Juices that increase iron levels in the blood
From now on, you can drink natural juice and prevent and treat a health problem. This is the main premise of the Serbian start-up FeJuice. Its goal is to fight anaemia and iron deficiency using the combined power of nature and science, and with the support of the EIT Community.
FeJuice is led by a female team of researchers at the University of Novi Sad: Prof. Dr. Marija Lesjak, Prof. Dr. Nataša Simin and Prof. Dr. Ivana Beara. The team has developed an innovation in the area of functional foods– juices that increase iron levels in the blood, if consumed regularly. With their innovation, the start-up will help pregnant women and women in general to defeat anaemia.
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Anaemia greatly lowers the quality of life especially in women of reproductive age, causing poor pregnancy outcome. The concept behind FeJuice is the unique ratio between fruit and vegetables containing high level of iron and low level of iron absorption inhibitors, making it a natural and effective solution to the iron deficiency problem.
Breaking out from the lab
The process of transition from the research lab to the final viable product is difficult and time-consuming. The results are not immediate and a researcher may work on a project for decades and produce results which only stay in a closed scientific circle and do not really help the people.
It took the team a long time and many tries to create the final recipe. By now, the team created four prototypes of juices, which are still undergoing tests.
Now we are at the experimental phase with our products. We are testing them on women volunteers and monitoring changes in their iron levels. Before you release any product, it is important to have the confirmation that it really works and makes a difference.
Marija Lesjak, Co-founder of FeJuice
EIT Community support
This is where the EIT Community comes into play to support the journey from a lab to the market. Back in 2018, the FeJuice team came across the early stage business training programme EIT Jumpstarter, jointly ran by EIT Health, EIT Food and EIT RawMaterials. As part of the training, FeJuice team participated in the boot camp and coaching sessions and made it to the Joint Grand Final Pitching in Budapest, Hungary.
The support we received from the EIT Community was immense in terms of training workshops, mentorship, knowledge and networking skills. The EIT Jumpstarter gave us the initial spark to develop our start-up and exposed us to many EU companies for future collaboration.
Marija Lesjak, Co-founder of FeJuice
However, the collaboration with the EIT Community did not end there. In 2019, the EIT Food Seedbed Incubator provided an opportunity to reach the next step and transform the team’s scientific idea into a commercially viable product. As part of the Programme, FeJuice tested the market directly with 100+ potential customers.
Releasing juices on the market
In the near future, FeJuice’s products will pass all the necessary tests, and the team will release the juices on the market. In the long run, the start-up’s goal is to establish more business partnerships and promote the idea to fight anaemia with the power of nature, not only in Europe, but also more broadly in the Middle-East.
The story of FeJuice was inspired by Marija’s personal fight with anaemia during her two pregnancies. She conducted extensive research in the field during her PhD in Biochemistry and Molecular Biology at the University College London. After that, she came back to Serbia to become a Professor of Biochemistry at the University of Novi Sad, and continued developing the idea.