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Norfolk food science firm eyes new markets following buyout deal

PUBLISHED: 14:55 21 May 2014 | UPDATED: 14:55 21 May 2014

Anglia DNA MD Dr Thomas Haizel in the company's laboratory at Norwich Research Park. Photo: Steve Adams

Anglia DNA MD Dr Thomas Haizel in the company's laboratory at Norwich Research Park. Photo: Steve Adams

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Norfolk-based science entrepreneur Thomas Haizel is eying new opportunities in the food authenticity market after buying a genetic testing company.

Dr Haizel, who is managing director of the EDP Future50 business Anglia DNA, has acquired IDna Genetics in an undisclosed deal.

Based on Norwich Research Park, the firm provides DNA services to seed companies, agricultural businesses and the genetics research community.

The former Sainsbury Laboratory and John Innes Centre scientist will become managing director of IDna, while IDna’s former chief executive officer, Dr Pete Isaac, will become its scientific director.

Dr Haizel, who has been working with Dr Isaac for the past eight months prior to the sale, said he planned to build on using the expertise and new DNA techniques developed by Dr Isaac and his team to provide DNA testing services for the food authenticity testing market.

They will work on developing bespoke tests such as determining the type and proportion of different fruit juices in a commercial blend.

Speciation tests could also be developed to detect types of pine nuts which appear the same as other varieties but which have an undesirable aftertaste.

Similarly, they said speciation tests could help identify types of tomato which look the same but which have different taste characteristics. The aim is these tests can be used by retailers to provide assurance to their consumers.

Dr Haizel said the business, which employs three scientists, had great potential to grow, and while initially it will continue to run as a stand alone company, he said the plan would be to cement its place within the Anglia DNA family.

“This is an excellent opportunity to work in several markets and bring science to the wider public,” he said. “It will help us to expand our services.

“Previously when we’ve been asked to do testing around things like the horsemeat scandal we haven’t been able to do it,” he added.

“IDna will stay as a separate company, but it may be that we will bring it together. The first thing will be to secure the accreditations to the same level as Anglia DNA.”

IDna Genetics was set up 10 years ago as a joint venture between the plant and microbial research institute the John Innes Centre and independent technology management company Plant Bioscience Limited (PBL), both on the Norwich Research Park, who have now sold their shares in the firm to Dr Haizel. Dr Haizel is also managing director of Anglia DNA, one of the fastest growing DNA testing laboratories in the UK. IDna Genetics will continue to operate as a separate business serving existing clients, with Dr Haizel as sole proprietor.

Dr Isaac said: “We are really excited by the new directions envisaged by Dr Haizel, and will be rapidly moving into new areas of DNA analysis as well as continuing our service to current clients.”

Professor Mike Bevan, of the John Innes Centre and one of IDna’s former directors, said: “The acquisition of IDna provides an excellent opportunity to build an integrated genotyping company that provides services for agriculture, food authentication and many other applications.

“The Norwich Research Park is an ideal location for developing this industry due to the proximity of health, food and agricultural-based research and development.”

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