DCU firm helps counter bio-terrorism threat

6 Apr 2006

A technology company based at DCU’s Invent Centre, which is targeting revenue opportunities worth up to €40m in three years in the food and medical devices markets, is working with the US military to develop sensors to prevent biological terrorism.

Kevin Carty, senior vice-president of DCU-based Gas Sensor Solutions (GSS), told a major investment conference yesterday that the company is involved in creating printed sensors which can be attached to any consumer product such as food as well as high-value equipment such as medical equipment.

GSS supplies high-volume, low-cost, accurate printed sensors that allow non-invasive 100pc quality-control testing along the entire supply chain in the food, medical and pharmaceutical packaging sectors where modified atmosphere packaged (MAP) goods are de rigueur.

The company is also involved in research with the US military. Carty told yesterday’s conference: “We are working with a US company to develop technologies for the US military that will help to prevent bio-terrorism.”

MAP is a technique in which the air surrounding food in a package is flushed out and replaced with a formulated gas mixture resulting in extended product shelf life and improved appearance and durability in fresh, chilled and ambient foods. GSS’s sensor technology holds the promise of eliminating the chance of spoilt or contaminated food, boosting consumer confidence in product safety. “It means companies can guarantee 100pc quality control without destructive testing.”

The company, which employs 11 people, has developed a platform that allows printed sensors to be put into food, drug and device packages at the cost of a fraction of a cent per package. Carty said the company has four patents pending and its know-how is protected by trade secrets.

Carty told yesterday’s Goodbody Corporate Finance technology investment conference in Dublin that the company is in talks with major food and device manufacturers and pilot programmes are in place. Trials currently are under way at Kerry Foods as well as Bowes of Norfolk, the largest meat supplier to Tesco.

Carty said the food market alone is worth €20m a year to the company in three years. The medical device market, with lower volumes of high-value goods, is worth €10m to the company while the opportunity in the insulated glass industry globally is worth €10m a year to the company in three years. The company is currently in negotiations with Cardinal Glass, the largest glass manufacturer in the US. The company has also made sales to Pilkington Glass, maker of glass for some of the world’s biggest buildings and best-known vehicles.

Another interesting market opportunity for the company is the art conservation sector. The company has pilot systems in place at the most prestigious art institutions in the world, including the Tate Gallery and the Natural History Museum in London, the Smithsonian in Washington and the Getty Museum in Los Angeles.

Carty told the investment conference that the company is currently seeking venture capital in the region of €3m to bring it to profitability.

By John Kennedy