Fighting against microbial resistance. Fast test for veterinary

Project Case | Health & Agrofood |Fastinov, S.A.

The pace of diagnostic processes in clinical microbiology laboratories has largely been unchanged for almost 100 years, as availability of diagnostic results essentially depended on the growth of bacteria. Using traditional approaches, it takes at least 24 hours for obtaining growth from clinical specimens, and an additional 24 hours for downstream isolate characterization (i.e. biochemical identification and phenotypic susceptibility testing). As a consequence, therapeutic decisions are commonly made empirically until the availability of species identification and resistance patterns.

Furthermore, the emergence of pathogens carrying acquired resistance determinants, e.g. methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA), extended spectrum beta-lactamase- (ESBL-) producing Enterobacteriaceae, or carbapenem-resistant Gramnegative rods, has resulted in increasingly broad empiric treatment regimens, often including glycopeptides and broad-spectrum betalactams such as piperacillin-tazobactam or carbapenems. The
resulting overuse of these reserved agents itself drives the emergence and spread of multi-resistant organisms.

The situation is aggravated by the often unsuccessful recovery of pathogens from patients receiving prior broad-spectrum antibiotics and, in consequence, unavailability of subsequent drug susceptibility data. Moreover, it is a common problem that (successful) empiric broad-spectrum therapy remains in place although microbiological test results justify de-escalation. Therefore, it is evident that overtreatment is, at least partially, linked to the discrepancy between traditional microbiological procedures and the clinical need for more rapid results.

Early availability of information on bacterial pathogens and their antimicrobial susceptibility is of key importance for the management of infectious diseases in humans and animals. Moreover, current global emergence and spread of antimicrobial resistance is a major medical/veterinary and economic problem.

When an infection is diagnosed, the physician/veterinary is required to start an empiric large spectrum therapy, since current comprehensive and proven susceptibility profile methods require, at least, 48h. Therefore, the slowness of diagnostic procedures drives prolongation of empiric, potentially inappropriate, antibacterial therapies.

Over the last couple of years, the improvement of available techniques (e.g. for susceptibility testing, DNA amplification assays), and introduction of novel technologies (e.g. MALDI-TOF) has fundamentally changed approaches towards pathogen identification and characterization. Importantly, these techniques offer increased
diagnostic resolution while at the same time shorten the time-toresult, and are thus of obvious importance for antimicrobial stewardship.

Accelerated phenotypic methods, molecular techniques, MALDI-ToF and next generation sequencing (NGS), all hold promise or have already proven to not only optimize workflows within the lab, but also to offer increased diagnostic resolution and decreased time-toresult.

In recent years it’s been implemented a common policy in the EU, an action plan against Anti-Microbial Resistance (AMR). Its overarching goal is to preserve the possibility of effective treatment of infections both in humans and animals, since the increasing emergence of resistance to antibiotics has led to less effective treatment of common bacterial infections.

AMR increases as a consequence of multiple mechanisms of resistance in expanding bacterial populations and selection pressure from antibiotic use, which provides a competitive advantage for those strains. Due to current antimicrobial susceptibility testing (AST) methods have a turnaround time of at least 24 hours, delayed
and inadequate treatment decisions are taken. Therefore, there is an urgent need for a fast and accurate AST method.

This is the opportunity context of this project, Fast-vet: Flow cytometry Antimicrobial Susceptibility Test for Veterinary, an innovative method for AST promising a revolution on veterinary microbiology. These novel AST tests will employ flow cytometry and yield accurate determination of the susceptibility phenotype within 2 hours, compared with the more than 48 hours needed for current standard methods. These changes can be measured well before effects on bacterial growth (i.e. the read-out of current methods) become apparent. Furthermore, these specific changes can be measured using different fluorescent probes, enabling clinicians to begin optimal antibiotic treatment sooner, with a major impact on health and quality of life of patients impacting on health costs.

