New company leverages MSU AgBioResearch innovation to develop portable biohazard detection test

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Capitalizing on the innovative work of MSU AgBioResearch scientist Evangelyn Alocilja, an MSU technology spin-out company promises to move speedy detection of deadly pathogens and toxins from the laboratory directly to the field.

Food contamination and other biohazards present a growing public health concern, but laboratory analysis consumes precious time. The company, nanoRETE, will develop and commercialize an inexpensive test for hand-held biosensors that can be used in the field to detect a broad range of threats such as E. coli, Salmonella, anthrax and tuberculosis.  This leap forward in detection and diagnostic technology utilizes novel nanoparticles with magnetic, polymeric and electrical properties developed by Alocilja.

 “Our unique preparation, extraction and detection protocol enables the entire process to be conducted in the field by someone without significant training,” said Alocilja, an MSU professor of biosystems and agricultural engineering and chief scientific officer for nanoRETE.  “Results are generated in about an hour from receipt of sample to final readout and quickly identify contaminants so that proper and prompt actions can be taken.”

The mobile technology comes at only a fraction of the cost of the closest currently available competing technology, company officials said.

NanoRETE is backed by Michigan Accelerator Fund 1, a Grand Rapids, Mich., investment partnership focused on Michigan-based early-stage life science and technology companies. 

MSU Technologies, the office that manages technology transfer at MSU, was actively involved in licensing the technology to nanoRETE. In addition to funding from AgBioResearch and other grants, the technology earned funding from the MSU Foundation to continue development across the financial “valley of death” between research and commercialization.

“We have had great faith that Dr. Alocilja’s work in nano-scale detection would be a very successful platform on which to start a new company,” said Charles Hasemann, executive director of MSU Technologies. “MAF-1 has been a great partner in building nanoRETE. With its partnership and investment, we expect to move rapidly to a marketable product.”

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