University of York spin-off company invents toxic testing device

A simple, quick and accurate hand-held kit which can be taken out into the field to test for toxic chemicals is being exploited by a spin-out company from the University of York.

The BATT (Bioassay Toxicity Testing) device is now being tested by environment agencies, textile industries, water boards, and diagnostic companies involved with pesticide measurement.

Microbiologist Dr Russell Grant was working on a third-year project as an undergraduate at York when the idea of the toxicity testing kit was born. He and his academic supervisors were looking at the toxicity of pesticides, including sheep dips, and found they had to wait a month for results via the conventional lab-processing route. This prompted the idea which produced the BATT spin-off company formed last October, and based at the Innovation Centre at York Science Park. The Science Park borders the University campus which allows Dr Grant to collaborate with Biology research teams.

He said: “The kit gives you a sensitive and obvious response very rapidly – minutes for pesticides at high concentrations, with trace levels measured in less than an hour. It’s ready to go, you don’t have to prepare anything, and it can be used in all but the most extreme conditions, It’s accurate and sensitive to 5 per cent, and it can identify new toxic compounds. And, because at £25 for five units, it is cheaper than immuno-assays and chromatographic methods, companies can afford to use the kit more often than other systems. It can be used to complement tests made by far more expensive equipment.”

BATT has talked to potential customers as far way as South Africa, Australia and New Zealand. It tailor-makes kits to customers’ specifications and tests samples sent in to its laboratories.

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