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"This is a $10 billion market and everyone knows it." Those are the words of Chris Hartshorn, CEO of a new MIT spinout—Xibus Systems—that is aiming to make a splash in the food industry with their new food safety sensor.
Hartshorn has considerable experience supporting innovation in agriculture and food technology. Prior to joining Xibus, he served as chief technology officer for Callaghan Innovation, a New Zealand government agency. A large portion of the country's economy relies upon agriculture and food, so a significant portion of the innovation activity there is focused on those sectors.
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While there, Hartshorn came in contact with a number of different food safety sensing technologies that were already on the market, aiming to meet the needs of New Zealand producers and others around the globe. Yet, "every time there was a pathogen-based food recall" he says, "it shone a light on the fact that this problem has not yet been solved."
He saw innovators across the world trying to develop a better food pathogen sensor, but when Xibus Systems approached Hartshorn with an invitation to join as CEO, he saw something unique in their approach, and decided to accept.
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Xibus Systems was formed in the fall of 2018 to bring a fast, easy, and affordable food safety sensing technology to food industry users and everyday consumers. The development of the technology, based on MIT research, was supported by two commercialization grants through the MIT Abdul Latif Jameel Water and Food Systems Lab's J-WAFS Solutions program. It is based on specialized droplets—called Janus emulsions—that can be used to detect bacterial contamination in food. The use of Janus droplets to detect bacteria was developed by a research team led by Tim Swager, the John D. MacArthur Professor of Chemistry, and Alexander Klibanov, the Novartis Professor of Biological Engineering and Chemistry.
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