Engineering accelerator team aims to simplify E.coli and Salmonella detection in the food processing industry

Rapid City, South Dakota - Ten teams from the South Dakota School of Mines and Technology are currently participating in a business accelerator program created by the Enterprise Institute and funded by the Blackstone Charitable Foundation. The teams are comprised of mix of students, faculty, and entrepreneurs-in-residence. The South Dakota Engineering Accelerator is focused on high-growth business creation and the commercialization of engineering-focused projects from the university system and the general public.

Vivek Agarwal stands in his lab space on the South Dakota School of Mines and Technology campus in Rapid City, South Dakota.

One team in the accelerator is developing a new technology which could prevent millions of illnesses due to foodborne pathogens each year. “We, Module Innovations, are developing bacteria sensing strips for food processing industries which help them by providing rapid, on-site detection of pathogenic bacteria. These color changing strips will be accurate and reliable without any instrument and trained manpower,” explained Vivek Agarwal.

Vivek, a graduate student in the Materials Engineering and Science Program at SDSM&T, has been working on this project for a year now. “I visited one of the health centers in India and found that slow diagnostic techniques cause a lot of suffering due to related health issues. I also read articles about recalls of food due to contamination and loss of millions of dollars that companies have to face,” said Vivek. “With the help of my undergraduate level background in Nano-biotechnology, we came up with the idea of making a rapid diagnostic test.”

While attending graduate school in Rapid City, Vivek is also able to work remotely with his team in India to further develop the prototype of the bacteria sensing strips. “As an engineer, I know the technical details of our project. But I felt that to commercialize our product, I need to know more about business side of it. So, I decided to join South Dakota Engineering Accelerator,” explained Vivek. “The most valuable thing we’ve realized in the program is that we need to know our market really well before thinking of commercialization. Our next business step for the project is to do the market study really well and estimate the cost of our product in real world.”

About the Enterprise Institute:

The Enterprise Institute began in 2001 when a group of business leaders and entrepreneurs decided to help identify and launch high-growth businesses in South Dakota. The mission of the Enterprise Institute is to encourage and assist the establishment of growth enterprises in the state. Since 2006, the nonprofit has organized and currently administers seven member managed angel investment funds in the state of South Dakota. To date, the funds include over 130 individual accredited investors and have raised over $7,500,000 to invest in startup companies in the state and region.

About the Blackstone Charitable Foundation:

The Blackstone Charitable Foundation was founded at the time of Blackstone’s IPO in 2007 with substantial commitments from the Firm’s employees. Influenced by the enterprising heritage of the firm and its founders, the Blackstone Charitable Foundation is directing its resources and applying the intellectual capital of the firm to foster entrepreneurship in areas nationwide and globally. Through its investment expertise across several asset classes and geographies, Blackstone has a unique perspective on the global economy and a heightened understanding of how entrepreneurial activity is often the crucial catalyst in the growth of successful businesses, industries, and communities.

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