Norwich genetics entrepreneur acquires genetic testing business

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May 15, 2014

Norwich company IDna Genetics, which provides DNA services to seed companies, agricultural businesses and the genetics research community, has been sold to the Managing Director of one of the country’s leading genetic relationship-testing firms.

Former Sainsbury Laboratory and John Innes Centre scientist and new owner Dr Thomas Haizel will become managing director of IDna, while IDna’s former Chief Executive Officer Dr Peter Isaac will become its scientific director.


Dr Thomas Haizel


Dr Haizel, who has been working with Dr Isaac for the past eight months prior to the sale, said he planned to build on using the expertise and new DNA techniques developed by Dr Peter Isaac and his team at IDna Genetics to provide DNA testing services for the food authenticity testing market.

They will work on developing bespoke tests that can determine, for example, the type and proportion of different fruit juices in a commercial blend. Speciation tests could also be developed to detect types of pine nuts which appear the same as other varieties but which have an undesirable aftertaste. Similarly, speciation tests could help identify types of tomato which look the same but which have different taste characteristics. These tests can be used by retailers to provide assurance to their consumers.

IDna Genetics was set up 10 years ago as a joint venture between the plant and microbial research institute the John Innes Centre and independent technology management company Plant Bioscience Limited (PBL), both on the Norwich Research Park.

The John Innes Centre and PBL have now sold their shares in the firm to Dr Haizel. Dr Haizel is also Managing Director of Anglia DNA, one of the fastest growing DNA testing laboratories in the UK. IDna Genetics will continue to operate as a separate business serving existing clients, with Dr Haizel as sole proprietor.

Dr Thomas Haizel said: “This is an excellent opportunity to work in several markets and bring science to the wider public.”

Dr Peter Isaac, scientific director of IDna, said: “We are really excited by the new directions envisaged by Dr Haizel, and will be rapidly moving into new areas of DNA analysis as well as continuing our service to current clients.

Professor Mike Bevan, of the John Innes Centre and one of IDna’s former directors, said: “The acquisition of IDna provides an excellent opportunity to build an integrated genotyping company that provides services for agriculture, food authentication and many other applications. The Norwich Research Park is an ideal location for developing this industry due to the proximity of health, food and agricultural based research and development.”

Dr Jan Chojecki, chief executive of Plant Bioscience Limited, said: “I have been pleased to see IDna grow since its set-up. IDna’s technical capability will be matched by Thomas’ entrepreneurial business development skills and will continue to be an asset to Norwich Research Park and beyond.”

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