by: Jo Sarah Stanford, Bridges for Peace
Some 250 million people worldwide—8% of children and 4% of adults—suffer from a food allergy, many of them severe. Eating out can be a struggle, as unknown ingredients can cause an adverse reaction and sometimes even be fatal. Israeli start-up SensoGenic is working to address this problem with their portable biosensor, which detects the smallest presence of allergens in food.
Alon Yasovsky, co-founder and CEO of SensoGenic, began to develop the sensor after his son was diagnosed with food allergies at just one year old. Eating out or going to friends’ homes for a meal became problematic, involving lengthy discussions about the dish’s ingredients. For peace of mind, the Yasovskys would often simply bring food from home instead.
The SensoGenic handheld biosensor works by analyzing a sample of the food applied to a cellulose strip. Allergen-causing proteins bind to the strip and—using patented nanotechnology—the device is able to measure the level of allergens to a level of 10 parts per million, the lowest level at which a reaction is registered. This information is processed and displayed using a smart phone.
While the basic technology itself is not new, the SensoGenic sensor enables a wider range of use at a lower cost. Previous allergy testing devices are only able to detect one or two allergens at US $4 per disposable strip, but SensoGenic’s device can detect eight of the most common allergens—peanuts, dairy, eggs, soy, tree nuts, wheat, fish and shellfish—at just US 95 cents per disposable strip. The device itself costs US $199 and could be marketed to both individuals and restaurants.
Yasovsky met his co-founder, Prof. Oded Shoseyov, through his son’s pediatrician, Dr. David Shoseyov. Brothers Oded and David had previously conducted groundbreaking research on nanotechnology and cellulose, with Oded also founding nine other scientific companies.
The biosensor is currently in beta testing and is expected to be ready for sale by 2022.
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