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Epigem secures €½ million of European funding to detect potent carcinogen

Epigem, a hi-tech British company, has secured €499k to play a key role in SYMPHONY, an integrated systems project to improve the quality and safety of milk. A key target is the prevention of a potent carcinogen, Aflatoxins M1, and its precursor Aflatoxin B1 entering the dairy and dairy products.

SYMPHONY could ultimately enable testing of these carcinogens to be carried out at an individual farm level.

The Symphony consortium is a world class interdisciplinary research and industrial, seven partner team that has been granted €2.3m from the European Commission’s Framework Programme (FP7) for a 3 year period. Epigem’s role is to produce a new semi-disposable microfluidic module for sample pre-treatment and analysis.

The aim of SYMPHONY is the development of an online system for the detection of, in particular, aflatoxin M1 in milk for the dairy industry with specific objectives to:

(a) Provide a new method for milk analysis, to enable precise quality control and production management through milk contamination prevention – SYMPHONY will allow the detection of contaminations at an early stage of the milk processing chain (e.g. by testing each milk consignment entering the production chain) and a more effective management of milk processing to:

– reduce losses due to processing of contaminated milk

– simplify milk control logistics

– minimize hands-on labour and

– improve product quality;

(b) Protect the public from exposure to aflatoxin M1 contaminated dairy products by detecting contaminations faster and on a larger set of samples – this will improve the control on the milk quality with a reduced exposure to toxins;

(c) Give effective feed-back to farmers for timely farm management of the contamination. Timely detection of the contamination and rapid action on herds and feed would minimise economic losses at farm level.

Tim Ryan, managing director of Epigem, said: “Aflatoxin is a serious cancer hazard and this project will establish a robust system to quickly detect the toxin in milk. It has the potential to save farmers’ money, and at the same time save lives.”

The project coordinator Leandro Lorenzelli of FBK – Fondazione Bruno Kessler, Trento, Italy, said: “The project SYMPHONY proposes a new generation of devices representing a breakthrough for the dairy industry and leading toward precision process management. The detection of aflatoxin is a key issue in food sector and the proposed smart microsystems will provide a significant advancement in milk quality control.”.

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