DNA analysis that can help obese people and diabetes sufferers choose the right food to eat is the innovation that underpins the success of Imperial College London spinout DnaNudge, winner of the Global University Venturing Technology of the Year Award in 2021.

The firm’s DNA testing products can also aid those suffering from hypertension and high cholesterol, while its rapid covid-19 test kits – branded as CovidNudge – saw DnaNudge awarded a £161m ($220m) UK health service contract in August 2020.

This success resulted in a $60m series A funding round in August this year. The raise was led by investment firm Ventura Capital with involvement from private banking group Julius Baer, and DnaNudge now plans to use the capital to market CovidNudge and its other testing innovations internationally.

At the time of the round, Regius Prof Chris Toumazou, co-founder and CEO of DnaNudge, said: “The game-changing nature of our innovation has created an extraordinary commercial opportunity within next-generation medical diagnostics, and the global investor community is very excited by the transformative potential of a rapid, gold-standard RT-PCR testing platform that can screen for multiple viruses simultaneously.”

He added: “We are delighted to have completed this successful fundraise which will allow us to dramatically speed our plans for worldwide availability, particularly in the US, Japan, Europe and other key territories where interest is extremely high.”

CovidNudge has been used by prominent private-sector organisations in the UK to check for coronavirus infections among their staff – most notably in the performing arts sector. High-profile clients have included the Royal Opera House and London Symphony Orchestra, as well as Glyndebourne opera house.

DnaNudge’s core product, the DnaNudge Nutrition service, analyses customers’ DNA along with certain lifestyle factors to encourage healthier or more appropriate food choices when shopping. The company plans to extend this technology to cover purchases of skincare products.

In the summer, DnaNudge won the Royal Academy of Engineering’s prestigious MacRobert Award for engineering innovation, in recognition of its foundation testing platform. This platform is capable of testing simultaneously for all known Sars-CoV-2 variants, influenza A, influenza B and respiratory syncytial virus, as well as markers that can indicate genetic risk for a range of health conditions. This can all be done using the same test cartridge, from sample direct to result.

On receiving the award, Prof Toumazou said: “We are absolutely delighted to be named the winner of the 2021 MacRobert Award, joining the ranks of some of the UK’s most innovative and world-changing engineers. The past year has been challenging for all, but the determination and commitment of the entire DnaNudge team to get behind our health service and deliver a truly life-saving solution has been incredible.

“We look forward to expanding the capabilities of our transformative genetic testing platform to address other major global health challenges, including in the area of oncology and sexually transmitted diseases. This is just the beginning of our technology’s capabilities.”

Other nominees in this category were:

  • Nuvectis, Institute of Cancer Research
  • Stablix Therapeutics, Columbia University
  • Atalanta Therapeutics, University of Massachusetts
  • Ensoma, University of Washington and Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center