NIUM has developed an in vitro model that enables manufacturers and food specialists to test how ingredients, foods, nutrition products, and drugs might impact metabolism and the gut microbiome. The technology emulates the physiological conditions of the gut by leveraging microfluidics, and features a sophisticated suite of analytical software.
“The key advantage of our approach is our ability to conduct scalable testing of nutritional products,” explains NIUM co-founder Alberto Noronha. “This represents a groundbreaking advancement, particularly for companies engaged in the testing or screening of new products.”
Another key point is that as NIUM’s testing initiatives progress, the software models will evolve. This, says Noronha, creates a mutually reinforcing cycle that enhances the robustness and utility of the platform for customers.
“The continuous refinement of our software contributes to a positive feedback loop,” he says. “This will amplify the overall effectiveness of our platform, and ensure sustained value for those using our technology.”
For this innovation, NIUM was given the Most Innovative Processing Technology or Technology Platform Award at the Fi Europe Start-Up Innovation Challenge.
“Participating in the Start-up Innovation Challenge gives us the opportunity to collect valuable feedback and enhance our visibility for attracting new customers,” says Noronha.
“The competition proved to be an invaluable experience, and receiving the award was the cherry on top. This recognition serves as another positive signal that we are indeed moving in the right direction.”
Pioneering technologies to understand the gut microbiome
The idea for NIUM began during Noronha’s doctoral studies at the University of Luxembourg. His research focused on better understanding gut microbiome data and its implications for health and disease.
“While the influence of food on the composition of the microbiome was acknowledged, there was a noticeable gap in efforts to construct more refined models that could precisely elucidate the dynamic impact of different foods on this complex community of microorganisms,” he says.
As the NIUM concept evolved, the overarching objective remained: to pioneer technologies aimed at comprehensively understanding how dietary choices can intricately shape health outcomes through their influence on the gut-microbiome. Noronha and his colleagues wanted to delve into the development of advanced tools and models capable of decoding the nuanced interplay between food, the microbiome, and overall well-being.
“Navigating the challenges of securing initial customers, acquiring financing, and effectively communicating our vision was an early journey for us,” says Noronha. “Subsequently, we recognised the imperative of developing our in-vitro platform and establishing our independent laboratory, which we are currently addressing. This evolution marks a strategic pivot towards enhancing our capabilities and solidifying our presence in the industry.”
On the road to commercialisation
After receiving positive feedback for its vision and ambition, the business has been able to move towards commercialisation. The first commercial projects to use the platform have been finalised, and more customers are lining up.
“The learning curve has been steep,” says Noronha. “Participating at events like Fi Europe has helped us to stay up-to-date on current trends, to foster new partnerships, and attract potential customers. But above all, we thoroughly enjoyed connecting with and getting to know other startups. Witnessing the abundance of talent operating at the forefront of innovation in the food sector across diverse categories has truly enriched our experience.”
Noronha and his colleagues are looking forward to 2024 and say they are are on track to establish their dedicated laboratory facility. “This strategic move is essential for scaling our technologies and solidifying NIUM's prominence as a key player in the food R&D sector,” he says. “The laboratory will serve as a cornerstone in advancing our research capabilities and contributing significantly to the innovation landscape.”