CSIRO technology aims to help in biosecurity and substance monitoring  

A CSIRO-developed cybertongue that can rapidly detect lactose and spoilt milk, and aims to help in other sectors such as biosecurity, was licensed to start-up company PPB Technology in early-November.

The next-generation diagnostic tool uses biological sensors to detect substances like lactose on the spot.

It has potentially game-changing applications across food safety, environmental monitoring and human health.

Former CSIRO researcher and PPB Technology founder, 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.

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“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.

“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,” said Trowell.

“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,” he said.

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

CSIRO researcher Alisha Anderson said the way the technology is built means CSIRO can develop sensors that detect a wide range of substances including toxins, allergens and enzymes.

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,” she said.

“It could also be used for the early diagnosis of some cancers.

“This is a great example of how a start-up can take science and innovation developed inside of CSIRO into the Australian community,” said Anderson.