Nanotechnology for food security

General speaking, it is considered a food incident as a situation within the food supply chain where there is a possible or confirmed risk associated with the consumption of a food. Moreover, a food recall is an action taken by a food business to remove unsafe food from distribution, sale and consumption, in a quickly way in order to protect public health and safety.

Food recalls are a major concern for the food industry. In recent years, the number of identified and reported incidents of contaminated food products has dramatically increased, posing serious health and economic consequences. In some countries incidents of this kind with a huge impact on population have produced phenomena of collective hysteria.

To early control these incidents many countries have regulated procedures of traceability, which is the ability to track any food through all stages of production, processing and distribution (including importation and at retail). Traceability should mean that movements can be traced one step backwards and one step forward at any point in the supply chain.

Traceability enables corrective actions (such as a product recall) to be implemented quickly and effectively when something goes wrong. When a potential food safety problem is identified, whether by a food business or a government agency, an effective traceability system can help isolate and prevent contaminated products from reaching consumers.

Traceability allows as well food businesses to target the product(s) affected by a food safety problem, minimizing disruption to trade and any potential public health risks. It is important for all food businesses (including retailers and importers) to be able to trace products.

Concerning European law, traceability means the ability to track any food, feed, food-producing animal or substance that will be used for consumption, through all stages of production, processing and distribution. Its aim is to prevent potential risks that can arise in food and feed, and to ensure that all food products in the EU are safe for European citizens to eat.

In this context was born QStamp®, to deal with the need of traceability within the whole food supply chain. Indeed, its value proposition is to radically change current way of food tracking, by developing a label pasted to perishable food packages, which integrates printed low-power electronic circuits and nanosensors, enable to measure external variables from food and to report them passively, through standard wireless technologies and non-invasive operational protocols.

QStamp® is so a flexible, low-cost and wireless sensor that can measure temperature, humidity, pressure and light using nanotechnology. Its sticky like application allows QStamp® to be easily used on any package or material helping, for example, food retailers, consumers and restaurant owners to better manage their food products.

QStamp® runs without battery and can be applied on any material regardless of its shape. The temperature, humidity and pressure data collected by the QStamp® are sent to a database through wireless protocols such as RFID, and then a software translates the information into actionable data within the users Preferred system (ranging from Excel to complex supply chain management ERP’s) via API’s. Furthermore, technology developed is compliant with standard hardware as smartphones and RF devices, which are growing in terms of adoption by companies and consumers.

The company, Mater Dynamics, is a Portuguese SME dedicated to develop sensoring solutions combining ICT and Advanced Materials practices. Its technology comprises microelectronics, RF communications, cloud computing and materials’ synthesis, in order to allow Mater Dynamics conceiving better sensors. Regarding this project, its overall objective is to see QStamp® on any packaged food item around Europe, with capability to monitor up to six variables.

Company currently has a team of PhDs and MScs (2 PhDs, 3 MSCs and 2 BScs), with backgrounds ranging from Chemical Engineering up to Computer Science, having one dedicated team member for Business Development. In addition, it has an informal board of advisors both from academic institutions, as the M.I.T. and NOVA Business School, and from corporate side, as Altice.

At the time of joining to ACTTiVAte, Mater Dynamics already had an important industrial partner in UK, as well as two demonstrator clients in Portugal, one of the latter being a key player in the retail market of the country, aiming to implement a new protocol for distribution activities and real-time temperature monitoring to fulfill the cold chain requirements. So hence, QStamp® is more than a single project, because it has a vocation of standard for many industries.

For this project opportunity timing is clear, and participation in ACTTiVAte has helped to foster already implemented strategy, as well as enriching product-market strategy with a clear set of objectives and associated initiatives and KPIs. Strategy is now focused on deploying commercial efforts on such demonstrator clients in Retail and Logistics, as key enablers for the quick-as-possible adoption of the system in their industries.

Next future looks like optimistic for the project: in the medium term it is foreseen both an international roll-out and a diversification to other regulated industries with traceability needs, such as Pharma and the Veterinary one.

More information: https://materdynamics.com/

Bioanalytical software to battle against bacterial diseases

Devastating pathogen-borne diseases and plagues in nature, both viral and bacterial, have affected humans since the beginning of human history.

Until the mid-20th century, bacterial pneumonia was probably the leading cause of death among elderly people. Improved sanitation, vaccines and antibiotics, have all decreased mortality rates from bacterial infections, although the war against bacterial diseases has no foreseeable end.

A study developed by experts at ECDC (European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control) and the Burden of AMR Collaborative Group,(Study published in The Lancet Infectious Diseases for EU/EEA journal) estimates that about 33.000 european people die each year as a direct consequence of an infection due to bacteria resistance to antibiotics. Furthermore, the burden of these infections, is comparable to that of influenza, tuberculosis and HIV/AIDS combined (https://ecdc.europa.eu/en/news-events/33000-people-die-every-year-due-infections-antibiotic-resistant-bacteria)

Even though many bacterial infections can be treated successfully with appropriate antibiotics, antibiotic-esistant strains are beginning to emerge, according to the World Health Organization. The antimicrobial resistance is occurring everywhere in the world, compromising capability to treat infectious diseases, as well as undermining many other advances in health and medicine. Full impact is unknown, there is no system in place to track antibiotic resistance globally, and many modern medicines could become obsolete.