Using this method, AST can be performed either directly on a positive blood culture or on bacterial cultures. These tests have already a TRL of 7 or 8 in the Health field, and its applications to Veterinary and Agrofood are very new, making so a real cross-sector transference of know-how. Impact of innovation is clear since early detection of resistance to antimicrobials would potentially save a lot of animals, avoiding the use of antimicrobial drugs, with evident economic, environmental and even human health impacts.

In this sense, by providing a fast susceptibility profile and guidance support for clinical prescriptions and decisions in acute care settings, project strongly contributes to the reduction of medication costs, clinical therapeutical failure, diagnostic and treatment costs, antimicrobial resistance and spread of multi-resistant strains.

The company, FASTinov, is a spin-off from the Faculty of Medicine, University of Porto, a R&D intensive start-up with a patented disruptive technology to perform fast and reliable antimicrobial susceptibility tests in acute care settings. It has already developed two novel prototypes for rapid and accurate AST of both Gram-positive and Gram-negative bacteria.

FASTinov S.A. has a multidisciplinary team with scientific expertise in microbiology and dedicated flow cytometry techniques, combined with the extensive knowledge of current needs in the field of infectious diseases. The team was created by 3 Microbiology Professors and it is now composed by 5 full time workers (3 PhD and 2 masters). Additional two consultants, expert in translation of the technology to the market, belong more recently to the team.

Participation in ACTTiVAte has facilitated integration into a consortium network that will allow the scale-up of the company, as well as completion of a prototype validated with first users. Next future looks like optimistic for the project. Its patented methodology (Flow Cytometry Antimicrobial Susceptibility Test- Fast) fills a gap in existing AST methods: microbial cells can now be discriminated in terms of Susceptible vs Resistant phenotypes, independently of growth, filling the opportunity need of susceptibility profile in clinically useful time.

Disruptive innovation in cooking for healthier foods

Project Case | Nanotechforfood | IXL Netherlands B.V.

Since the work of Joseph Shumpeter in the 1940s on Innovation Process and his most famous idea of Creative Destruction, the concept of Disruptive Innovation has evolved to have at least two key features: product or service definition in a radically different way than previous ones, and a huge impact on society. This is the case in the Nanotechforfood project, which reaches the highest standards in food quality by implementing a breakthrough new cooking technology.

At least from the beginning of the 21st century, several global food trends can be identified, both at the food service level and at the consumer level. In food service, there are increasingly widely used cooking techniques such as sous vide cooking and molecular cooking with liquid nitrogen. Amongst consumers, preferences for slimness and a healthy lifestyle, and increased environmental consciousness are giving rise to a worldwide trend favouring less fat, more fresh foods, and even raw foods.

Despite these new trends and techniques, cooking today relies primarily on frying with fat or oil, cooking on electric or gas burners, baking or roasting in convection ovens, and steam ovens. All these conventional cooking approaches use high temperatures (>100oC), and cook food from the outside in over relatively long periods of time. Conventional high temperature cooking techniques result in nutrient loss, dried food and tough texture, and result in excessive energy usage and atmospheric emissions. Conventional high temperature cooking can even form unhealthy substances that humans then consume.

IXL has pioneered e-Cooking®, which uses precisely controlled electric fields to cook food.

e-Cooking® results in better nutrient retention and juiciness, while cooking food in only a few minutes. Because of its precise cooking control, e-Cooking® prepares food homogeneously, rather than the outsidein approach used by conventional cooking, which results in inconsistency.

Furthermore, e-Cooking® consumes less energy and creates minimal atmospheric emissions, making e-Cooking® a more environmentally sustainable approach than conventional cooking. e-Cooking® is a good example of cross-sector innovation, between the Health and Agro-food sectors.

Pictured on the left is a reference chicken filet after conventional preparation in a frying pan. On the right is a chicken filet prepared with e-Cooking®. e-Cooking® preserves the natural flavor and juiciness of the chicken, and results in less protein breakdown and nutrient loss.

IXL Netherlands B.V. is an innovative Dutch company pioneering e-Cooking® technology and developing the e-Cooker® kitchen appliance. The company’s philosophy is “People, Planet and Prosperity,” which is its driver to create healthier food through more sustainable cooking.

