Our big idea: Molendotech water quality testing

Rui Andres, CEO, explains how his firm tests for Weil’s disease, Salmonella, and other water-borne nasties
BizAge Interview Team
The testing kit

Hi Rui! What's your elevator pitch?

Molendotech brings together scientists, researchers, and industry experts with a shared vision of a cleaner, safer world.

We recently launched a game-changing water quality testing product: Bacterisk. Bacterisk is a portable water quality assessment which tests running water quality and gives a risk assessment of water quality in just 15 minutes. It also offers the most thorough assessment available. Bacterisk has such potential to help keep our running waters cleaner and safer as it’s simpler, quicker, and smarter than every other water quality test currently available.

Why does the market need it?

Water quality is barely out of the news, and there’s been an increase of 60% in waterborne diseases in England since 2010, including Weil’s disease (leptospira) and Salmonella, plus an increase of the occurrence of Vibrio species due to global warming. All of these are not currently captured by conventional water testing, which also takes 48 hours to do at the moment (and needs use of a laboratory).

Our new product Bacterisk is an advancement in efficacy and efficiency. It captures all of the above as well as E. coli and Enteroccoci, and reduces how long it takes to accurately test water quality. In just 15 minutes it will give you a result. It’s also portable, so doesn’t require a laboratory for testing.

We’re based in the South West, with laboratories in Devon and Cornwall, so we’re surrounded by coastline and know just how vital water quality testing is.

Where is the business today?

We are currently selling Bacterisk to water utilities in the UK with keen interest from water regulators and water user groups. We are also running trials of Bacterisk with the Icelandic government and water companies in Portugal.

What made you think there was money in this?

Bacterisk was developed as part of infection and immunity research undertaken by Professor Simon Jackson at the University of Plymouth.

Since we founded Molendotech in 2017, our work has been focussed on developing breakthrough technologies that offer solutions for securing a sustainable environment and preserving human health. Humanity’s health and well-being is intimately intertwined with the environment (black plague was cause by a bacteria and wiped out one third of the population). Exposure to pollutants and pathogens poses a risk not only to the natural world, but also to human health. Our core commitment is to safeguard both the environment and human health.

Bathing waters are shown to contribute to the transmission of illness and disease and represent a reservoir and pathway for the dissemination of antimicrobial resistant (AMR) organisms. Current bathing water quality regulations focus on enumeration of indicators of faecal organisms and are not designed for detecting specific waterborne organisms of public health concern.

Faecal pollution of coastal waters around the world impairs water quality and poses a serious health threat by promoting the spread of infectious diseases among humans and marine ecosystems. A variety of pathways and sources—especially sewer overflows, drainage of stormwater, runoff from farmed and urban areas, leaking of septic systems and sewerage lines—can result in the contamination of coastal and bathing waters with faecal bacteria.

In 2021, untreated sewage was discharged into English waterways for more than 2.5 million hours and 62 serious pollution incidents were reported by UK water and sewage companies in 2021 – the highest number since 2013 (UK Environment Agency, 2021).

Waterborne pathogens can enter the human body through various routes, including skin or mucous membrane contact, inhalation, and ingestion. Common outdoor activities, such as swimming, boating, and camping, put individuals at risk of waterborne diseases, leading to conditions like gastroenteritis, pharyngoconjunctivitis, colitis, and pneumonia.

We specialise in pioneering cutting-edge technologies dedicated to safeguarding our precious beaches, lakes, and rivers. Bacterisk represents a paradigm shift in water risk assessment. It’s unparalleled in terms of its rapidity, efficacy, portability, and user-friendliness, making it a game-changer for water quality assessment.

What's your biggest strength?

Bacterisk is a world-first technology – no one else is currently testing water quality this thoroughly or this rapidly. This makes it incredibly exciting and the potential is huge.

Simon’s background in immunology means he’s not following a standard path – mostly founders approach from a water-to-water background, while Simon approaches from one of immunology-to-water.

Molendotech is also proud to be an innovation company with staff from diverse backgrounds, which we find enhances innovative thinking and drives our new technology.

What is the secret to making the business work?

We're witnessing the powerful effect of cross-recommendations, with client referrals, as trust is established among our clients. That’s proved invaluable in our world.

Regulators and water utilities are increasingly becoming aware of our presence, as we meet people, raise our profile and get word-of-mouth recommendations from our satisfied clients.

One of our primary challenges lies in ensuring third-party studies validate the tangible benefits of our technology for our clients. We know these studies are crucial for overcoming adoption barriers.

How do you market the company?

Building on referrals, we’re also starting to raise our profile through PR and social media – we’re keen to spread the word about Bacterisk, especially during the UK bathing season.

Especially during the general election campaign where water quality is a hot topic, it’s important for us that we’re tech-focused and aren’t alienating certain audiences or markets. We provide tools to all organisations that would benefit from measuring water quality.

What funding do you have? Is it enough?

Molendotech is funded through private equity from individuals and venture capital groups. Our research development that will allow future product development is funded through grants, We have recently been awarded two Innovate UK grants that are supporting developments in automation and software applications.

Tell us about the business model

Our business model operates on the principle of the "razor and blade" - when a client invests in our water quality readers, they are then bound to exclusively purchase reagents from Molendotech or our authorised sellers. We have also secured patents, ensuring that our proprietary reagents remain protected.  

What were you doing before?

Of our core team:

Rui Andres is the CEO and director of business development.  He has extensive experience of technology market development, investing and managing companies and supporting their growth, expertise in risk management, and experience in the utilities industry. Among his former achievements, Rui has successfully created the Innovation and Corporate Venture arm of the electrical and gas utility, EDP – Energias de Portugal.

Professor Simon Jackson is the Chief Science Officer (CSO) and founder of Molendotech Limited and Professor of Environment and Human Health at University of Plymouth. He has an established reputation in infection and immunity research and for the development of assays and experimental models, particularly in the detection and characterisation of environmental impacts on human health.

Janet Francis is chief technology officer at Molendotech Ltd and leads our product development. With 20 years’ experience working in the food and water microbiology industry. She has managed a large contract food testing laboratory with a team of 50 technicians and is experienced in method validation for a wide range of food matrices and developing customer specific methods. She has had a lead role during UKAS audits and experience in maintaining accreditation of over 40 methods including a wide range of pathogens using different techniques

What is the future vision?

Molendotech currently has other pathogen detection methods under development. The technology that underpins Bacterisk also has applications in the healthcare market. We are currently working with academic collaborators to produce data to support developments in healthcare.

We have an understanding of the global market and connections, and while we are focusing on the UK and Europe first, our ambitions would be to grow Molendotech internationally.

Written by
BizAge Interview Team
June 17, 2024
Written by
June 17, 2024