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This Swedish biotech raised €1M to develop plant-made proteins containing iron

Ironic Biotech founder
Picture credits: Ironic Biotech

Up to 25% of the world’s population, mostly women, suffer from different levels of iron deficiency or anaemia. Lack of iron leads to severe exhaustion, fatigue, heart palpitations, learning disabilities, and anaemia. These symptoms can be related to a mix of diseases or life situations, causing iron deficiency and anaemia to go widely undetected, underdiagnosed, or completely ignored.

This is where Swedish biotech startup Ironic Biotech comes into the picture. It has discovered a new generation of plant-derived proteins that contain iron, which are highly bioavailable with no side effects. 

Closes €1 investment 

In a recent development, Ironic Biotech has closed pre-seed funding round of €1 million led by Finland-based Nordic Foodtech VC. The funding will be used for further R&D work, expanding the company’s patent portfolio, and optimising the production process. The team is now looking for partners in the food and food supplement industry to work with.  

“New ingredients like this enable the food industry to tackle a global health problem with new products. Worries about iron uptake are also a significant barrier to reducing the use of red meat in the Western diet. Putting a fundamental innovation like this to work takes effort, talent, and a bit of time. As an early investor, we work tightly with the team to build a solid foundation for success,” said Louise Heiberg, Investment Director at Nordic Foodtech VC.

Idea behind Ironic Biotech

Ironic Biotech was founded in 2020 by Nélida Leiva Eriksson, who holds a Ph.D. in protein design and molecular biology and has worked as a visiting fellow at Harvard and the University of Essex. Originally from Peru, Nélida was inspired to work towards a product that helps women get out of anaemia after living in London, where she suffered from severe exhaustion caused by iron deficiency. She teamed up with Eskil Åhlin and Hans Holm in 2023. 

Scalable solution for iron deficiency 

Ironic Biotech’s plant-derived proteins that contain iron are highly bioavailable with no side effects. The proteins are produced through precision fermentation and may be used as ingredients in food or food supplements. 

Unlike the current supplements, its patented compounds have no side effects of current iron supplements, making it the perfect ingredient for the food and supplement industry. The compounds are tasteless, and due to their stable form, they can be stored at room temperature for long periods of time. The absorption rates are comparable to the iron in meat, making Ironic Biotech the perfect solution for consumers not getting enough iron in their diet. This also solves the iron efficiency problem for companies looking for ways to make their products fit predominantly plant-based diets.

“We want to help 2 billion people to prevent and recover from iron deficiency and anaemia. The lack of iron is partly responsible for the performance gap between males and females, as women naturally lose iron regularly. The situation is widely unaddressed – a sad story that applies to many female health issues, iron deficiency not being an exception,” said Dr. Nélida Leiva Eriksson, CEO and founder of Ironic Biotech. “I know what lack of iron can do to a person, as I was one of the millions of women suffering from it.”

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