Edinburgh Innovations

Wu Huang

NucBarcoder provides accurate DNA-based species identification services to combat illegal trading of protected and invasive species.

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Startup name: NucBarcoder

Founder: Wu Huang

School: School of Biological Sciences

Three words to describe your entrepreneurial journey: Fulfilling. Networking. Exciting.


How did you come up with the idea?

Though the idea of DNA barcoding has existed for over two decades, commercialially it is largely performed only on major agricultural products, such as rice, potatoes, wheat and tomatoes. My PhD research focuses on exploring the whole genome data to identify a potentially advanced method to improve DNA barcoding in plants. I started my entrepreneurial journey with just an idea of extending my PhD research to help address real-world problems. Edinburgh Innovations provided me with various courses on pitching, value proposition and prototyping and platforms to innovate and encouraged me to pursue it further.

I am driven by the life-long goal of protecting biodiversity. The research topic of my PhD has the direct potential to help achieve this goal. Identifying the potential applications of my research and the ways in which it can have an impact are my core motivations.

What is the idea?

NucBarcoder's automated species identification service offers a unique and much-needed solution to the growing problem of ingredient adulteration and illegal trading of protected or invasive species. With increasing awareness and concern about food safety and biodiversity, there is a growing demand for reliable and accurate species identification tools, particularly in global supply chains where monitoring can be challenging.

Illegal trading of protected or invasive species is a big threat to local biodiversity. Dealers usually mix species, or simply declare as similar legal trading species. This trading fraud also occurs frequently in food adulteration. Identifying the species in trade is a key step in market monitoring. Current identification methods are either slow, labour intensive, or with limited accuracy. An automated and accurate species identification tool is urgently needed for monitoring growing global supply chains of commercialised animals and plants.

What role has Edinburgh Innovations played in your entrepreneurial journey?

I first discovered the idea of entrepreneurship through Edinburgh Innovations. Thanks to workshops such as the Enterprise Foundation Programme and Open Innovation Challenge I got to explore this world for the first time. I have been supported throughout my journey with various resources including legal support, employee hiring and IP strategy and was a finalist in the Inspire Launch Grow Awards 2023.  

What’s next?

We are now developing the core IP – the database with the searching tool - and exploring the market to identify our niche. The next step will be to connect with the identified market, contact potential customers and test our database for commercial use.



Give entrepreneurship a go

Inspired by Wu's story? Why not try the PhD Max programme? PhD Max is an intensive and exciting pre-accelerator programme designed to empower the next generation of PhD students in their entrepreneurial journey. This eight-session programme is tailored to students at the University of Edinburgh who are interested in exploring entrepreneurship and leveraging their specialised knowledge to push the boundaries of their respective fields. The programme will take place 11th January until 14th March 2024. Deadline 10th January 2024

Be part of it - find out more about PhD Max now


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