IXL’s proprietary e-Cooking® solution is based on Pulsed Electric Field (PEF) technology, which has been used for processing and preservation in the fresh fruit juice industry, and in pre-processing of potato products. IXL’s innovation is the application of PEF to food cooking.

e-Cooking® intelligently combines electroporation and pulsed ohmic heating in food preparation. The e-Cooker® uses preparation compartments with vertical titanium electrodes on both sides of a plastic chamber. The electrodes are connected to a high voltage pulse generator inside the appliance. Software precisely controls combinations of voltage, wattage, pulse width and frequency and pulse duration, utilizing real time feedback during the cooking process to dynamically control all parameters.

e-Cooking uses low temperatures (50-95°C) and short cook times (few minutes), better preserving nutritional value, as well as the food’s organoleptic properties such as natural flavour, colour, structure and taste. Because heat is developed from within the product instead of from the outside, the food’s natural juiciness is also well preserved.

The unique benefits and features of e-Cooking® were recognized in 2017, when IXL won the Startup Showcase Innovation Award at the Smart Kitchen Summit in Seattle. IXL has developed both consumer/professional e-Cooker® prototypes and laboratory systems for scientific food, nutrition and cooking process research.

IXL’s e-Cooker® uses a graphical user interface, enabling the user to customize cooking parameters for different foods and preparations.

IXL’s participation in the ACTTiVAte program has helped its engineering team overcome technical challenges combining titanium material with electrical isolating plastics in the e-Cooker® food preparation chamber. Through collaboration with technical specialists from the Health sector (the German Fraunhofer Institute), IXL invented an innovative combination of materials and layers, and developed a methodology for mass production.

Participation in ACTTiVAte has also helped IXL develop alternative business models and market entry strategies. Together with its partners, IXL is investing in product development, manufacturing, an integrated supply chain
and e-Cooking® recipes, in order to launch e-Cooker® appliances into the market, and reach economics of scale.

e-Cooking® Features Summary

• Homogeneous cooking at low temperatures (50-95°C)
• Fast and convenient
• Conforms to the latest European safety standards
• Potential e-Cooker® features and capabilities:

o Different preparation pan sizes (enabling portion sizes ranging from 100g to 600g)
o Pre-programmed as well as customizable cooking plans/parameters o Internet connectivity for e-Cooking® community interaction and recipe sharing
o Real time data (temperature, time, voltage, current, pulses) dynamically incorporated into cooking process

From aircrafts to people: 3D additive technology for scoliosis

Project Case | ICT & Aerospace | CITD Engineering & Technologies S.L

Scoliosis is a medical term used to explain a sideways curvature of the spine. It can affect people of any age, from babies to adults, but most often starts in children at aged 10 to 15. (in some cases, can also occur earlier or later than this).

Since scoliosis was firstly diagnosed by Classic Greek physician Hippocrates, lately, many physicians and orthopedic surgeons have sought to find a cure for the condition. It is a surprisingly common condition: nowadays, 2-3% of the global population suffers from scoliosis, a number which is expected to rise in the future(1).

Scoliosis is a disease with varying degrees of severity. While many cases are mild enough to not require treatment, however, some of them are so severe that the sufferer’s ability to walk and even to sit up can be impaired. These are the cases that often require surgery, and for some, this can be a lifelong burden rather than a quick fix, even more in case of revision surgeries will be required.

Technology and medicine go together hand by hand since ancient times. Consistent advances in pharmaceuticals and the medical field save millions of lives and make improve many others. In the last years, new technologies on 3D scan CAD models of the spine, finite element modeling and design optimization techniques, have settled the base on which develop new treatments and tools.

Scoliosis surgery is linked to the implantation of standard straight and flat metallic straps (made by titanium, chrome or cobalt), with several holes, screwed to the spine to prevent progression and/or correct the spine curve to avoid future physical problems.

And since anyone’s anatomy is not exactly the same as the others, standard sizes and shapes of these implants could be problematic, and can further result in complications or even need for revision surgery in the future.
Therefor, implants should be functional, shape customized and topologically optimized, always looking for a uniform stress distribution, and so improving quality life of patients.

