How Oxford startups hope to change the world: Powerful computers, vaccines and tastier tomatoes

When Oxford scientists played a key role in finding one of the first coronavirus vaccines, the world breathed a huge sigh of relief.

But no one was surprised that much of the groundbreaking work was done at Oxford.

The city has long been known for big ideas – from exploring the potential of penicillin to discovering antibodies and needleless injections.

READ NEXT: Oxford’s High Street among the worst hit by the pandemic

That’s thanks, in large part, to the university, of course.

But it is also thanks to innovative men and women, determined to discover things and change the world.

One of them, physicist Sumanta Talukdar, had an inspirational moment in 2019 when he tasted a batch of tomatoes that tasted like “nothing”.

He spoke to Wired about his plan to totally change the way our food is checked for quality.

The magazine has also listed a number of other impressive Oxford startups worth getting excited about.

Here is a summary of how they hope to change the world.

heart attacks

Caristo hopes to drastically reduce the number of people who die of heart disease.

Dr. Cheerag Shirodaria’s startup has the lofty goal of developing software that can detect heart attacks up to ten years before they happen.

“The most powerful computer in the world”

Simon Benjamin from the University of Oxford has been working with John Morton from UCL since 2017 on another big idea: to develop the most powerful computer in the world.

In 2020, academics succeeded in showing that silicon chips have quantum capability – offering hope that the goal of the “super computer” is possible.

The startup is called Quantum movement.

Disease detection

Diagnosis Hutano hope to develop rapid tests to diagnose diseases that have been causing dozens of deaths, especially in Africa, for years.

Ebola is the best-known disease targeted by the startup, but Denge fever is also in its sights.

The idea is that a single drop of blood, easily taken from a finger, is enough for the tests to work.

If the startup succeeds, infectious disease control could be transformed.

Vaccines worth millions

Sarah Gilbert has been a household name to millions since her key role in the development of the AstraZeneca-University of Oxford Covid-19 vaccine was announced.

Adrian Hill, who works with Gilbert, founded a company with her in 2016, aiming to tackle all sorts of illnesses – from cancer to hepatitis B, before turning to Covid.

Their startup is called Vaccitech and it was listed on the New York Stock Exchange for $111 million last year.

tastier tomatoes

Finally, Gardin is an “agritech” (agriculture-technology) start-up.

It may sound boring, but his big idea could change the way we eat forever – in a way that’s good for all of us.

If you hate bland-tasting foods or often buy things that should have been fresher, you’ll favor Gardin’s success.

Physicist Sumanta Talukdar, whom we mentioned earlier, ate a bad batch of Tesco tomatoes in 2019.

“They looked great. Nice round shape and perfect – very, very red,” he told Wire. “But when you ate them, they tasted like nothing.”

After asking questions at a conference in Cambridge, the scientist discovered that the food industry does not generally measure the “goodness” or taste of its products.

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There are many checks of color, size and shape, but not the actual taste of something.

Sumanta Talukdar compares the situation to BMW making cars and selling them before running them.

This is why he created Gardin, with the aim of monitoring plants to improve their taste.

Using sensors, the idea is to tell if the plants are suffering, infected or need more water.

Gardin has crammed all the necessary technology into a fist-sized device that can work quickly and cheaply for food producers.

Gardin has only 11 employees, but its product could reduce carbon emissions and improve the health and quality of the food we eat.

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