Isofirms working in collaboration with Aarhus University
A previously abandoned patent from Aarhus University got new life in the hands of two visionary food enthusiasts who together started a company that is now based in Agro Food Park, north of Aarhus.
IsoFirms dreams of fighting obesity with a food ingredient extracted from the stevia plant – and the entrepreneurial programme EIT Food Seedbed Aarhus hub has supported them in their market entry.
With personalised business coaching, industry connections and market research funding, the programme supports startup companies with the potential to change the agrifood sector with their innovative deep tech solutions.
One of those companies is IsoFirms. With a new food ingredient Isosteviol - extracted from the stevia plant - they want to fight obesity, prevent muscle loss and improve physical performance.
The company is headed by Randi Søndergaard, who has studied medicine at Aarhus University for three years. Instead of pursuing a medical career Randi became interested in business, took a degree in financial management and became a food consultant specialising in plants. Combined with her experience in patents today Randi is a promising entrepreneur based in Agro Food Park in Skejby.
Brought a previously abandoned patent to life
A few years ago, Randi and her business partner Gunnar Kvistgaard came across a patent on the effect of Steviol glucoside on muscles and endurance, which had been abandoned to be commercialised by Aarhus University. The researchers had found that Isosteviol, extracted from Stevia, increases the transport of sugar in the form of glucose into the muscle cells with a greater muscle growth as a result. They had studied how Steviol glycoside – and therefore Isosteviol – works on cyclists, during very intense training and the effect was great.
However, they thought that it would also have an effect during moderate exercise. If that was the case, it could be a revolution for the overweight and for the elderly who suffer from muscle loss, among others.
Randi and Gunnar therefore continued to work on the patent from Aarhus University for some years. Together with an investor group in 2020 they founded IsoFirms and succeeded in confirming that Isosteviol also works by moderate movement using experiments on pigs. This became IsoFirms’ first own patent.
Got a boost in marketing
Since then, IsoFirms has applied for the approval of Isosteviol as a food ingredient in the EU – a lengthy process that is expected to finish this spring.
In the meantime, Randi has done her best to prepare IsoFirms for the market, and therefore joined the entrepreneurial programme EIT Food Seedbed at Aarhus University.
I had complete control of the product, but at Seedbed I got a coach who helped me see the blind spots, and I was put in touch with market-leading companies that provided valuable feedback and did not mince words. It made me realise that there were aspects that I had neglected while I had been focused on all the technicalities around the product, namely marketing and communication.
I immediately set about fixing it in collaboration with an agency. Among other things, this has resulted in the introduction of new communication materials, including videos and a website, which have greatly supported the contact with potential partners – and thus brought IsoFirms even closer to the market
Isofirms is now in the process of finding partners who would like to be first-movers by using Isosteviol as an ingredient in their products, and it has been much easier to convey our messages with the tools we have got in Seedbed.