Equine flu cost the horse racing industry millions* in February 2019 when the infection caused a six-day shutdown of racing across the UK. Iceni Diagnostics has developed a simple swab test that would reduce the risk of this happening again. The company is currently in the middle of a significant investment round and is looking for institutional, Angel and Enterprise Investment Scheme (EIS) investors to help take its flu diagnostic products, which uses patented ‘sugar technology’, to market.

The co-founders of Iceni Diagnostics, Professors Rob Field and David Russell, are world-leaders in glycoscience, the name for sugar- or carbohydrate-based chemistry. 90% of infections use carbohydrate recognition to bind with targets in human or animal bodies. As the mechanism is specific to each particular strain of pathogen, it can be used to identify the strain of bacteria or virus.

Although the technology is cutting-edge, the diagnostic has a clear market value, explains Richard Barber, an angel investor and recently appointed as Non-Executive Director to Iceni Diagnostics’ Board of Directors.

He says: “The horse racing industry is worth an estimated £3.5Bn to the UK economy per annum and was brought to a standstill last year by equine flu. It is not currently possible to screen animals quickly to determine the type of infection, and it’s therefore difficult to contain and manage the disease.

“Iceni Diagnostics has developed a simple dipstick test – like a pregnancy test – that can detect equine flu from a nasal swab in 20 minutes. Unlike existing tests, which use protein or DNA detection and so require lab analysis, this test breaks the sugar code that viruses use to identify their host. This means you can tell in the yard if the horse has got the disease or not.”

The company is EIS registered, a tax relief scheme created by the UK Government to encourage investment into start-ups and early-stage businesses, which offers the potential for significant income tax and capital gains reliefs for high net worth individuals.

Barber explains that Iceni Diagnostics has a strong revenue stream: “Financially, Iceni Diagnostics is in a good position. Its consultancy and contract work earns money, and it has successfully secured grants for fundamental research that can be used to develop the business. This means the company is at least breaking-even through a period in which a lot of companies would need funding to bridge three or four years of losses.”

Barber has a strong track record in scaling knowledge-based businesses. He transformed Clifford Thames from a small data processing and traditional printing house, turning over £300,000 a year, into a £50M global business. In 2017, he became the chair at Cognitran, which provides end-to-end e-business solutions, where he increased margins by eight times in just two and half years, before selling it on last summer. He invested funds from this recent sale into Iceni Diagnostics.

Commenting on the potential for Iceni Diagnostics, Barber concludes: “We’ve set out a three to four year roadmap for the company to become a £10M EBITA business. At that point, this will open up all kinds of opportunities for the business. But right now, we have the right product in the right place, and we just need the right seed investment to turn the potential of Iceni Diagnostics’ technology into a reality.”

For more information about Iceni Diagnostics and its current fundraising round, please contact us.