With these assumptions, PAMIS project (Personalized Additive Manufactured Implants for Scoliosis treatment) was undertaken by CITD, an engineering company founded at year 2000 to develop an aircraft electrical system.

Since its settlement, company has worked closely with Airbus on several projects, and has achieved notoriety and positioning in the aerospace industry. CITD uses additive manufacturing and other digital technologies to deliver high quality aircraft components, and is now applying with this project, at Healthcare sector, its expertise on these technologies.

3D digital modeling and structures optimization have been a challenge in the Aerospace industry for the last 20 years. In parallel, surgical treatments are also being changed for the better by 3D printing, as the technology allows personalized surgical guides and braces, more lightweight and form-fitting to people needs(4).

PAMIS basically integrates the two already developed technologies: FEM Analysis of CAD models and 3D Printing Additive Manufacturing. Both technologies have become very popular in the industry, thanks to their several benefits. According to them, by using 3D scans of patient’s spine, medical professionals may take advantage of finite elements modeling and design optimization techniques, to create the best possible implants for each patient’s unique anatomy. Moreover, these implants can be 3D printed, using lightweight and biocompatible materials.

This new concept of optimized implants may help to treat cases of severe scoliosis, as well as improving patients’ life quality and making economical savings to the National Health Service, due to reduction of post-surgery issues.

Pairing of virtual and physical worlds enable heading off problems even before they can occur in the surgery.

Therefore, virtual human model concept and new definition of bio-inspired 3D-printed parts for scoliosis might open the way to the definition of other lines of orthopedic implants, as well as the application of materials better suited to the specific stress.

Furthermore, participation in the ACTTiVAte program has facilitated necessary acceleration to get the most from previous expertise of the company, letting the project to take off up to the current situation of validation with first users. To reach this, financial support from ACTTiVAte funds and coaching about business plan have resulted vital for the success outcome of project.

Future seems optimistic for this project. New applications are arising for this technology beyond scoliosis treatments, and opportunities in the Health sector for prosthesis and implants are huge.




Internet of Things for animal health

Project Case | ICT/Health & AgriFood | Vitulo Plus / VKON

In terms of numbers: by 2013, there were 10.8 million agricultural holdings within the EU-28. (1) As far as livestock is concerned, the European Union (EU) is the world’s third largest producer of beef after the USA and Brazil, producing 7,9 million tons of carcasses per year. Livestock industry contributes to the economy, rural development, social life, culture and gastronomy of European countries. (2)

The market value of the processed meat is expected to rise from 714 billion dollars in 2016 to over 1.5 trillion dollars by 2022. (3) Moreover, industrialization on the supply side and changes of consumption behavior, have led to significant changes within the livestock industry, allowing mass production of animal products to meet the growing needs of an expanding global population.

Currently, societal concerns strike on the European beef industry, facing unprecedented challenges, with questions related to animal welfare, environmental impact, origin and authenticity of beef, nutritional benefits, and consistency of eating quality. These have the potential to affect the whole industry, especially the farmers. (4)
Therefore, it is essential to gather accurate information and analytical data, towards implementing agriculture best practices, in order to maintain and develop an economically viable and sustainable industry.

To address these new challenges, the deployment of Smart Farming has become a reality. In this sense, the National Endowment for Science, Technology and Arts (NESTA) estimate that this solution could increase total return of farms in a range of 5 to 20%. One of the practices of Smart Farming is indeed the use of the Internet of Things (IoT), which puts into relation equipment and devices used in livestock industry.

There are numerous IoT applications in Farming, such as collecting data on temperature, rainfall, humidity, wind speed, pest infestation and soil content. This data can be used to automate farming techniques, as well as enabling to take informed decisions, which let improve outputs’ quality and quantity, minimizing risks and wastes and reducing effort required to manage crops.

By using so the latest “state-of-the-art” wireless and artificial intelligence technologies available, the VituloPlus BV project was established as a joint venture between two companies: on one hand an ICT and product design company, Factic BV (the tech-provider), and on the other hand a specialist company in the animal sector which develops and manages veterinary innovation projects, VKON. The aim pursued was to develop a tool to help farmers’ management to monitor every veal, ensuring their individual health and stress status.

