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Live Challenges

Detecting bacterial contamination to prevent formulated product spoilage

Closing Date: 31 May 2024

Portrait Gerald Ducatte

“Syngenta’s vision is to identify/develop rapid, user-friendly methods for bacteria detection that can significantly reduce hold-up times in the product supply chain and provide more thorough assessments of bacterial growth to address current and future biocontamination challenges.”

Gerald Ducatte, Senior Analytical Scientist


Syngenta is seeking solutions that allow the rapid detection and quantification of bacteria within their product formulations. Solutions do not need to cover the whole process but can contribute to advancing techniques and streamlining the process, for example sample preparation and quantification techniques.

Ideally the solution will allow this process to be performed easily and quickly within the manufacturing environment. Solutions will need to be able to detect bacteria at low concentrations.

Bacterial contamination can lead to compromised product, bulging or ruptured packaging and subsequent product recalls and waste. Therefore, it is key that proposed solutions can both detect and quantify the amount of bacterial contamination within a product so that appropriate action can be taken.

To reduce the risk of releasing a product containing consequential levels of bacteria, samples are taken at various points in the manufacturing process and during storage to allow monitoring of bacterial contamination and its potential growth above the current limit of detection. Current methods are time consuming (1-4 days) and require very specific technical expertise. Therefore, solutions that can simplify and speed up this process are of interest, for instance molecular techniques, image analysis, sample preparation and lab automation. Solutions are welcome from all relevant industries including Food and Beverage, Medicine and Pharmaceutical, Cosmetics Chemicals, Environment, Paint, Sealants and Lubricants.

The solution would, ideally, be a commercially available product.  However, Syngenta is open to a range of collaboration types including collaboration with academic research groups, start-ups, and small to medium-sized companies. Syngenta is also open to more than one technology/strategy to cover the range of bacteria and concentrations of interest.

What we're looking for

  • Be capable of quantifying bacteria (particularly pseudomonas) with the same or better limit of detection and accuracy as the current standard (100 cfu/g to 100,000 cfu/g, depending on bacteria type).
  • Not affected by particulates or dissolved ingredients in the formulations.
  • Be faster than current methods- ideally less than 4 hours (including sample preparation).
  • Can be performed with minimal technical skill.
  • Uses less than 1 ml or 1g of sample.
  • Can be used in the manufacturing environment, does not require a laboratory.
  • Direct analysis of formulations without diluting or filtering.
  • Differentiate between live and dead cells.
  • Any proposed equipment to be ideally less than 3ft3 in size
  • Potential to use for assessment of fungi contamination in addition to that of bacteria.

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