Since receiving a £250,000 seed investment from the Development Bank of Wales in 2019, Reacta Healthcare has seen exponential growth.
The business is rapidly expanding its customer base in the highly competitive and thriving global food allergy clinical trial environment.
Reacta Healthcare, established in 2013, operates from a MHRA licenced manufacturing facility in Deeside, North Wales. It is licenced to manufacture pharmaceutical grade challenge meals for use in clinical trials. These challenge meals are currently used to diagnose and monitor food allergy in numerous worldwide therapeutic trials.
Prevalence and diagnosis of food allergy
Between 11 and 26 million Europeans are estimated to suffer from food allergy, and it is of particular concern in children. Food allergy affects three to six per cent of children in the developed world. In the UK it is estimated that the prevalence of food allergy is 7.1% in breastfed infants, with one in 40 developing a peanut allergy and one in 20 developing egg allergies. Peanut allergy among children in Western countries has doubled in the last 10 years (Allergy UK, 2022).
Double blind placebo controlled oral food challenge (DBPCFC) is considered the gold standard for food allergy diagnosis. National expert panels have consistently reaffirmed the utility of DBPCFC. In addition to use as a diagnostic, they are used to assess tolerance (the lowest amount of a food allergen that can trigger an allergic reaction if eaten), and nearly always have a positive impact on quality of life, irrespective of outcome (BSACI, 2022). There are increasing calls for a standardised product to facilitate comparison between the numerous therapeutic studies under way in this field.
Reacta Healthcare challenge meals
Reacta Healthcare has utilised an innovative and unique fusion of food science and medicine, elevating this food-based product to a pharmaceutical grade diagnostic solution for food allergy.
Led by the chief executive, Dr Paul Abrahams, Reacta has quickly built a strong name in the global food allergy diagnostic market. But how did they become one of the leading suppliers of food challenges in the market today?
A key goal to company and market growth was obtaining a manufacturing licence from the UK Medicines & Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency (MHRA).
Securing the MHRA licence allowed Reacta Healthcare to begin supply of ‘pharmaceutical grade’ challenge meals for clinical trials across global health authorities. This offered the company the opportunity to target clients in all stages of food allergy clinical trials globally.
In April 2020, Reacta Healthcare raised £1.25m of equity finance, drawn down from existing investors, management, Moulton Goodies Limited, Development Bank of Wales and Acceleris Capital.
Michael Bakewell, deputy fund manager at the Development Bank of Wales, said: “We were very happy to continue our support for Reacta Healthcare with a further round of equity co-investment. This funding came at a time when we saw a lot of global interest in food allergy therapeutics, an area where Reacta Healthcare was fast making a name for itself.”
Achieving the MHRA licence for the manufacturing facility came at the perfect time; in August 2021 Reacta Healthcare secured £2.9m investment in a funding round led by Praetura Ventures, with additional follow-on equity investment from the Development Bank of Wales.
Manchester-based Praetura Ventures invested a total of £1.5m, while the Development Bank financed a further £1m in equity funding, following on from their initial seed investment in 2019.
The business used the funding to scale up the diversification of its product range beyond peanut to include egg, and milk challenge meals.
Dr Paul said: “It has been a landmark year for Reacta Healthcare, and we continue to go from strength-to-strength as a business, developing new diagnostic products and expanding our capabilities”.
“The number of people experiencing food allergies is increasing, so it is vital that technologies to test for allergies accurately and safely are developed. We are committed to providing excellence in the development of a portfolio of food allergy diagnostic products and revolutionising the way food allergies are diagnosed worldwide.”
US patent milestone
In July 2022, Reacta Healthcare secured its first US patent followed by a second US patent in September 2022, adding to its expanding patent portfolio already held across Europe, Australia, Canada, Hong Kong, and the UK.
The patents have been granted for challenge meals, which are used in DBPCFCs in clinical trials. Reacta Healthcare’s non-allergen formulation is indistinguishable in taste and texture from the allergen containing product.
“Securing these patents strengthens our growing portfolio while also verifying the novel nature of products. DBPCFCs are the gold standard of food allergy testing in Europe and these patents help us to bring our pioneering challenge meals to the global market,” commented Dr Abrahams.
Reacta Healthcare is developing some in-house analytical capability and has plans in place for expansion into niche areas of food allergen development and manufacture. This will include all aspects from sourcing through to manufacture of end product.
The company generated a three-fold increase in clients over the past 12 months, supported by a four-fold increase in staff. The company aims to further grow by recruiting more experienced and skilled staff, including a large number of scientific, quality and technology vacancies to support their rapidly growing business.
Dr Abrahams added: “Reacta are on a firm upwards trajectory as we continue to develop new technologies and expand our capabilities. Our eye remains firmly on diagnosis, ensuring patients are accurately tested in order that they can respond well to these new innovations in therapy. We have some incredibly exciting new products in our research & development pipeline. Our ongoing investment in business growth is vital in driving forward our ambition to continue to lead the field in precision allergy testing and diagnosis.”