Solving an industry problem: Identifying Salmonella type for a fraction of the cost!

Dreamer: Jordan Shaw

Business: BioBacTrac, LLC

Location: West Des Moines, IA

Industry Contest: Manufacturing/Bioscience/IT

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BioBacTrac’s new DNA-based method can identify specific strains of Salmonella for a fraction of the cost of other methods – the traditional ones are inaccurate and expensive, and the existing molecular ones are even more expensive and still can’t differentiate the 2,500+ types.
Business Description:
BioBacTrac is opening a microbiology laboratory focused on implementing a novel molecular method used for the identification of Salmonella serotypes (the specific sub-strain). The SISR (pronounced “scissor”) method is unique because it focuses on a section of the Salmonella genome recently discovered to contain the information coding for the specific serotype.

Older, traditional tests used to type Salmonella are highly subjective and therefore can be quite inaccurate. They’re also expensive as they use a large variety of reagents, which are becoming harder and harder to find. New molecular tests work great for most generic bacterial identifications and have reduced cost (although, some tests are still really expensive) and turnaround time, however they still lack the resolution needed to successfully differentiate between the more than 2,500 types of Salmonella. The few existing molecular methods that stand a chance of identifying the strain of Salmonella can cost hundreds of dollars per test!

SISR can successfully identify the Salmonella type for a fraction of the cost of the other methods. A low cost solution allows industry, food manufacturers, public health officials, research scientists, and others to test more often, resulting in more and better data -- food plants will be able to more effectively remediate Salmonella contamination, public health officials will be able to conduct traceability exercises and control outbreaks faster, and scientists can gain a fuller picture of their research. Poultry, egg producers, and pet food are some of the main industries that are affected by Salmonella.

Salmonella is the leading food borne pathogen resulting in $3.7 billion in medical costs each year. Annually, there are 1,000,000 cases of Salmonella infection, resulting in 19,000 hospitalizations and 400 deaths (USDA). More accurate and effective Salmonella typing can help speed up outbreak investigations, resulting in faster and more precise recalls, which should help reduce the number of illnesses and death.

According to the scientist who developed the method, there are approximately 50,000 tests to be performed in the US each year. Furthermore, the international market is even larger. She said “If I was a commercial lab, I’d be swamped with business!” Many requests are coming out of the large poultry exporting countries in South America. Emerging countries lack access to reliable serotyping services. The SISR method is currently offered by only three land grant universities (whose missions do not include being a commercial service laboratory).

BioBacTrac’s goal is to become the only 3rd party commercial testing lab to offer the SISR method in addition to regular food microbiology testing. Food testing will be a $5.6 bn business in North American in 2018, up from $3.45 bn in 2013 ( The traditional food testing lab operates on a service model where customers submit a sample, request desired analyses, and pay per service. Typical differentiators include tests offered, pricing, data services, and customer service. For SISR, we've simplified the sample submission process. BioBacTrac will provide a "sample submission kit" that will be sent to the customer. Because this test needs only the Salmonella DNA and not the live culture, the customer can put a few drops of the sample on a special card, which kills the organism, making it safe to send through regular mail or parcel services, without hassles from Customs. Customers will then submit sample information via the website, and pay per submission. Once the sample arrives at the lab, it will be processed and results sent to the customer electronically.
Reason for Entering:
I am applying because it has been my dream to open my own lab that can disrupt the traditional food testing market by offering novel methods and outstanding customer service. There are many tools available to businesses today that could streamline processes and increase customer satisfaction, yet are not being utilized by the other players in the field. Having my own lab will allow me to be agile and take advantage of these tools. The "Dream Big Grow Here" money will primarily be used to purchase lab equipment and then fund a marketing campaign for clients in South America and in the US.
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