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How food allergy drove this entrepreneur to start a company

Sep 14, 2015   |   by Jessica Bartlett   |   Upstart Business Journal

Abigail Barnes had struggled with serious food allergies her whole life, always checking in with servers and testing dishes with small bites to make sure they didn’t contain peanuts, tree nuts or shellfish.

While not foolproof, her methods were strained even further when traveling abroad in China, as the language barrier presented an even greater problem to communicating her food allergies to restaurants.

“I was wondering why a device didn’t exist that would allow for you to make sure your food was safe to eat and didn’t contain allergens,” Barnes said.

Her idea is finally coming to fruition, thanks to a partnership with Dartmouth College chemistry professor and sensor technology expert Joseph BelBruno. The duo has begun development of a device that can identify allergens, and their company, Allergy Amulet, has since been named a finalist for Boston-based startup accelerator MassChallenge.

The recognition has afforded Allergy Amulet a new platform to speak to possible investors, funding that will be necessary to bring the device into a beta prototype.

As envisioned, the device would be worn on a necklace, bracelet or put in a user’s pocket. Users will purchase disposable strips, touching the strip to a food and then inserting the strip into the reader to test for contamination.

The allergen fits into the sensor like a lock into a key, and the sensor would subsequently buzz, beep or light up to alert the user of an allergy presence. ...

... As the company speaks with investors, conversations are ongoing with Dartmouth’s Thayer School of Engineering to develop the prototype, and Barnes said the company is working with the Sean N. Parker Center for Allergy Research out of Stanford University to determine the range of sensitivity the device needs to have to meet industry standards for those with food allergies.

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