Pathotrak’s pathogen detection enrichment technology certified by AOAC
Pathotrak Inc., a startup on a mission to revolutionize food safety and the food supply chain to make outbreaks a thing of the past, has received AOAC® Performance Tested℠ certification for its foodborne pathogen enrichment kits.
Pathotrak has developed a next-generation sample prep process that enables food safety tests in six hours.
The AOAC® Research Institute’s certification applies to the detection of salmonella and pathogenic e. Coli in romaine lettuce. The company will also extend the matrices to four additional leafy greens, according to Pathotrak Founder and Chief Executive Officer Javier Atencia.
“We’ve made history! This is the first AOAC-certified product to enable pathogen results within an 8-hour shift,” said Atencia. “What’s more, it fits into existing workflows. Microbiology labs can continue to use their current PCR technology and growers like it because it works with all of their historical data. It’s the same results they have been getting, except it is faster, with equivalent sensitivity, accuracy, and exclusivity.”
Quicker food tests yield benefits to both manufacturers and consumers.
“Faster test results allow manufacturers to release products more quickly, which in turn helps them cut costs on warehousing and refrigeration,” said Akbar Dawood, Pathotrak Chief Financial Officer. “Consumers could also see faster recalls and outbreaks avoided.”
Pathotrak has developed a patented method of separating and concentrating pathogens from food samples more rapidly than conventional methods. This technology addresses the enrichment step of food testing, during which samples are incubated for 22-48 hours until enough bacteria are grown to be tested effectively. The company’s solution, provided as a sample prep kit, employs microfiltration processes to create an environment where the bacteria reproduce quickly. Samples are then ready in as little as four hours, after which they can be analyzed using most current polymerase chain reaction (PCR) pathogen tests for foods.
Pathotrak’s initial technology was jointly developed by the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) and the University of Maryland and was licensed to the company. Since then, Pathotrak has developed a portfolio of technologies focused on expediting food safety tests and tailored to different food matrices, sample sizes, and pathogens. The company has three patents pending.
Pathotrak raised $1.2 million in pre-seed funding in 2019, which included investments from the Maryland Momentum Fund and Dingman Center Angels, as well as angel investors from both the U.S. and Europe. The company was incorporated that same year.
Recently, Pathotrak was awarded a $884,848 Phase II Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) grant from the National Science Foundation for the “Rapid Detection of Pathogens in [meat] Manufacturing Trimmings.”
The company plans to apply for another AOAC certification for a newer, patent-pending technology that is two hours faster, applies to most produce, and can be used for meat products.
Pathotrak recently signed its first customer in Salinas Valley, California.
During its very early stages, Pathotrak received two TEDCO Maryland Innovation Initiative (MII) Phase I and Phase II awards, as well as an N-STEP (NIST – Science and Technology Entrepreneurship Program) award. The company received a $250,000 NSF SBIR Phase I award in 2020.
Pathotrak is a graduate of the National Science Foundation Innovation Corps (I-Corps) program, as well the UMD I-Corps Program. The company is also a former Maryland Industrial Partnerships (MIPS) funding recipient.
Pathotrak has four employees. The company is located in the Mtech Ventures incubator at the University of Maryland.
April 1, 2022