Therefore, this project of Internet of “Animal Health” Things enables to monitor 24x7x365 livestock heads, anticipating quick diagnosis and limiting antibiotics doses just to sick targeted animals, making possible to stop cross contamination to other veals. Moreover, there is a further benefit from this project: it allows reducing even more the usage of antibiotics, since it’s no longer need of whole flocks preventively being treated. Stress levels during lifespan of calves are monitored in combination with with geo-location data, so it becomes very easy to determine levels of stress and location of occurrence.

During its lifetime, Vitulo PlusTM sensor can be scanned with the Vitulo Plus free APP. This free APP can be installed on generic Bluetooth enabled devices such as IOS and Android smartphones, tablets or even any PC Operating systems-based devices. With this APP, and through the unique calf ISO number it is possible to access to all relevant information registered and physically stored on the Vitulo Plus sensor internal memory.

The overall result of the project is that farmers will have a care free system which proofs levels of healthy life of their animals (to what extent they are less sick and less stressed), while reducing costs by diminishing antibiotics usage. Moreover, participation in ACTTiVAte program has been essential to get to the current situation of having a prototype developed and validated with first users. The acceleration made is based on joint efforts to overcome technical issues.

Furthermore, participation in ACTTiVAte has facilitated the development of alternative market entrance strategies and viable business models, as well as investment of additional nearly half million Euros and a specific innovation loan of 150 K Euros in 2018. This and further investments will also open up new scalable opportunities and thus lower costs and prices, which likely lead to first national sales in 2020 and international ones in 2021.






Experts in eliminating bacterias

Project Case |Agrofood & Health |VC Chamco International

Biocides have been extensively used in the control of bacteria for decades, and are commonly incorporated into a variety of products including disinfectant formulations, cosmetics, preservatives, pesticides and antiseptics.
A biocide is defined in the European legislation as a chemical substance or microorganism intended to destroy, deter, render harmless, or exert a controlling effect on any harmful organism by chemical or biological means. However, the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) uses a slightly different definition for biocides as “a diverse group of poisonous substances including preservatives, insecticides, disinfectants, and pesticides used for the control of organisms that are harmful to human or animal health or that cause damage to natural or manufactured products”.

The terms “biocides” and “pesticides” are regularly interchanged, and often confused with “plant protection products”. To clarify this, pesticides include both biocides and plant protection products, where the former regards substances for non-food and feed purposes, and the latter regards substances for food and feed purposes.
When discussing biocides a distinction should be made between the biocidal active substance and the biocidal product. The biocidal active substances are mostly chemical compounds, but can also be microorganisms (e.g. bacteria). Biocidal products contain one or more biocidal active substances and may contain other non-active
co-formulas that ensure the effectiveness as well as the desired pH, viscosity, colour, odour, etc. of the final product. Concerning commercial distribution, biocidal products are usually available on the market for use by professional and/or non-professional consumers.

Although most of the biocidal active substances have a relative high toxicity, there are also examples of active substances with low toxicity, such as CO2, which exhibit their biocidal activity only under certain specific conditions such as in closed systems.

Another example of biocidal products available to consumers are products impregnated with biocides (also called treated articles), such as clothes and wristbands impregnated with insecticides, socks impregnated with antibacterial substances etc.

Because of its positive properties, biocides are very commonly used in medicine, agriculture, forestry, and industry. Biocidal substances and products are also employed as anti-fouling agents or disinfectants under other circumstances: chlorine, for example, is used as a short-life biocide in industrial water treatment but as a
disinfectant in swimming pools. Many biocides are synthetic, but there are naturally occurring biocides classified as natural biocides, derived from, e.g., bacteria and plants.

However, the excessive use of biocides has considerable environmental and economic impacts, and the misuse of more aggressive biocides and increased doses (as a way to overcome the resistance phenomena) constitutes an extra risk to public health. These measures can lead to the selection of pathogens insusceptible to the main available antimicrobials. Antimicrobial resistance is even more significant when cells are embedded in a biofilm.

