Nuritas is combining fields to change the future of food, the company’s founder and CSO Nora Khaldi said in a keynote address at the Innovation Ireland Forum in Dublin this morning.
As a mathematician with a PhD in molecular evolution and bioinformatics, Khaldi spoke of how, like many start-ups, Nuritas came from an unexpected source, milk.
Having attended a conference in the US on milk and seen a presentation on the effects on the growth and development of wallabies, she realised she wanted to work in this field of science, but more importantly, wanted to establish a brand new field of science, that of bioinformatics.
By using advanced computer algorithms, Khaldi and her team at Nuritas are able to break down a food source from more than 30bn molecules within that source and subsequently break that down to 100 feasible molecules that could be used for scientific research.
Of these remaining 100 molecules, Khaldi said, six could be sold to cosmetic companies, a further six to supplement providers, and a further five to food companies to home in on the most effective growth sources, all in the space of six months.
‘Thinking outside the box’
One particular example highlighted was the protein whey, which in 2000 was considered a waste product with no commercial use. Yet 14 years later it is now worth €6.4bn because of its scientific potential.
Despite Nuritas’ obvious potential, Khaldi said trying to establish the company was a difficult process because she was thinking outside the box.
“It’s hard to go from one field (of science) to another and there are many challenges, but we came from a very different field and we were solving them in a very different way.
“When I broke into the food area, I was rejected and rejected and rejected and was writing to every journal I could, but they were rejecting me not on science as this was good, but they rejected me because they were saying we don’t accept bioinformatics as we only accept experimental work.”
‘Hesitation is normal in entrepreneurship’
Despite the challenges and hesitations when attempting to start her company, Khaldi said they are something every budding entrepreneur must face.
“I went to an entrepreneurial workshop in Ireland once and asked about dealing with hesitations. However, one person said that if you have these hesitations you’re not an entrepreneur.
“I hated that guy at first but then he got me thinking, was he right? You’re not human if you don’t have hesitations, and all these bad thoughts I had were actually good and this was where Nuritas was created.”
Watch Nora Khaldi deliver her keynote address at the Innovation Ireland Forum here:
Part 1 of 2:
Part 2 of 2: