UK Government Future Fund invests £360,000 in Nandi Proteins as part of £720,000 fund raising

16 September 2020 Nandi Proteins Limited (“Nandi” or the “Company”) today announces that it has successfully raised £720,000 via a convertible loan including £360,000 investment from the UK Government’s Future Fund, established to support innovative businesses through the COVID-19 outbreak.

The Future Fund’s investment has been matched by Frontier IP Group, a specialist in commercialising intellectual property, and Shackleton Finance Limited, a technology-focused venture capital manager. They have invested £320,000 and £40,000 respectively.

The convertible loan will enable Nandi Proteins to meet technical and commercial milestones for its novel process control technology. This is now at an advanced stage of commercialisation through collaborative partnerships with a number of major organisations.

Nandi’s technology has a wide range of potential applications. It is based on the knowledge that the functional properties of proteins change as they denature when heat is applied in a very precise way over time. As a result, the technology is able to create new protein-based ingredients to replace chemical additives and fats in processed foods, such as meats, cakes and a host of other products.

Among other projects, Nandi is leading a consortium developing gluten replacements for use in bread. Other members of the consortium include global ingredients business AB Mauri, part of FTSE 100 group AB Foods, and a major UK agronomy firm Agrii, a subsidiary of agri-services group Origin Enterprises. The project is backed by a grant from Coeliac UK and Innovate UK.

The Company is a spin out from Heriot-Watt University, Edinburgh. More information on the principles underpinning Nandi’s technology is below.

Nandi Proteins chairman John Price said : “I have been very impressed with the progress at Nandi Proteins since becoming chairman late last year, reflected in the range and strength of the industry collaborations it has been able to forge. We are confident that the Company will see the significant momentum generated to date accelerate as the results of our industry collaborations start to come through.”

Nandi Proteins Acting Chief Executive Officer and Frontier IP Chief Commercialisation Officer Matthew White said: “Nandi Proteins is addressing many of the food industry’s major concerns including the dangers of obesity, a problem thrown into greater focus by the impact of COVID-19. We are very much looking forward to continuing our work with both existing and new industry partners as they seek to tackle these issues.”

Nandi: the technology

Nandi’s patented technology is based on the knowledge that the functional properties of proteins change when they unfold (denature). Controlled denaturation can be used to deliberately change and control the protein functionality as an ingredient. The Company is focused on two protein types:

  • globular proteins, where the molecules are folded into a spherical shape, found in vegetables and dairy; and 
  • spiral proteins, where long chains of molecules form spirals or helices. They are found in meat.

In both cases, chemical bonds along the length of, and between different portions of, the protein molecule keep the proteins in their shapes. 

Applying heat breaks the weak bonds allowing the proteins to unfold. The structure of the protein that was previously ‘inside’ the folded protein is now exposed. This allows it to interact with its surroundings — for example by binding onto water molecules —   enhancing functionality such as solubility and emulsifying ability.

The unfolded structure also allows for new chemical bonds to form between one protein to another. The result is that individual protein molecules can become joined together to create a network which will change functional properties such as thickening and gelation abilities.    

These denaturation processes are already widely used in food ingredient processing and cooking.  For example, an egg white consists of globular proteins suspended in water. When you fry the egg, the proteins unfold and create a mesh, which traps the water molecules. The egg white solidifies. The challenge is in controlling the process precisely. Cook the egg for too long, too many protein bonds form, the net’s mesh becomes too tight, and the white becomes rubbery.

By controlling the heat applied and monitoring the unfolding process extremely precisely, Nandi can precisely create protein functionality that allows it to replace the functionality of fat and additive molecules such as emulsifiers.

Nandi is capable of producing modified proteins from both globular proteins (present in a wide range of naturally-occurring foodstuffs, including whey, potato, soy and peas, as well as eggs) and spiral proteins present in meat (Nandi is specifically exploring the modification of collagen proteins).

Nandi achieves control of the unfolding process by using chemistry and light-based systems to measure in real time a range of key variables as heat is applied to proteins in solution. This allows the Company to maximise their functional properties, such as emulsification, solubility, acid stability, foaming, water binding and gelation.

The company’s technology includes proprietary sensor systems which can be used across existing manufacturing processes to control the variables and create functional proteins.

Nandi Proteins-led consortium wins joint Coeliac UK and Innovate UK grant to improve the quality of gluten-free bread

Nandi Proteins (“Nandi” or the “Company”) today announces that the Company has won funding from Coeliac UK (the “Charity) and Innovate UK to develop gluten replacements for  use in bread from faba beans, oats and rapeseed by-products.

The Charity and Innovate UK are supporting the £250,000 project with a £180,697 grant as part of a strategy to encourage manufacturers to extend their gluten-free product ranges. Consortium members include two food companies, gluten-free specialist Genius Foods and global ingredients business AB Mauri, part of FTSE 100 group AB Foods, and a major UK agronomy firm Agrii, a subsidiary of agri-services group Origin Enterprises. Heriot-Watt University, Edinburgh, will provide food science research facilities.

The project will see Heriot-Watt spin out Nandi use its patented processing technology (see below for an explanation) to create protein concentrates from natural raw materials supplied by Agrii. These materials include faba beans, a naked oat variety with a high protein content and rapeseed press cake (the residual seed material left once oil has been extracted) currently used as animal feed. Genius Foods and AB Mauri will then test the ingredients, adapt their bread formulations, and assess commercial feasibility.

Gluten, a protein found in wheat flour, is the main reason for bread dough’s strength and elasticity. However, people with coeliac disease, a lifelong autoimmune condition, must have a gluten-free diet.  Replacements are hard to find. Many industrial gluten-free bread formulations use additives such as xanthan gum to improve structure and result in loaves with poor taste, inferior texture and lower protein content.

It is estimated that one per cent of the UK population is gluten intolerant and 15 per cent of households are looking to remove gluten from their diets.

Nandi’s technology is also being used to develop novel ingredients to replace a range of other additives, fat and sugar in processed foods.

Coeliac UK chief executive Sarah Sleet said: “Coeliac UK is a world leader on coeliac disease, supporting research that makes a real-world impact. The research on innovative gluten-free ingredients will keep the UK ahead in the food industry’s expansion into gluten free.”

Dr Kath Mackay, Director of Ageing Society, Health and Nutrition at Innovate UK, said: “Stimulating innovation in our food and health sectors are crucial components of the government’s industrial strategy. By working with Coeliac UK, we will be able to offer funding that results in improved quality of life for people with this condition and support and stimulate our vibrant health care and food technology sectors.”

Frontier IP chief executive officer Neil Crabb said: This grant from the UK’s leading charity dedicated to helping people who need to live without gluten and the involvement of three major industry partners represents very strong validation for Nandi’s novel technology.  We look forward to the day when sufferers of the disease or those simply looking to avoid gluten can enjoy a high-quality loaf of bread.

“However, replacing gluten is only one of many potential applications for the technology. Others include replacing a wide range of additives, sugar and fat in a whole host of processed foods, from cakes to meats. We are pushing on with development.”