Therefore, novel biocides are required for effective disinfection. Since its foundation, Chamco Ireland blends and bottles biocides in various formats and concentrations, to retail outlets and food manufacturing industries within and outside the EU. In this project, the company, as a specialist in Anti Bacterial Cleaners & Food Safety with over 30 years experience in both food safety and chemical manufacturing, offers an end to end solution for manufacturers, retailers and individual clients.

Product developed in the project, ECDS (Ellimination of C. Difficile Spores), consists on a 100% natural cleaning solution, with active ingredients derived from young oranges.

This eco-friendly solution is 100% biodegradable and contains no Alcohol or Chlorine. The result is a tough cleanser, which is safe for Human Consumption and also for the environment, and is able to control main bacteria affecting humans, such as Salmonella, Escherichia coli, Listeria, Campylobacter, Clostridium difficile, Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus and Influenza A.

Chamco has developed therefore a natural biocide, in liquid and powder product formulation, for use in the destruction of pathogenic bacteria and fungi in the seafood and poultry industries, having received pesticide control approval for retail and industrial sales.

Concerning market target, the company had primarily focused its sales and marketing efforts on servicing the Food industry.

In this sense, participation in ACTTiVAte program has been decisively to re-launch business strategy, which has enabled the company to now positioning itself into the Healthcare market, diversifying its technology and marketing efforts in the understanding and belief that the basic natural biocide technology is adaptable and transferable to the Healthcare sector.

Hence, within this project Chamco has reformulated the base natural biocide, in an effort to make the biocide suitable for the destruction of the pathogenic bacteria and spores that inhabit foodstuffs and also human body parts, as hands, feet, etc, causing serious health and cost consequences to patients.
Additionally, Entrepreneurs’ team is leaded by Brendan Chambers and Noreen Vesey, qualified in Food Science and Marketing respectively and engaged for years at high levels, in all aspects, both technical and commercial, in the Agro-Food industry internationally.

Finally, this project is a clear example of innovation between two sectors (Agrofood and Healthcare), as well as an adaptation to an opportunity timing to fulfil a market necessity, characteristics that the ACTTiVAte acceleration program seek and support. For all this, next future looks like optimistic for the project.

Improving Dairy European Industry

Project Case |Health & AgroFood |DestiNA Genomica S.L.

European dairy sector is a heavyweight in the European Union’s agricultural economy. Is the world second biggest agricultural sector in terms of output value, after the vegetable and horticultural plant sector and before cereals. (1). In 2016, European milk farmers produced 163.3 million liters of cow’s milk, representing a 27% market share in global trade. There were 23.4 million dairy cows in the EU in 2015, unevenly distributed across the EU. (2)

Nowadays, the dairy industry faces a number of challenges, according to the study “Animal Welfare in the EU” by the European Parliament. Second worst animal welfare problem in Europe is the poor welfare of dairy cows, because of leg disorders, mastitis and reproductive problems.

Mastitis is an endemic disease and one of the most prevalent diseases in dairy cows. Distinguish by an inflammation of mammary gland parenchyma, which is characterized by a range of physical and chemical changes of milk and pathological changes in the udder tissues. It also provokes the swelling and discomfort on the cow, affecting to the quality of milk. Mastitis most commonly occurs on dairy cows but can also affects all types of them, being the most important, frequent and costly disease, affecting dairy herds worldwide (Halasa et al. 2007; Miller et al. 1993). According to Bhikane & Kawitkar (2000) this is a major economic issue in dairy industry worldwide, causing up to 70% of reduced milk production, 9% of milk discard after treatment, 7% of the cost of veterinary services and 14% of premature culling.

In the UK only, around one million cases of bovine mastitis occur each year, causing 200 millions pounds of losses in production and treatments every year (Science Daily 2008). Under Dutch circumstances, the average costs of a case of clinical mastitis are estimated to be 277 Euros and 168 Euros for cows in early and late lactation respectively. According to estimations by De Vos, C.J. and Dijkhuizen, A.A. (1998) “Economical aspects of udder health” (in Dutch). the yearly economic damage of clinical mastitis for Dutch farmers exceeds 100 million Euros, assuming a yearly incidence rate of 25% and 1,6 million dairy cows at risk each year.

