From anti-counterfeiting to Covid tests: The cutting-edge Lancashire tech company quietly changing the world

In quaint and quiet rural Lancashire is a company doing amazing things.

(From left) Richard Burhouse, Dr Ian Eastwood, and Matthew Harte
(From left) Richard Burhouse, Dr Ian Eastwood, and Matthew Harte

Operating in the realm of laboratory-level accuracy and of micro- and nano-scale materials, Eluceda is a cutting-edge detection technology business working in anti-counterfeiting, chemical detection in everything from food production to healthcare, and in vitro diagnostics of bacteria and viruses - viruses including Covid-19.

The business was founded a decade ago following a chance conversation between the current CEO Matthew Harte and CTO Dr Ian Eastwood. “We started talking about detecting elements in materials for anti-counterfeiting purposes,” says Ian. “From that, Matthew more or less said ‘if you’re that clever, why is it that you can’t identify MRSA?’, which I thought was a good question!

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“I went away and three months later, I rang him to say I thought we could do it and we started the company.”

Eluceda electrochemist Carla Gonzalez-Solino

With global standards regarding hygiene, quality, and supply-chain security rising all the time, Eluceda creates forensic-level solutions in a market where experts believe that 25% of alcohol sold worldwide is illicit and 30% of pharmaceuticals are counterfeit. What’s more, it has been estimated that 300,000 UK patients are affected by hospital-acquired infection (HAI) every year, costing the NHS £1bn.

“We’re all about detecting things which should or shouldn’t be there and making the world a safer place as a result, and there’s so much opportunity to do that,” explains Commercial Director Richard Burhouse, 45. “It’s a nice problem to have but, if we were to go after everything we could potentially do, we’d spread ourselves too thin, so we focus on anti-counterfeiting testing, health and hygiene detection, and in vitro diagnostics.

“If we can help prevent things like hospital-acquired infection or counterfeit products - particularly those which are imbibed in the form of drugs or things like cosmetics - then we’re making a big difference as a little company in sunny Lancashire,” adds Richard, who has worked at Eluceda for a year. “We could branch out into other areas, but we want to consolidate before then hopefully scaling the business, and who knows where that could take us.”

Ian, who completed his PhD in microbial genetics at the University of Kent before becoming a lecturer in Biochemistry at the University of Wales, Bangor, went on to work for Imperial Chemical Industries and Authentix, prior to Eluceda. Because it was initially self-funded, he says it took a while for Eluceda to develop from the seed of an idea and registering patents to finding marquee clients, but the forecast for the company - which now has 14 employees - looks increasingly sunny.

An Eluceda scientist testing their Covid-19 RapidTest

“During the early days, I was earning virtually nothing and putting all my savings into the company, which was really difficult,” says Ian, 61, who lives in Rossendale. “But we absolutely believed in what we were doing, and so to now be taking on high-calibre staff who can make a real difference gives you a buzz.

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“It’s fantastic to look back and think you’ve made it successful.”

An example of that success was the workEluceda did with a major hair care company in Germany to facilitate the product release of their hair dyes by reducing the time it takes to test the product from an hour to six minutes, meaning stock spends as little time as possible sat waiting for microbiological approval.

“We don’t have the resources to do it all and you can only reap what we sow, but our technology has proved to be very flexible which I am delighted about,” says Ian. “As an example, I’m convinced it could be adapted quickly to detect Covid-22 or whatever the next pandemic may be.”

In the meantime, Eluceda is helping in countless other ways, which - fundamentally - was the point of the company in the first place.

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“The biggest motivator for me is doing good,” says Ian. “Things like counterfeit alcohol kills people and decimates economies which results in a vicious circle often involving organised crime, so to tip the balance and help instigate a virtuous cycle and get money flowing back into an economy is inherently positive.

“There’s a lot of pride in that.”