Anacail, a spin-out from the University of Glasgow’s School of Physics and Astronomy, has attracted London-based Sussex Place Ventures, which specialises in funding early-stage technology businesses, as a new investor in the equity funding round.
IP Group and the taxpayer-backed Scottish Investment Bank, both existing shareholders, also put up funding in the latest round, as did a small number of private individuals.
Anacail, which employs four people including chief executive officer Ian Muirhead, is working with several food-processing companies on the commercial application of its technology.
Mr Muirhead noted that these companies were trialling Anacail’s devices in manufacturing environments.
He highlighted his hopes that products benefiting from Anacail’s technology, which is aimed at improving food safety as well as extending shelf-life, would start to be seen in shops next year.
Anacail noted its technology had applications in the hospitality and catering, as well as the retail, sectors, and could play a part in food decontamination from “farm gate to plate”.
Mr Muirhead said that the technology was being evaluated by companies with a view to introducing it in food-processing to increase the shelf-life of products.
He noted that the technology involved the conversion of some of the oxygen in the air into ozone, which is described by Anacail as a “potent germicide”, within a sealed container.
Mr Muirhead emphasised that there would be no leakage of the ozone, which decays to oxygen within a short period, to the “outside world” from the container.
Anacail’s process uses “cold plasma” technology, with a high-energy electric field inside the packaging breaking down the oxygen into single atoms, which are then converted into ozone.
Oxygen exists in air as two-atom molecules. Ozone molecules comprise three oxygen atoms.
Explaining its technology, Anacail, which means “shield”, “preserve” or “protect” in Gaelic, says: “After a short time, all the ozone decays back to oxygen, leaving no residual chemicals, and a decontaminated or sterilised package and contents. Because this innovative approach offers rapid, safe and chemical-free sterilisation, the technology can be applied wherever there is a need to reduce microbial contamination inside sealed packaging.”
Mr Muirhead noted that the process could reduce bacteria, mould and yeast on the surface of food, straight after packaging.
Anacail is also aiming to apply its technology in “high-level decontamination within healthcare settings”, and sterilisation of medical devices.
Noting that Anacail had developed a prototype of its technology aimed at the healthcare sector, Mr Muirhead said the company was speaking to a number of original equipment manufacturers which were potential partners in this area.
He said these potential partners were firms that had medical devices on the market and were looking to bring sterilisation products that could be used with them. He noted that, because this potential use related to regulated products, this was a longer process.
Mr Muirhead said that a repeat-use medical device could be put into a package, treated to ensure high-level decontamination and then stored until it was ready to be used again.
He added that the technology could be used for medical devices featuring complex electronics or optics, made of materials that could not withstand high-temperature sterilisation, such as flexible endoscopes or ultrasound probes.
Mr Muirhead said that, following the latest funding round, the University of Glasgow and the management of Anacail would between them have a stake of less than 50 per cent in the company.
Anacail had, he noted, secured seed funding back in November 2012.
Mr Muirhead was pleased with the level of interest shown in Anacail by potential investors.
He said: “We spoke to a number of investors and they were very interested to move quickly.”
He added: “It is early-stage technology. I think we are well-placed to bring it to the market.”
Anacail recently appointed former Geest chief executive Gareth Voyle as its chairman. The company, still based at the University of Glasgow, has also appointed two specialist advisers, Liz Kynoch and Jonathon Lintott.
Ms Kynoch was previously group technical director at supermarket group Tesco. Mr Lintott co-founded Andersen Caledonia, a Scottish infection-control firm, and has experience in the installation and operation of sterilisation equipment and the manufacture of medical disposables.
Anacail and the University of Glasgow were recently awarded a £300,000 Innovate UK Biomedical Catalyst grant to develop the company’s application of ozone in medical device sterilisation and decontamination.