News J-WAFS spinout company reveals new food safety technology

Xibus Systems is revolutionizing food safety through the integration of bioengineering, nanotechnology, and AI.

August 9, 2022

Xibus Systems spelled out in black caps with a blue and green sphere to the right

Today, J-WAFS spinout company, Xibus Systems, Inc. announced the development of a new technology called XiSafeTM for high-speed detection of disease-causing bacteria in food, including Listeria, Salmonella and E.coli.

Recent headlines have pointed to the severity of foodborne illness which causes hundreds of thousands of deaths worldwide every year. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, salmonella alone sickens 1.3 million Americans annually, and sends more than 26,000 of them to hospitals, where approximately 420 cases end in death. In fact, just last week, the U.S. Department of Agriculture proposed new regulations that would require food processors to reduce the amount of salmonella bacteria found in some raw chicken products or else risk being shut down.

Back in 2016, MIT professors Tim Swager and Alexander M. Klibanov were working to address the issue of foodborne illness with a J-WAFS Solutions grant. Their project sought to find an affordable way to detect food contamination rapidly at any point in the supply chain. They developed a handheld food safety sensor that uses specialized droplets that behave like a dynamic lens, changing in the presence of specific bacteria, therefore detecting bacterial contamination in food. Swager also launched Xibus Systems to bring the product to market and advance food safety for greater public health, sustainability, and economic security. 

“Food safety testing is required by regulatory agencies worldwide,” says Swager. “Each year $8 billion is spent on food pathogen testing. Despite billions spent on bacterial testing, recalls exist in large numbers, food brands suffer, and enormous quantities of food are thrown away. Most importantly, the public regularly experiences illness from contaminated food with more than 400,000 fatalities each year around the world. We saw the need for a more powerful, reliable, yet easy to use test to help ensure public safety.”

Xibus’ president & CEO, Peter Antoinette, states “current food bacterial testing, even modern ‘fast’ methods, are still slow and take a day or more to get results. Food continually spoils after harvest and suppliers are under tremendous pressure to ship before test results are finalized. Health risks are compounded because these untested foods go through the supply chain and reach the family table. Xibus is developing XiSafe — an unprecedented integration of molecular engineering, nanotechnology, and artificial intelligence (AI) to revolutionize the speed of food pathogen testing.” 

The total test time for XiSafe is 8-12 hours depending on the organism and food, compared to the 24-48-hour total test time of products currently on the market. XiSafe is designed for high throughput testing conducted by food and beverage producers, processors, and larger users. Its novel speed also leverages Xibus’ designed bacterial growth media. Unique formulations enhance the growth of target pathogens while suppressing competing background bacteria that often far outnumber pathogens in samples. Enrichment times are reduced significantly, with detection of targeted pathogens enhanced dramatically. 

Key attributes of XiSafe technology:

  • Ease of Use: Sample preparation and workflow fit right into current methods enabling easy adoption without “retooling” current procedures. XiSafe hardware can be mastered in as little as ten minutes.  
  • Accurate Output: XiSafe’s unique use of AI produces the most reliable results with extreme accuracy. Subjective operator judgement is eliminated from the decision chain and key safeguards ensure that the tests are being prepared and performed accurately.
  • High Throughput: Sample collection enrichment times, common to all live pathogen detection schemes, are reduced by the high speed and accuracy from XiSafe. Readers are being designed for running dozens of samples automatically.   
Professor Tim Swager in a red shirt and tan tie

Tim Swager, MIT professor and founder of Xibus Systems, Inc.