Current milk testing involves bacterial culture and/or PCRs to identify bacterial pathogens, involving time consuming and expensive processes. To address this key issue, DestiNA Genomics Ltd. (DGL) has developed the Bovine Mastitis Spin-Tube project, calls MastiTube, a novel medical multiplex diagnostic platform based on a direct detection of mastitis pathogen rRNA sequences, without need of cultures or PCRs.

The MastiTube project takes advantage from this market need and timing opportunity, and was developed from the previous patented device DestiNA Spin-Tube, used for human parasite infections. This test pledge to revolutionize testing for mastitis, offering a rapid, accurate and low cost detection of bovine mastitis, of 2 DestiNA Spin tube Prototype / Source: euros cost per test.

DGL is a spin-off from the University of Edinburgh, founded in 2010 by three partners: Hugh Ilyine, Juan J. Diaz-Mochon and Mark Bradley, to research, validate and commercialize this novel “dynamic chemistry” technology. In 2012 DGL incorporated a Spanish subsidiary DestiNA Genomica S.L. (DGSL), located on the Granada Health Technology Park, with the goal of fostering research and development in Spain, with partners such as Master Diagnóstica.

Since its foundation, DGL/DGSL have focused on development of simpler, faster more accurate and cost-effective products for PCR free detection of microRNAs, valuables as biomarkers for toxicology, illness and disease.

Technology developed is unique and distinguishable from the rest existing enzymatic methods of nucleic acid analysis. Additionally, company demonstrated that its patented Smart Nucleobase Technology works 100% accurately at detecting mutations in blind testing of cystic fibrosis patient blood samples.

Participation in ACTTiVAte program has been decisive to reach goal of becoming a leading manufacturer and supplier of custom chemical reagents for biomarker assays. Participation has helped finishing developments to get ready a prototype, including improved sample preparation and RNA stabilization, refrigeration free handling, shipment and storage, as well as its library of patented smart nucleobases and custom probes.

The MastiTube solution will make an important impact in European countries with significant dairy herds, such as the Agrofood Capital Cluster of Netherlands which produces almost the 10% of the total production of milk in Europe; and thanks to the ACTTiVAte network will be possible to contact them and improve the test thanks to its inputs.

On the coming months, as a result of its contacts with the Roslyn Institute in Scotland, DestiNA will implement the MastiTube to detect novel biomarkers for early detection of dairy cow pregnancy. A contract between the Institute and the company has been recently signed to improve the MastiTube in order to develop new tests for the Agrofood and companion animal sector.

Furthermore, participation in ACTTiVAte has facilitated the development of alternative market entrance strategies and viable business models, as well as the investment of 180 thousand Euros already in 2018. This and further investments will also open up new scalable opportunities and thus lower costs and prices, which likely lead to first national sales in 2019 and international ones in 2020.




Genetics for nutrition: Improving health and sports practice

Project Case |Health & Agrofood |DNActive

Since publication of first human genome sequences in 2001, and the completion of the Human Genome Project Sequence in 2004, many expectation about its consequences have arisen.

Human genome was the first of all vertebrates to be completely sequenced, and in the next years after 2004, thousands of human genomes have been completely sequenced, and many more have been mapped at lower levels of resolution. Although the sequence of the human genome has been nearly completely determined by DNA sequencing, it is not yet fully understood. Most genes have been identified by a combination of high throughput experimental and bioinformatics approaches, yet much work still needs to be done to further elucidate the biological functions of their protein and RNA products.

This data is used worldwide in biomedical science, anthropology, forensics and other branches of science, and there is a widely held expectation that genomic studies will lead to advances in the diagnosis and treatment of diseases, and to new insights in many fields of biology, including human evolution.

