Earlier this week at the International Association for Food Protection (IAFP) Annual Meeting, Clear Labs launched Clear Safety, the first end-to-end next-generation sequencing (NGS) system for routine pathogen testing.

The launch follows a pilot program that was deployed at companies representing over 90% of market share in the poultry industry and over 85% in pet food. “The goal was to prove in a live environment that we could achieve 24-hour turnaround and high throughput at a cost on par with PCR, but with infinitely richer data,” Clear Labs CCO Mahni Ghorashi told Food Industry Executive. “The results were extremely positive. In every pilot, the platform didn’t just conform to established molecular methods, it exceeded them in numerous ways, including by catching false positives that were not detected by other platforms.”

Read our previous interview with Mahni Ghorashi.

With Clear Safety, Clear Labs aims to fundamentally change how routine pathogen testing is done. NGS is several steps beyond legacy systems, like PCR and antigen-based methods. Rather than providing just a binary “yes or no” answer, NGS can collect hundreds of millions of data points about a pathogen in one test. This allows companies to test samples with 99.9% accuracy. It also allows companies to start to uncover patterns and make predictions about where food safety risks might be present (e.g., which crops or suppliers pose the biggest risk).

PCR vs Clear Safety: Key Metrics

PCR Clear Safety
Accuracy Higher rates of false positives and negatives 99.9% accuracy, resulting in dramatically lower rates of false positives and negatives
Pathogen Profiling Expensive and slow speciation and serotyping Faster and more inexpensive speciation, serotyping, and strain identification
Throughput Screen for one pathogen at a time Screen for an array of pathogens in one test
Automation Hands-on labor, prone to errors Robotics that reduce labor and errors
Environmental Contamination Unable to conduct environmental contamination testing Resident/transient contamination analysis
Insights Binary yes/no answers AI and machine learning provide trends, environmental maps, and predictive risk assessments

Source: Clear Labs

The first pathogen testing package to be released is Salmonella. Listeria and E. coli will be available in the first half of 2019, with Campylobacter coming later.

In addition to the testing power, one of the biggest advantages of Clear Safety is that it’s automated, which reduces both labor time and the possibility of human error. “It’s the first automated sample-to-answer NGS platform in any industry,” Ghorashi said. “The entire workflow is automated with bar coding and automatic uploads so lab techs don’t have to manually enter samples with alphanumerical codes. This is about much more than a product or a technology. We’re entering a new era of food safety testing and we want to help the world’s food brands be on the front edge of that shift.”

Source: Clear Labs