As a consequence, common infections might become deadly threats. Therefore an accurate medical diagnosis is imperative for correct treatment, and hence to drecrease mortality and reuce lenght of hospitalization.

A rapid diagnosis also allows for early streamlining of empirical antimicrobial therapies, thus contributing to limit the emergence and spread of antimicrobial resistance. The introduction of MALDITOF mass spectrometry (MS) for routine identification of microbial pathogens has profoundly influenced microbiological diagnostics, and is progressively replacing biochemical identification methods.

Source: https://www.researchgate.net

Source: https://www.researchgate.net

In this context, digital revolution provided relatively inexpensive and available means to collect and store data. Thereby, with the right data analysis, implementation of MALDI-TOF mass spectrometry, as well as exponential growth of databases, enable clinical laboratories a very rapid microbial identification at low cost.

These advances have been a decissive to reach to successful medical diagnosis for the early treatment of patients.

In 2015 a group of engineers and an analytical chemistry specialist (among them several PhDs in different fields and with a wide expertise) founded a bioinformatics company named CLOVER BioSoft, based on the Granada Health Technology Park, specialized in Bionalytical Chemistry data analysis and Microbial ID, using Mass Spectrometry. This team aims to giving solutions to real problems using knowledge-based approaches, understanding data and the statistics behind it.

Using methods of artificial intelligence, machine learning and big data analysis, was born this cutting-edge project: Clover MS Strain Typing, a software solution developed to perform research on bacterial analysis applications using MALDI-TOF MS.

The software AI-powered algorithms allows to build smart and reliable analysis of the bacterial strain typing by studying differences in the lipidomic profiles of bacterial strains, using Mass Spectrometry. Identifying bacteria at the strain level is particularly important for diagnosis, treatment and epidemiological surveillance of bacterial infections.

Each feature included is the result of close interaction with experts, to provide the most efficient and convenient workflow, in order to answer bacterial analysis questions. Among others, the software features include:

• Repeatability and reproducibility studies for the validity of biological and technical replicates.
• Antibiotic resistance analysis comparing with positive and negative controls.
• Feature extraction: Strain class, resistance mechanism, bacteria type, etc.
• Samples identification: Strain typing prediction with custom database support.

 

Project strength relies on its specifically designed data processing algorithm, as well as a patented lipid extraction method to provide competitive advantage, which is a complete protocol already proven and demonstrated in multiple applications. It also has the major advantages of MALDI-TOF MS (speed, cost-efficiency), with the addition of the gradual decrease in size, and thus cost of mass spectrometers.

Current bacterial ID systems in the market using MALDI-TOF MS are decreasing time and cost in the detection of bacterial species. Extending these systems to the identification of individual strains will help applying the most appropriate antibiotics for every patient, having a more accurate treatment and fighting against antibiotic resistance. Moreover, this ID systems in the coming future will help to predict unknown cases by learning known multivariate data patterns.

Participation in the ACTTiVAte program has been decisive to accelerate project, making possible to reach to current state of business model 100% validated, with a marketed ready product. In this sense, it has resulted highly important the advice received in ACTTiVAte on strategy and business planning, through mentoring and coaching dynamics. In addition to the funding received through ACTTIVATE and the SME Instrument, Clover Biosoft will make use of reserved funds and forecasted sales to face the expenses generated by this feasibility study. They will also raise private investment to complement these H2020 programs.

Some specific goals of the feasibility study are:

• Technical feasibility: Perform initial evaluation with our partner hospitals to assess the potential to become a clinical product. Develop a technical, regulatory and validation plan. In order to get first national and international sales orders during year 2019.
• Clinical feasibility: Identify the most severe pathogen strains causing most of the infections in European hospitals. Define the clinical validation strategy.
• Business opportunity: Discover the best approach-to-market strategy and establish a continuous presence on the field. Study real market needs, size and potential for profit and scalability.
• Economic feasibility: Detailed economic analysis to reach the clinical market.

Concerning the future, brilliant perspectives arises, since this system may have extensive applications in different sectors, such as industrial chemistry, environmental testing, food & beverage testing, as well other
biotech applications such as mycobacterial ID, biomarkers for cancer, early detection of pressure ulcers and the Agrofood sector.

Musculoskeletal Disorders in different áreas – Osteoartritis / Source: https://sites.tufts.edu/humanfactorshiyuwang/2018/03/30/musculoskeletal-disorder/

Big Data to deal with Musculoskeletal Disorder

Musculoskeletal conditions affect people along their life everywhere. According to a study from the Global Burden of Disease, about 20-30% of worldwide population lives with a painful musculoskeletal condition.

