A loss-making start-up that develops a £120 wristband claiming to allow people to “shop with their DNA” has raised £41m from investors after winning a Covid testing contract from the Government.
DNA Nudge, which claims to have developed a DNA-reading cartridge that can give advice on healthier diets, was picked as part of a £161m Government testing drive last year.
Its investors are understood to include the former Thailand Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra’s fund Global TS. The Department of Health ordered 5.8m tests from DNA Nudge, it said in August, as well as ordering millions of tests from fellow biotech firm Oxford Nanopore.
However, the Government has since tried to amend its order, throwing the contract into doubt.
In its accounts, DNA Nudge said there had been “some variation in actual delivery volumes and timing, exacerbated by production delays”. It said it was in discussions with the Department of Health over the future of the order.
The disclosure comes after Oxford Nanopore said its own share of the order was scaled back in April this year as the Government had decided it no longer required its additional testing kits.
It is not clear how many of DNA Nudge’s millions of tests were delivered to the Government last year or in 2021. A DNA Nudge spokesperson declined to comment.
A pop-up Covid-19 testing facility in London
The company record revenues of £805,000 in the year to July 2020, before the testing contract started, and a loss of £11.4m.
DNA Nudge said its Covid tests had been used at events such as for the London Symphony Orchestra and Glyndebourne. It previously said its technology enabled lab-free PCR tests that returned results in 90 minutes.
The start-up, founded by Imperial academic Professor Chris Toumazou, originally focused on developing a test that would take a DNA reading using a sample of saliva.
This would then be analysed and linked to a wristband and smartphone app. App users would then scan items of food or drink while shopping and get a wrist-reading on whether the product was a “good match for [their] biology”.