Water treatment Digital Solutions Americas
Wednesday, 20 April 2022

New partnership set to develop water quality biosensors

FREDsense Technologies Corp and Ginkgo Bioworks have announced a partnership to build biosensors for remote water quality monitoring and detection.

Boosting biosensors

FREDsense Technologies Corp, a water monitoring company that leverages synthetic biology to build field kits, and Ginkgo Bioworks, a biotech company focusing on cell programming, have announced a partnership to build biosensors for remote water quality monitoring and detection.

David Lloyd, CEO of FREDsense, told Aquatech Online said: "Water testing is critical and difficult to accomplish. We need new methods and test systems to support the busy workloads of our utility operators.

“With biological test methods, we can provide data in the field with high quality, accurate information to optimize processes and assess changing conditions. We see this as a technology game-changer for the water industry."

Biosensors use a living organism or biological molecules, such as enzymes or antibodies, to detect the presence of chemicals. The development from the two companies will enable real-time field detection of potentially harmful molecules.

Additionally, the new biosensors could have applications for groundwater and industrial water management systems.

"We believe that synthetic biology is the key to solving some of the biggest challenges facing the water industry globally and are very excited to partner with Ginkgo on this vision," he went on to say.

“With biological test methods, we can provide data in the field with high quality, accurate information to optimize processes and assess changing conditions.”

Founded in 2014, FREDsense stands for field Ready Electrochemical Detector and allows users to build custom chemical field-testing kits for their bespoke scenarios.

The kit works by filling a cartridge and placing it into the detector device to automatically incubate the test, measure and report the resulting chemical concentration either through a 3G, Wi-Fi, or USB connection on a computer, mobile device, or server - in a process that takes around one hour.

The partnership with Ginkgo Bioworks will allow FREDsense to develop a biological-based field-testing kit.

Exploring synthetic biology

Synthetic biology is a field of science that involves redesigning organisms for useful purposes by engineering them to have new abilities to solve problems in medicine, manufacturing, and agriculture.

FREDsense will use Ginkgo Bioworks cell programming, more specifically its strain development platform capabilities, to develop advanced biosensors that can detect harmful molecules and toxins in any water source.

Speaking to Aquatech Online, Renee Wegrzyn, vice president of business development at Ginkgo, said: "Monitoring wastewater for harmful pathogens is an essential component of next-generation biosecurity infrastructure. Effective passive monitoring systems can help equip communities and public health authorities with timely data to help catch outbreaks and identify novel pathogens.

"This partnership will drive innovation in water-based biosensing, which could ultimately help unlock better ways to track biological threats."

“Monitoring wastewater for harmful pathogens is an essential component of next-generation biosecurity infrastructure.”

The ability to isolate DNA-encoded sensing elements from nature and reassemble them to create field-deployable “biosensors” for biomonitoring that can detect pathogenic or chemical water contaminants is game-changing for the water sector.

"Partnering with FREDsense is an exciting opportunity to apply Ginkgo's strain development capabilities to powerful biosensor technology for an important application," said Jason Kelly, CEO of Ginkgo Bioworks.

"Protecting our water sources is a mission-critical initiative: life on this planet as we know it depends on it. We're eager to work toward enhancing the capabilities of FREDsense's platform to monitor for harmful contaminants in water."

Is biomonitoring the future?

While it might still be early days, biomonitoring is gaining momentum and fast.

Water monitoring technology is currently in high demand, as utilities across the globe look to get ahead of their future water concerns by having technology that can track, in real-time, what is in their water.

Anglian Water recently trialled two biological monitors to detect small microbiological changes in the water quality. Both sensors were able to establish accurate cell counts of the utility’s lab-based flow cytometer to see whether they correlated.

While biomonitoring is no doubt a disruptive technology, it is not one that is necessarily looking to replace current waiting monitoring technology. Rather than replace, current laboratory sampling methods, it could help existing ways of water monitoring to become more efficient.

While partnerships like this one start to become more common for biosensors, it will be interesting to see where the technology is in five years' time.


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