FDA-logo_406x250The Food and Drug Administration has named the winners of its 2014 Food Safety Challenge. Purdue University’s method of concentrating Salmonella to detectable levels with a process that involves filtering the pathogenic cells out of a stomached food sample using hollow fibers won the grand prize of $300,000. The runner-up — Pronucleotein Inc.’s on-site screening system in which aptamers replace antibodies — won $100,000. “These breakthrough concepts for detecting foodborne pathogens in fresh produce and other foods will help ensure quicker detection of problems in our food supply and help to prevent foodborne illnesses,” said Palmer Orlandi, Ph.D, FDA’s acting chief science officer and research director in the Office of Foods and Veterinary Medicine. The contest was launched last fall to encourage academic institutions and laboratories to develop methods for better and faster detection of Salmonella in food. Salmonella is the leading cause of deaths and of hospitalizations related to foodborne illness, estimated to cause 380 deaths and 19,000 hospitalizations in the United States each year. Forty-nine teams submitted proposals between Sept. 23 and Nov. 9, 2014. The finalists were announced in May, and each was given $20,000 to further develop their projects and be mentored by FDA employees during a “boot camp” in May at the Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition. Judges heard final presentations from the five finalists in early July during a “Demo Day.” The Purdue team members said they look forward to continuing to work with FDA to refine their microfiltration system for potential use in the agency’s testing processes. Pronucleotein’s team members said that the information they learned during the challenge about how FDA food safety testing procedures function and how they’re currently implemented will help guide the company’s future business plans. The prize money will help them seek AOAC (Association of Analytical Communities) certification for existing assays and facilitate market entry. (To sign up for a free subscription to Food Safety News, click here.)