Our Science – a lab in your pocket
Nima, the world’s first connected food sensor, and was born out of MIT and engineered and developed by people who have food sensitivities and allergies. Nima was developed by adapting antibody-based chemistry used for protein or allergen detection, designed into a hardware device that is portable and easy to use. The primary objectives behind Nima’s design were: high sensitivity and specificity to gluten, speed of testing, portability and ease of use. (We also think it’s pretty nice to look at)
Nima’s antibody-based chemistry
The Gluten Antibody
The Nima chemistry team developed a pair of antibodies specifically for the detection of gluten. There are existing gluten antibodies on the market, but none of them met the sensitivity and specificity requirements that we needed for Nima. The Nima 13F6 and 14G11 antibodies bind to a portion of the gluten protein, called the 33-mer fragment of gluten, which is known as the “toxic” portion of the gluten protein that causes an autoimmune response. Nima’s 13F6 and 14G11 antibody system was evaluated and determined to be more sensitive in a standard lab test than one of the well-recognized gold standard antibodies currently used on the market.
Nima’s gluten antibody is currently being used in the Biofront gluten Elisa kit, having been evaluated for excellent performance in sensitivity and specificity in a wide variety of foods.
The Peanut Antibody
The Nima chemistry team developed a pair of antibodies specifically for the detection of peanut. There are existing peanut antibodies on the market, but none of them were sufficient to meet the speed, sensitivity and specificity requirements that we needed for Nima. The Nima 20B10 and 16B1 antibodies bind to a peanut protein called Arah3. Although not the most antigenic, it is abundant in all types of peanut and is more stable under processing conditions such as heat due to roasting.
To read more about how the antibody is used in the Nima Peanut Sensor, please review the peanut manual.
Each Nima capsule contains a test strip preloaded with our antibodies. If the protein we are looking for is present in the food being tested, the antibodies will bind to the protein and present a signal change on the strip that is detected by the Nima electronics and processing algorithm.
Liquid extraction buffer
When a certain protein is present in food, the protein molecules are trapped inside other food molecules surrounding them. In order to detect the protein in food, the protein molecules need to be isolated and extracted from the rest of the food molecules.
The Nima team designed an extraction buffer solution that is capable of breaking apart the bonds between the protein and other food molecules, leaving the protein itself in a liquid solution, which reacts to the strip.
Grinding and mixing mechanism
When testing food for specific protein, there are several mechanical steps necessary to deliver a result. Screwing the cap shut begins a grinding process on the food to break the food into small particles to increase the amount of surface area exposed to the buffer solution.
After the food is ground, the final twist of the cap will expose the food to the extraction buffer solution. Nima uses a motor to mix the food and the buffer in the capsule. Once the mixing is complete, the solution passes onto the test strip loaded with antibodies, where the chemical reaction begins.
Nima’s sensor & algorithm
As the test strip develops, an electronic sensor and associated algorithm detect the test result. Reading the result electronically eliminates the need for a trained operator to be evaluating the results (as is required with other lab-format tests) and reduces the likelihood of misinterpreting results (as often happens with at-home pregnancy tests). The algorithm is improved and updated via Bluetooth connection through the Nima mobile app. The algorithm can be updated by downloading the latest firmware updates from the app.
Nima Validation Data
The Nima system has been rigorously tested in our lab, in the field and via third parties.
A full report on the efficacy of the Nima Gluten Sensor conducted by the Nima R&D team (results referenced above) was published in Food Chemistry journal.
A full report on the efficacy of the Nima Gluten Sensor as conducted by the Food Allergy Research and Resource Program (FARRP) was published in the The Journal of Food Protection. You can watch a webinar on the testing methodology and results here.
The Nima Research & Development team conducted thousands of tests across numerous foods to confirm the sensitivity of the device. In addition to in house testing, Nima also enlisted the help of several third party labs.
Nima’s Scientific Advisory Board
The Nima experience touches many aspects of life: health, wellness, science, food service, and data. Since its inception, Nima has been supported and guided by professionals and researchers in healthcare, nutrition, and the food service space. Each one of our advisors is a pioneer in their respective space.
Peter HR Green, MD
Phyllis and Ivan Seidenberg Professor of Medicine. Director, Celiac Disease Center at Columbia University.
Benjamin Lebwohl, MD, MS
Director of Clinical Research Celiac Disease Center at Columbia University.
To access the full detail reports: