Research Foundation News

January 25, 2016  

Purdue innovation provides 'fingerprint' to identify foodborne pathogens, moves closer to production

Bardot Robinson

A Purdue University innovation creates a "fingerprint" to identify foodborne pathogens by using a light-scatter field in a pathogen colony shown in the upper right corner just above the fingerprint of a pathogen. The patented device, called the Bacteria Rapid Detection using Optical Scattering Technology or BEAM, has shown great promise in identifying dangerous pathogens such as Listeria, Staphylococcus, Salmonella, Vibrio, and E. coli. Since the technology does not require a reagent, it reduces the cost of the pathogen identification and provides immediate test results. The Purdue Research Foundation Office of Technology Commercialization licensed the innovation to Hettich Lab Technology. (Purdue Research Foundation/Oren Darling)
Download Photo

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. – A Purdue University innovation that creates a "fingerprint-like pattern" to identify foodborne pathogens without using reagents has been licensed by Hettich Lab Technology. The technology is being demonstrated at the Society of Laboratory Automation and Screening Conference and Exhibition held now through Wednesday (Jan. 27) in San Diego.

Hettich Lab Technology designs, engineers and commercializes software and automated incubation systems for identifying pathogens using elastic light scatter techniques that fire lasers at a pathogen colony to create a light-scatter field that gives the pathogen a pattern or fingerprint.

"The use of elastic light-scatter technology could change the way foodborne pathogens are identified," said Klaus-Günter Eberle, Hettich's CEO and general manager. "We are excited about the potential of the technology to advance the process of protecting society from foodborne pathogens."

Foodborne pathogens continue to be an international health and safety concern. In the United States, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that one in six Americans, or 48 million people, become ill from foodborne illnesses with 128,000 becoming hospitalized and nearly 3,000 deaths. In addition, an estimated cost of $152 billion in medical expenses, lost productivity and business, lawsuits and compromised branding is attributed to foodborne illnesses.

"Improving our ability to quickly and accurately detect foodborne pathogens is a top priority for the USDA's Agricultural Research Service," said George Paoli, research microbiologist and lead scientist at the USDA-ARS in Wyndmoor, Pennsylvania. "ARS has supported the development of the BEAM technology through funding and collaboration with Purdue’s Center for Food Safety Engineering. The potential applications of BEAM (Bacteria Rapid Detection using Optical Scattering Technology) for bacterial classification and identification are intriguing, particularly for the facile, rapid and low-cost detection of bacterial foodborne pathogens, because foodborne pathogen identification often takes days to complete using conventional microbiological detection methods."

The USDA-ARS, National Science Foundation and National Institutes of Health all provided funding to the Purdue colleges of Agriculture and Veterinary Medicine to develop the technology, which uses an optical sensor in the detection and identification of foodborne pathogens and other bacteria of interest.

"The development of this innovation is a prime example of how research funding from public and private sources can positively lead to innovations to help our global society," said Dan Hasler, president of the Purdue Research Foundation, which is the licenser of the technology. "We are eager to see this technology come to fruition and move to the public."

The device, called the Bacteria Rapid Detection using Optical Scattering Technology, or BEAM, has shown great promise in identifying dangerous pathogens such as listeria, staphylococcus, salmonella, vibrio, and E. coli. Since the technology does not require a reagent, it reduces the cost of the pathogen identification. The technology can be used to test any food source for contamination, changing the model for rapid and definitive identification of pathogens.

"The technology can transmit a pathogenic organism fingerprint across the country instantly without the danger of physically transporting the pathogenic organism. This can be achieved without any reagents or assay requirements, which makes this a unique feature for this technology," said J. Paul Robinson, the SVM Professor of Cytomics in the Purdue Department of Basic Medical Sciences, and member of the Purdue Center for Food Safety Engineering who helped develop the technology. "Another attribute is that the technology evaluates every colony on a Petri-dish, so it eliminates or significantly minimizes the sampling bias, and as a result dramatically lowers dramatically the rate of false negatives - something that no other technology in organism identification can claim."

Other innovators of this technology are Dan Hirleman, Purdue's chief corporate and global partnerships officer; Arun Bhunia, professor of food science; Bartlomiej Rajwa, assistant professor of computational biology in the Bindley Bioscience Centter; and Euiwon Bae, senior research scientist in the School of Mechanical Engineering. The Purdue Center for Food Safety Engineering, under the leadership of director Lisa Mauer, also contributed to the development of the technology.

"The Purdue Center for Food Safety Engineering, established as a cooperative agreement with USDA-ARS, has a valuable history of combining engineering and microbiological expertise to develop pathogen detection technologies," Mauer said. "The technologies developed by the center translate science and engineering into practical tools for improving the detection of foodborne hazards."

Hettich is in partnership with Doclu LLC, a West Lafayette, Indiana,-based software development company founded by Robinson in 2015. Hettich licensed the innovation through the Purdue Research Foundation Office of Technology Commercialization.

About Hettich Lab Technology

Hettich Lab Technology of Tuttlingen, Germany, designs, engineers, and commercializes software and automated incubation systems for quantitatively and conclusively identifying pathogens of interest using Elastic Light Scatter (ELS). Utilizing standard microbiological practices, reproducible results are generated rapidly and reagent-free in a non-destructive environment. Embracing core strengths, innovative technologies, and partnerships with the USDA-ARS, Purdue University, and others, Hettich Lab Technology is introducing BEAM™, a modular platform applying cutting-edge technology.

About Purdue Office of Technology Commercialization

The Purdue Office of Technology Commercialization operates one of the most comprehensive technology transfer programs among leading research universities in the U.S. Services provided by this office support the economic development initiatives of Purdue University and benefit the university's academic activities. The office is managed by the Purdue Research Foundation, which received the 2014 Incubator Network of the Year by the National Business Incubation Association for its work in entrepreneurship. For more information about funding and investment opportunities in startups based on a Purdue innovation, contact the Purdue Foundry at For more information on licensing a Purdue innovation, contact the Office of Technology Commercialization at 

Writer: Cynthia Sequin, 765-588-3340, 


Klaus-Günter Eberle,

George Paoli, George.Paoli@ARS.USDA.Gov

Dan Hasler, 765-588-3825,

J. Paul Robinson,

Lisa Mauer, 

Research Foundation News

Purdue University, 610 Purdue Mall, West Lafayette, IN 47907, (765) 494-4600

© 2015-22 Purdue University | An equal access/equal opportunity university | Copyright Complaints | Maintained by Office of Strategic Communications

Trouble with this page? Disability-related accessibility issue? Please contact News Service at