Cybertongue has lactose licked

By: Cat Fitzpatrick

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Development licence signed for CSIRO-developed tool that can detect lactose and spoilt milk

Cybertongue has lactose licked
PPB managing director Stephen Trowell, seated left, and PPB director Jo Davey sign a technology licence with the leader of the CSIRO’s Innovative Bioproducts Group Alisha Anderson and Paul De Barro, CSIRO Research Director for Risk Evaluation and Preparedness


A ‘cybertongue’ developed by CSIRO has been licensed to startup PPB Technology.

The next-generation diagnostic tool uses biological sensors to detect substances like lactose on the spot and will be one of a range of food diagnostics tests that PPB Technology will enter the market with, it says.

These tests will be for on the spot analysis of foods, beverages and other biological samples.

"In an era of uncertainty about food safety, quality and provenance, PPB Technology will give producers, processors and consumers the tools they need to make fast decisions with confidence," it says.

Click here to check out another CSIRO innovation - an app that gives instantaneous soil, water and yield information.

CSIRO says that the Cybertongue has potentially game-changing applications across food safety, environmental monitoring and human health.

Former CSIRO researcher and PPB Technology founder, Dr Stephen Trowell, said the company would first focus on the tool’s diagnostic potential in the dairy industry, detecting lactose and spoilage enzymes in milk.

"It is estimated that four per cent of Australians are lactose intolerant and this problem may affect up to 65 per cent of the world’s human population," Trowell says.

"We are seeing a growing number of people in Australia and around the world preferring lactose-free dairy alternatives.

"The global market for these products is set to grow to $15 billion over the next six years.

"For milk processors, current diagnostic methods for lactose are expensive and it can take up to a week to receive results, causing costs and delays for processors and increasing prices for consumers.

"By using a special biosensor for lactose, the Cybertongue technology provides accurate and close to real time measurements anywhere in the production line, meaning products can be distributed sooner without risking product quality."

CSIRO is developing future sensors for wider applications of Cybertongue as part a formal strategic partnership between CSIRO and PPB Technology.

"The unique way we have built the technology means we can develop sensors that detect a wide range of substances including toxins, allergens and enzymes," senior CSIRO researcher Dr Alisha Anderson says.

This means the technology can be applied to a range of applications and industries such as food, environmental monitoring, biosecurity, and human health.

"In human health this technology could mean potentially fatal health conditions like sepsis could be diagnosed in just a few minutes rather than current methods which take a few hours, potentially leading to faster and more effective treatment," Anderson says.

It could also be used for the early diagnosis of some cancers, being adapted to measure the levels of key protease biomarkers in blood to detect and follow the progress of diseases, as well as develop novel therapies.

"This is a great example of how a startup can take science and innovation developed inside of CSIRO into the Australian community," Anderson adds.

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