Company led by Former UMCP and National Institute of Standards and Technology Faculty Member Drastically Cuts Detection Time for Salmonella and E. coli in Food
The University System of Maryland (USM) Maryland Momentum Fund has invested $150,000 in College Park, Md.-based pathOtrak, a company that has developed a rapid food test for salmonella and E. coli in food.
The investment closes out pathOtrak’s $1.2 million seed round, along with a $200,000 investment from a global life sciences company with a food safety division and $310,000 from the Dingman Center Angels.
The Momentum Fund continues to invest in companies affiliated with the USM despite the COVID-19 pandemic and encourages applications through the Fund website at https://momentum.usmd.edu.
pathOtrak offers a sample-prep kit called Next Generation Enrichment, which uses a new microfiltration technology to drastically expedite the detection of both salmonella and E. coli in food. pathOtrak’s technology reduces food testing time from 1-2 days to five hours. This enables producers to release product one day earlier, helping the food industry better balance shelf life, profit, and food safety.
About 5 million cases of bacterial food poisoning occur each year in the U.S., resulting in illness, death, and over $55 billion in combined financial losses. Time from farm to table is critical, as illustrated in instances such as the recent romaine lettuce and Chipotle E. coli outbreaks.
“pathOtrak’s mission is to eliminate food-safety risks and gaps in the food industry by delivering the right technologies at the right price, saving producers cost and testing labs time,” said pathOtrak Founder and Chief Executive Officer Javier Atencia, PhD. “Our technology aims to increase shelf life, reduce food waste, and, most importantly, save lives. We are excited to have the Momentum Fund close our seed round at a moment when we are about to send our first product for food-safety accreditation. We are ready and eager to disrupt the food industry by simplifying operations that still rely on lengthy food-safety tests.”
“Vendors of rapid food-safety detection include multi-billion dollar companies such as 3M, Neogen, Biomerieux, Bio-Rad and Hygiena,” said Claire Broido Johnson, Managing Director of the Momentum Fund. “As of now, all of them use a traditional enrichment pathogen detection process, the key step that pathOtrak disrupts. If pathOtrak’s technology can reduce full pathogen detection time, it would offer a key strategic and competitive advantage to a company employing the test.”
After a successful eight-year tenure at UMCP, Dr. Atencia joined pathOtrak full-time to focus on bringing the company’s revolutionary technologies to market. While on faculty in the Fischell Department of Bioengineering at UMCP, Dr. Atencia led joint UMCP and National Institute for Standards and Technology projects. He invented pathOtrak's award-winning technology in 2015 at UMCP and has been awarded 17 other patents, four of which have been licensed, including one to Intel.
pathOtrak’s Head of Engineering Ethan Reggia is an expert in rapid prototyping and manufacturing and has worked on prototyping and mechatronics design projects for numerous agencies, including Northrop Grumman, Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory, and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration.
The USM Maryland Momentum Fund provides investment for promising technology ventures born out of USM’s 12 institutions. The Momentum Fund helps early stage companies move beyond grant funding and?early stage seed investors?to position themselves for commercial launch or to reinforce commercialization at the early revenue stage.
About the USM Momentum Fund
The Maryland Momentum Fund is an initiative of the University System of Maryland (USM) to provide late seed investment funding for promising technology ventures that come out of any of the twelve constituent USM institutions, its research parks, and its students, faculty, or graduates. With a $10 million commitment from the USM already in place, the Fund co-invests with venture capitalists, foundations, and angel investors.
The Maryland Momentum Fund, which was established by the USM Board of Regents to support promising commercial opportunities arising from advances in research and intellectual property at USM campuses, has invested in fourteen startups to date:?? MF Fire, NextStep Robotics, the North American Wave Engine Corporation, Zest Tea, PaverGuide, Retrium, Veralox Therapeutics, Gemstone Biotherapeutics, Neoprogen, Minnowtech, ARMR Systems, Infercabuary, Datakwip, and pathOtrak. The Fund is designed to create returns and support USM’s most innovative ideas as they enter the marketplace. Learn more at www.momentum.usmd.edu.
About the Dingman Center for Entrepreneurship and the Dingman Center Angels
Located within the University of Maryland's Robert H. Smith School of Business, the Dingman Center is one of the nation’s preeminent entrepreneurship centers where the research, education and practice of entrepreneurship are pursued vigorously. The Dingman Center Angels is operated by the Center and is a Maryland based angel investment network that provides funding to early-stage companies primarily located in the Mid-Atlantic region. Since 2010, the network has invested more than $16 million in early stage companies.