special edition: Rapid pathogen detection

F Cubed pushes ahead with launch of pathogen detection tech

By Joseph James Whitworth

- Last updated on GMT

Picture: F Cubed. The NESDEP IU test kit
Picture: F Cubed. The NESDEP IU test kit

Related tags Escherichia coli

F Cubed will launch its pathogen detection technology initially to test surfaces in the next few months.

The NESDEP IU system is portable and based on AC Dielectrophoretic technology developed by Dr Hseuh-Chia Chang at the University of Notre Dame.

It detects pathogens in less than two hours, from introduction of a raw sample to completion of the assay.

The system can detect Listeria genus, Listeria monocytogenes, E.coli species, E. coli O157 and Salmonella with a Campylobacter test in development.

Customer development

Bob Williams, VP of sales and marketing, said it was in the process of launching NESDEP IU in the US.  

“We are working with six customers on a surface test only and they are testing the product ahead of planned launch in September,” ​he told FoodQualityNews.

“Producers have to wait two to five days to get results back and in the case of produce people have consumed it already and other companies have to hold onto inventory.  

“Our ultimate goal is not to replace the lab-method and so on, food companies still need to get that. We want to test the water with food labs and see if they will work with us.

“The tough part in food safety with a new technology, and you come out in the marketplace, is there are a lot of guidelines but not mandates.

“With AOAC accreditation and the equivalent in Europe, even if someone with AOAC accreditation has a problem they will still get sued. Customers want confidence and we know we will have to apply for AOAC certification in the future.”

Government is not saying how much test to test, just to test, he said.

“Where does contamination begin – it is the responsibility of the farmer to be as clean as he can in his environment, the processor to clean the facility and have well-trained employees, grocery store chains to maintain the cold chain – the marketplace for food safety is mammoth.

“It is a big job, there are so many companies, processors, producers and farms it is too big of a job to manage and control as they should. There is more processed food than 30 to 50 years ago, farms were not as big and didn’t have to feed as many people.”

Partner work

F Cubed has a Cooperative Research and Development Agreement (CRADA) with the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) on E. coli and enterococcus for a project on drinking water.

It also has a licensing agreement with Technion (The Israeli Institute of Technology) for the "Technion Discovery Platform" to develop molecular probes.

The NESDEP IU test kit has a carbon nanotube biochip platform so when loaded it runs sample DNA through this platform prompting a reaction and producing an electrical signal that indicates if the target is present or not.

The company, which has less than 20 employees, is in the process of moving into a 7,000 square foot facility in South Bend, Indiana, which will more than double its current space.

“This time next year we hoped to have tested the product and surface test and we hope to be the designated product by the EPA to test drinking water,” ​said Williams. 

“We need to walk before we can run. The first launch we will make sure we can service in 24 hours if problems occur and handle them right away to maintain our reputation. In food safety, a bad reputation is hard to get rid of.”

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