Celsis has developed a test, available from the end of 1994, to detect bacteria such as listeria, salmonella and legionella. It will be targeted at the water, pharmaceuticals, cosmetics and toiletries, and food and drink industries.
Results from the test, which uses the glows- in-the-dark enzyme luciferase extracted from dead fireflies, will be available within 12 hours, Celsis claims. It should be quicker and less labour-intensive than the present system, which has been used for more than 110 years.
At the moment, more than 90 per cent of all microbial testing involves growing cultures on agar jelly. Results take between two and seven days to arrive.
Tony Martin, chief executive, said pounds 12m- pounds 13m of the proceeds from the placing, which is underwritten by Panmure Gordon, will be ploughed back into the company. Roughly 50 per cent will be spent on research and development, and 30 per cent on marketing and sales. 'We're not just a bunch of guys in white coats, we understand the business scene,' he said. 'We have built up businesses before.'
He said the test had gone down well with pharmaceutical companies such as SmithKline Beecham. 'This is a pounds 4.2bn world market we're talking about.'
The test works by recording the light-emitting reaction that occurs when luciferase reacts with ATP - a molecule present in all living cells. Put simply, if the sample lights up, a reaction has taken place and a bacterium is present. The company is developing other reagents that will signal what the bacterium is, for example, listeria or salmonella.