SwissDeCode launches portable rapid DNA test

By Joseph James Whitworth contact

- Last updated on GMT

SwissDeCode's DNAFoil test
SwissDeCode's DNAFoil test
SwissDeCode has launched a portable rapid DNA test that gives results in 30 minutes.

The first product in the DNAFoil line detects pork on-site for the benefit of halal and kosher food supply chains.

The firm said it allows in-house personnel to screen raw materials and finished products for undeclared ingredients and contaminants with no disruption to existing workflows.

It is designed as a screening test which is done before accepting a consignment in the factory.

DNAFoil can replace existing PCR tests performed in labs. The kit can detect targeted DNA in concentrations of 0.01%. Detection is done with a lateral flow format.

Initial focus on Europe

Gianpaolo Rando, CTO of the company which has seven employees, said food manufacturers do some DNA testing today but often need to send samples to a lab.

“For the first product [for pork] it takes 30 minutes, two to three minutes of preparation, 20 minutes for amplification and two to three minutes for the lateral flow detection.”

Rando added the stick can identify the target on one band and anything else would show up on another band.

“For a prototype with pork we had one space for pork, one horse meat band, one band for zebra, one band for donkey and we ended up with 32 bands. With the targeted approach the problem is there is always the possibility of another sample introduction,” ​he said.

“Revealing the subtype is possible. One band for general Listeria to see if everything works properly and there is good hygiene and one for Listeria monocytogenes so you know you need to pay more attention.”

DNAFoil is targeting Europe initially and with multi-nationals based there it plans to work with them to go overseas.

The technology is built on research from the University of Geneva.

Current production capacity is 3,000 boxes per week but the firm foresees 3,000 per day in the future. Production is sub-contracted with design and assembly in Switzerland.

Eight weeks is the average development time to create a custom DNAFoil fit for customers' processes and the firm intends to launch a new test every two months. Next up is Salmonella, E. coli and Listeria.

Reduce inventory costs and blockchain plans

Brij Sahi, CEO, said it has tested a variety of matrixes and even if the food is processed it is still able to detect pork.

“Today samples are sent to the lab for DNA testing. For example, one customer wanted to check there was no pork in poultry sausages and this testing took 24 hours. In 24 hours finished product is immobilised so our test can reduce inventory costs and increase shelf life by a day,”​ he said.

“We have had enquiries from a governmental halal body looking to test imports to program an extra level of security in the halal supply chain. Halal and kosher supply chains are built on trust of certificates passed down the supply chain and content of boxes is not tested.

“[The reaction has been] positive at this moment in time, tests have been in labs with scientists and technical staff with years of training and expensive equipment, while we have a screening test for the front line.

“One factory manufacturing spices tests every consignment for Salmonella. Product sits in the warehouse for four days while they wait for lab test results and with our test inventory is down to less than one day.”

Sahi said it sees activity in blockchain and that is part of the product development roadmap.

“With the growth of blockchain, we will develop a solution to integrate with blockchain and results through the blockchain platform,” ​he said. 

“It was Frank Yiannas of Walmart who spoke about tracking mangoes in seconds instead of days. It is one thing to track a barcode, it is another to say at what point in time a product was clear of bacteria and if bacteria is found later in the supply chain you know when it got contaminated.”

Established in 2016, SwissDeCode tools and processes have been recognized with a gold prize by MassChallenge Switzerland, an innovation accelerator supported by companies such as Nestlé, Givaudan, Barry Callebaut and Bühler.

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