Norwegian high-dose omega-3 player Smartfish is investing in new studies, an R&D facility and regional growth after winning a €4.3m (SEK35m) investment from a Swedish government-backed venture capital firm.
The cash insertion gives Industrifonden a 25% stake in €15m-rated Smartfish, which registered sales of about €650,000 in 2012 for its mostly-medical, high-end omega-3 products.
Norwegian government-backed Investinor is the the start-up’s biggest shareholder with about 35%. It has injected a similar amount to go with the Industrifonden funds. Employees, including CEO Jens Nordahl, hold another 10% or so.
Nordahl told us the investment made sense as Sweden and particularly Stockholm, where the new R&D centre will be based, had a superior life sciences infrastructure, while Norway remained important for the omega-3 oils Smartfish sources from multiple suppliers.
“We talked to several funds but Industrifonden was the best fit due to their life sciences background,” the CEO said.
“They have a mission to foster life sciences companies in the Nordics and have worked with a lot of pharma and biotech companies. It can be a little bit lonely when you are the only clinical nutrition firm operating in Norway so we welcome this investment.”
After starting out with high-dose mainstream products which never took off, Smartfish has focused on medical foods and produces 600 mg, 1100 mg, 2000 mg versions of ‘NutriFriend’ which are sold in hospitals and medical channels and make claims around cancer and immunity. NutriFriend is also fortified with vitamin D3.
The products are sold as medical foods with government national health system reimbursement in Norway, Greece and Saudi Arabia with Sweden about to come on-board. They are also sold in Romania medical facilities but without government reimbursement.
Smartfish also has a sports recovery product called ‘Recharge’ that is sells direct via its website.
Cachexia (muscle wasting) among cancer patients is one of the research areas with studies underway in Denmark and the UK.
Alzheimer’s and early-Alzheimer’s disease is another focus where a product is planned in the vein of Danone’s Souvenaid which was launched in January in the UK with 1200 mg of DHA (docosahexaenoic acid) and 300mg of EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid).
In a statement, Industrifonden investment manager Nina Rawal said: “Unlike other omega-3 products, Smartfish offers a tasty juice with a high concentration of active omega-3, offering greater clinical potential. While omega-3 contributes to alleviating the inflammatory process seen in cachexia, the patient also receives good calories containing a number of important nutrients.”