Israeli start-up SensoGenic is producing a handheld detector to detect food allergens.
Around the world some 250 million people suffer from food allergies, and every six minutes in the US alone, someone reportedly goes into anaphylactic shock. Alon Yasovsky, R&D veteran at firms like Apple, was prompted to act by the complex allergies of his son, which made eating at other people’s homes and restaurants a nightmare. “I started to think of how to build a sensor that lets you test food for allergens before you eat, anywhere, anytime,” says Yasovsky. His start-up SensoGenic is on the task.
Users place a food sample onto a single-use disposable test pad and insert into the base of their handheld unit. Cellulose is used to bind to allergens in the food. Then, an antibody is applied, prompting a reaction. Within three minutes, results are relayed to the user’s smartphone, and eating can commence – or not. Allergen levels can be detected at 10 ppm (parts per million), currently a more sensitive detection level than principle US competitor Nima. In the profitable allergen market, Yasovsky is hoping that his firm’s science will prove cutting edge. For example, Nima sells its gluten and peanut tester for more than 200 dollars, with each individual test costing at least 4 dollars. However, SensoGenic’s use of cellulose, an abundant and cheap polymer, could make the difference. Their unit will cost just under 200 dollars, and each test will only set users back 95 cents a pop.
Eggs and peanuts are on the menu for the first beta prototype, but the company wants to expand to other problematic foods like soy, dairy, fish and more – all in one unit. Mass production is slated for 2021 with the first roll-out in the US. Meanwhile beta testers are being recruited in Israel via SensoGenic’s website – particularly families with young children.