Imperial advanced materials startup CustoMem rebrands to Puraffinity and raises £2.8 million from leading sustainability investors

CustoMem, an advanced materials startup developed at Imperial College London, has rebranded to Puraffinity and secured £2.8 million investment in an oversubscribed seed round from leading sustainability investors. As well as having started life at Imperial, Puraffinity is currently a client of the Imperial White City Incubator.

Puraffinity chose its new name to reflect its technology’s broad applications in designing materials for purification. The company is developing a range of adsorbent media materials targeted at removing high impact emerging contaminants called Per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) from water.

PFAS water contamination is a global environmental challenge. Human exposure to PFAS may lead to adverse health effects, particularly in pregnant women and children. As a result of these potential risks to human health, stringent advisory limits on PFAS levels in drinking water and groundwater are being introduced. Conventional treatment processes such as granular activated carbon and ion exchange are not able to provide a robust and cost-effective solution.

Puraffinity has been part of Imperial’s entrepreneurial ecosystem for the past four years, participating in several Imperial Entrepreneurship programmes including the Venture Catalyst Challenge and WE Innovate.  

Henrik Hagemann, CEO of Puraffinity, said:

“We were convinced to progress and give it a go because of these two Imperial programmes. We were able to get into the pressure cooker and a safe environment with the support of Imperial and decide whether to progress our ideas and form a company.”

The company was incorporated as CustoMem shortly afterward and took space in the shared lab at the Imperial Bioincubator at South Kensington. When the Imperial White City Incubator launched in 2017, Puraffinity became the first member of the 2nd shared lab. During this time, it secured £1.2 million in grant funding from Horizon 2020 and ultimately took lab and office space at the White City-based facility, which Henrik says is a key contributor to their success

“We started with a small space in the shared lab and over the course of the year secured follow on funding off the back of being able to test our idea in the lab environment. After that first year we were able to graduate out of the shared lab into our own space.”

The company has now closed a £2.8m seed funding round, led by Kindred Capital alongside HG Ventures, Investiere.ch and a number of prominent business angels. Puraffinity has grown rapidly in the past six months to 13 employees, and aims to recruit further to over 20 by the end of the year.

“Many of those roles will be scientific and technical – we are hoping to get the talent from Imperial, and it would be great to be able to source people from the local area as well.”

It is planning to trial its product at one of Europe’s busiest airports later in 2019 and is discussing collaboration and partnership deals with companies in the global water space.