biotechnology, Dr. Laurence Tisi and Professor Jim Murray from Cambridge University’s Institute of Biotechnology. Prior to the investment decision, Tate & Lyle Ventures leveraged the expertise of Tate & Lyle’s in-house Quality Assurance team and a range of external food industry experts to help evaluate the commercial potential of the business. The Managing Partners of Tate & Lyle Ventures, Simon Barnes and David Atkinson will join Lumora’s Board, with the company aiming to have its prototype food testing platform installed with key customers within 12 months.
Simon Barnes of Tate & Lyle Ventures said ”We are delighted to be backing a company based on such strong science and technology, and robust intellectual property, which has the potential to transform not just food safety but also impact a range of other business sectors. Laurence Tisi and Jim Murray have established a business with great potential and we believe the Tate & Lyle link can add real value to this business.”
David Atkinson, also of Tate & Lyle Ventures said, “Given the cost-pressures faced by food manufactures today, together with recent food scares and the reputational and financial costs of a product recall, this new technology is extremely relevant. By bringing cost and time efficiencies to food manufacturing, Lumora is an excellent fit with the focus of the fund.” The fund strategy reflects Tate & Lyle’s drive for growth through innovations in bio-materials, next-generation food ingredients, industrial ingredients and bio-fuels.
Laurence Tisi of Lumora said, “In addition to providing finance to accelerate Lumora’s product development, Tate & Lyle Ventures brings valuable expertise in the food sector. The combination of Lumora’s unique technology with the backing of Tate & Lyle Ventures ideally positions Lumora to make a major impact on the food sector, benefiting consumers and food producers alike.” ENDS
Notes to editors
Tate & Lyle has committed $45 million to the fund, which was formally launched on the 24 July 2006. The fund is highly targeted and is looking to back 8 – 10 deals over several rounds of financing. The original launch press release is available at http://220.127.116.11/PressReleases/PressRelease1533.asp
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Simon Barnes, (+44) 020 7977 6363
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