While the prevalence of musculoskeletal conditions increases with age, younger people are also affected, often during their peak incomeearning years. Nowadays, Musculoskeletal Disorder (MSDs) are the most common reason of work disability, sick leave and early retirement of people under 50 all over the world, more than any other disease like cancer or diabetes.

MSDs, as the word already explains itself, is a kind of disorder affecting people’s musculoskeletal system, typically characterized by pain (often persistent pain) and limitations in mobility, dexterity and functional ability, reducing people’s ability to work and participate in social roles with associated impacts on mental wellbeing, and, at a broader level, impacting as well on prosperity of communities. Most common and disabling musculoskeletal conditions are osteoarthritis, back and neck pain, fractures associated with bone fragility, injuries and systemic inflammatory conditions, such as rheumatoid arthritis.

Musculoskeletal conditions share some similar risk factors to other non communicable diseases, such as inadequate physical activity, obesity, smoking and poor nutrition.

While management of some musculoskeletal conditions often requires specialist and/or surgical care, many musculoskeletal conditions can be managed in primary care services through a combination of core non-pharmacologic interventions, such as exercise, and psychological and pharmacologic therapies.

Moreover, health and broader social cost of musculoskeletal conditions are very relevant, although spending on musculoskeletal conditions is challenging to measure, due to the vast array of musculoskeletal conditions and limitations of surveillance systems.

According to the World Health Organization, MSDs conditions comprise more than 150 diagnoses which affect to the locomotor system. So hence, potential value of the annual sector is estimated around 300 trillion Dollars worldwide. Two thirds of this amount may derive from the costs saving for the National Health Service, and at a
European level this saving is estimated to be of 100 million Euros.

Bearing this context in mind, MDURANCE SOLUTIONS is a start-up based in Granada (Spain), part of the Technological trampoline network (CESEAND, RTT) and focused on the field of Digital Health.

Specifically, it’s been developed an auxiliary tool for the evaluation of musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs), based on an advanced analysis of signals generated by Electromyography (EMG Surface electromyography is the analysis of the electrical activity of muscles. Its aim is to detect and assess neuromuscular pathologies through the
evaluation of the health and performance of your patient’s musculature), and pursuing that this technique could be effectively used by Health professionals.

Main challenge of this project has consisted on unifying different technologies, such as Big Data, Wearables and Artificial Intelligence, to provide a deeper and more useful knowledge in the field of physical health and wellness. At the end, it’s been developed an intuitive digital tool designed to be used by a wide range of professionals, from the most expert specialist to a general physiotherapist in a high-performance sport center.

Wearable EMG sensor: Muscle activity controlled Source https://www.mdurance.eu

Wearable EMG sensor: Muscle activity controlled
Source https://www.mdurance.eu

Project mDurance is basically a wearable EMG sensor, integrated with an application for mobile devices, which sends signal data to a private cloud service, where all data are stored, processed and analysed through data mining and Big Data.

Over years of research, company has developed new algorithms to improve analysis. By applying these algorithms and AI technology to collected data, integrated system can provide reliable conclusions within only 5 minutes, being able to instantly detect the root cause of a patient’s problem. Thereby, it is possible to target the most effective treatment, providing so the highest impact therapy and shortening therefore the recovery period.

 

Main features of mDurance system might be summed up as follows:

• Biofeedback therapy: facilitating the process of learning exercises.
• Verify muscular anomalies.
• Objectively assess the muscle fatigue.
• Measure and objectively analyze muscle strength and development
• Detect muscle asymmetries: allowing to correct asymmetries in real time.
• Results processed in less than 30 seconds
• Access to results from any device.
• Build extensive reference material.
• Rapid assessments thanks to intuitive reports.
• Optimize peak performance times: reducing the likelihood of injury.

mDurance system interface in different devices: Muscle activity controlled Source https://www.mdurance.eu

mDurance system interface in different devices: Muscle activity controlled
Source https://www.mdurance.eu

One of the main factors for the project’s success has been the multidisciplinarity of the team, collecting knowledge and skills from different areas, which has been essential in the management and development of the project.

Another key factor has been the ACTTiVAte acceleration program, which facilitated to a large extent the boost of innovation. In this sense, although some parts of technology were developed and validated before joining to ACTTiVAte, however, acceleration carried out within program leaded to implement new functions, such as the
improvement in algorithms’ sensitivity and prediction capability, making possible to get ready mDurance for larger scale testing.

The main results of the development done within the ACTTiVAte project are:

• A new, very intuitive digital product CE Class II Certification.
• SME Instrument Phase 1.226.000 Euros from NEOTECNeotec Capital Riesgo.
• Cross4Health selected SMEs within its 2st Acceleration Programme. (mDurance will receive a voucher of up to
60.000 Euros to contract an external service to help boost their innovation)

Expectations from project are very high. Opportunity timing is clear, and project may help to palliate MSDs, improving life quality of many people.