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Swedish startup Ironic Biotech raises €1 million to tackle iron deficiency and anemia

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Ironic Biotech, a Lund-based biotech startup, has secured €1 million in funding from Nordic Foodtech VC in a pre-seed round. The company focuses on addressing iron deficiency and anemia, which affect a significant portion of the global population, particularly women. Their approach involves developing plant-derived proteins with high iron bioavailability and no side effects, offering a scalable and accessible solution compared to current treatments. The funding will support further research, patent expansion, and production optimization as they seek partnerships within the food and supplement industry to incorporate their innovative ingredient into products.

Up to 25% of the world’s population suffers from iron deficiency. Lack of iron leads to severe exhaustion, fatigue, heart palpitations, learning disabilities, and anemia – symptoms that can be related to a mix of diseases or life situations, causing iron deficiency and anemia to go widely undetected, underdiagnosed, or completely ignored.

“We want to help 2 billion people to prevent and recover from iron deficiency and anemia. 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,” says 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.”

Humans get iron from food and iron supplements, red meat being the most typical source of iron, as the iron in plants absorbs poorly. However, meat consumption is increasingly problematic due to its negative impact on the environment and individual’s health. As women are more likely to adopt the planetary health diet, the issue of iron deficiency grows within the female population.

On the other hand, the current iron supplements cause a variety of side effects, from digestive problems to nausea and even organ damage – which is due to the fact that more than 90% of the iron in the supplements goes through our digestive tract, as our bodies are unable to absorb the iron.

For more severe cases of anemia, iron infusion therapy is recommended, where iron is injected straight into muscles or into the blood vessels. The treatment is currently highly inaccessible due to its sky-high price – one treatment might cost anything between 2,000 to 4,000 euros.

“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,” says Louise Heiberg, Investment Director at Nordic Foodtech VC.

Unlike the current supplements, Ironic Biotech’s 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.

“Our team wants to empower women and put an end to the tiredness and fatigue caused by iron deficiency. I refuse to believe that being a woman should mean constantly feeling drained. I am determined to provide a solution that truly works,” Leiva concludes.

The company was founded in 2020 by Nélida Leiva Eriksson, who holds a PhD in protein design and molecular biology and has worked as a visiting fellow at Harvard and the University of Essex. In 2023 Nélida teamed up with Eskil Åhlin, who used to work for Sony as a global business developer, and Hans Holm, an innovation pioneer with more than 30 years of experience in the food ingredients and dietary supplement sectors.

Click to read more funding news.

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Jan Ameri
Jan Ameri
Entrepreneur-by-heart – and by actions since 1998. Being an expert in spotting new opportunities and creating new concepts, Jan has been a partner or co-founder in seven different companies in various industries. In the early 2000’s he was pioneering some of the very first WAP, SMS, and interactive TV based wireless games and fantasy sports games in the Nordic countries. Jan loves to watch Shark Tank and The Profit in his free time. And he is an FC Barcelona fan.

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