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She set out to develop a pocket-sized allergen sensor that could test any food, anywhere, in just a couple of minutes.
For those who suffer from gluten, milk, and peanut allergies, a new portable tool is about to change—and potentially save—your life. The device, which FWx first reported on in its early stages last August is now ready to ship to gluten-intolerant consumers.
San Francisco-based startup Nima—formerly called 6SensorLabs—developed the device as an aid to those with sensitivities and allergies to peanuts and milk, the two most common triggers of allergies for the some 15 million Americans with food intolerances. The Nima device was developed by two former MIT students (who are both gluten-free) in order to make dining out socially easier and safer for those watching what they eat.
Shireen Yates, co-founder and CEO of Nima, had her "'aha' moment" when a waitress asked her "how gluten allergic" she really was. "I had never had issues with food and, in college, I found out I had all these issues with gluten, eggs, dairy and soy. I couldn't eat anything," Yates told Fortune.
So, she set out to develop a pocket-sized allergen sensor that could test any food, anywhere, in just a couple of minutes. The chemistry-based sensor tests the proteins in the food to detect if it contains the ingredient in question. The user simply inserts a small amount of food into a disposable test pod and receives their results two minutes later. If the allergy-causing ingredient in sensed in the food, a frown face appears on the sensor; if it isn't, a smiley face. While the sensor that detects gluten will be the first available to purchase, Nima is currently developing its milk and peanut-testing devices for later distribution.
In its first stages, the Nima will sell designated capsules for each specific allergy—gluten, peanut, or milk—but in the future, the company hopes to create a single capsule that can test for any ingredient the consumer hopes to avoid. The device is currently available for pre-order at a price tag of $199, but will eventually be sold for $249. The capsules themselves will each cost $3.99, and will be available in packs of 12 for monthly subscribers.
"People with food allergies are stressed out when eating, especially when eating out or traveling. They want that peace of mind at meal time," Yates said. She is hoping her company and device, which has raised $14 million in total funding, will help create that peace of mind with each sensor and pod they produce.