Among other applications of Genetics, Nutrition is one of the most developed. In this sense, nutrition studies demonstrate so many conflicting results because of people’s different genotypes, which lead to diverse reactions to specific foods. And this difference likely depends, at least in part, on genetic variation.

Genetically, humans are 99.5% the same. Yet, that 0.5% difference matters. After all, it accounts for 30 million letters in the genetic code. And within that 0.5%, there is the SNPs (Single Nucleotide Polymorphisms).
When a single nucleotide in the genome is altered, that is a SNP.

SNPs are the most common form of sequence variation in the human genome. More than 470 have been identified on the vitamin D receptor gene alone. SNPs determine human genetic differences – including risk of particular illnesses.

Genes can be influenced by all kinds of things, such as nutrient deficiencies or excesses (especially at crucial developmental stages), dietary components, sunlight and Vitamin D, toxins, bacteria and viruses, exercise and activity, alcohol and other drugs, etc. Therefore, genetic expression is strongly shaped by environment, so, if we know more about our genetic variants, we might be able to adjust our lifestyle or environment in order to prevent some illnesses or become healthier.

Genetic testing can be performed via cheek swab, blood, or other tissue sampling. Any sample that contains human cell nuclei will work, since all cells have the same genes. DNA is extracted from the sample, then amplified, sequenced, and assembled into a readable format for the patient.

Researchers can then analyze single genes, arrays, or the full genome. Once genetically screened, people can then receive their own tailored dietary prescription.

In this context, present project GeneHealth has carried out the development of a personalized nutritional supplementation product to improve health and sports practice, through the transfer of genetic knowledge.

It is an innovative project which intends to give a supplementation to the most optimal and effective measure, thanks to the development of scientific research in the field of Genetics. The product developed consists in the proper selection of nutrients in different formats through the analysis of the genes involved in the different metabolic processes, using a computer algorithm to interpret results.

The company, Advanced Genetics DNActive SL is a bio-sanitary startup in the field of consumer genomics, based on the Granada Health Technology Park, specialized in personalizing services of nutritional itineraries, adapted training and tailored supplementation, using genetics of patients and providing them in distance. Field of
application are Sports, Nutrition and Anti-aging.

Company has already developed genetic solutions for Sports and Nutrition and plans to launch services on Cosmetics and Skin Diseases in the mid-term. Indeed, it sells its services via e-commerce since May 2016, confirming a growing trend of sales and profits. Moreover, there is a very important common denominator in all of its services: how human body processes different nutrients that eats, since they are the basis of many metabolic and biochemical processes that take place in the body, being, at the end of the day, responsible of its quality life and health.

Participation in ACTTiVAte has resulted highly important since it has helped in several areas. Firstly, to be able to get a business model 100% validated and a marketed product. Secondly, facilitating geographical diversification of suppliers, with shorter response times, lower costs and at the end of the day greater strength of negotiation; finally, thanks to coaching dynamics held in ACTTiVAte, project reached economies of scale via opening of new channels and new international markets, diversification of new products, deduction of supply costs and generation of multiple complementary services. Also, they have got:

• 250,000 from NEOTEC-Neotec Capital Riesgo.
• The seal of innovative company.
• Raised an additional 343.500 Euros in third-party financing, including the 15k angels.
• Taking advantage of the new capital inflow (40.000 Enisa + 200.000 Autonomous Government of Andalusia)
• The entry of new capital to DNActive is being negotiated with other investors.
• DNActive’s workforce has increased.
• New cosmetic product launched on the market.
• The commercialization of DNActive’s nutraceutical product has begun.

Expectations from project are very high. Opportunity timing is clear, and project may take advantage from scientific advances on Genetics and its use in several areas.

Nanotechnology for food security

Project Case |ICT & AgriFood |Mater Dynamics

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:

Bioanalytical software to battle against bacterial diseases

Project Case |ICT & Health |Clover Bioanalytical Software

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 (

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.



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:

Big Data to deal with Musculoskeletal Disorder

Project Case |ICT & Health |mDurance Solutions S.L

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

Wearable EMG sensor: Muscle activity controlled

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

mDurance system interface in different devices: Muscle activity controlled

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.