Startup: Nima Searches For Gluten And Peanuts In Your Food


It’s Friday night. You along with your family or friends are about to begin the weekend by deciding to go out to eat at a restaurant that is well-known for its exceptional cuisine and good atmosphere. However, as appetizing as these entrees are, some of these dishes contain certain ingredients and food products that you cannot eat due to food allergies or dietary restrictions that you have.

A new app called Nima was established to help people who have food allergies determine which foods on the menu are appropriate to consume and which foods aren’t, depending on your diet. The portable food testing products provided by Nima can help 15 million Americans make their lives easier when making food-related decisions, especially one in 13 children who are diagnosed with a food allergy according to the Food Allergy Research & Education, including 40 percent of those who have already experienced a severe or life-threatening reaction.

Two of Nima’s main portable food testing products that are on the market are the Gluten Sensor and the Peanut Sensor, designed to help individuals who have mainly gluten and/or peanut-sensitive allergies. Both products’ sensors are broken into two parts; the electronic sensor and a one-time-use capsule that contains all of the chemistry needed to check the protein in that sample and these sensors react to the respective gluten and peanut-sensitive allergies by incorporating technology that adapts antibody-based chemistry that is used for protein and allergen detection onto a hardware device that is portable and easy to use.

While most home testing kits that check for food allergies take a lot of time, money. and energy for people to accomplish, Nima’s portable products allows individuals to test their food for about five minutes for $5 a test, with only 3 steps to follow, and having data stored in a disposable capsule. The accurate research that Nima has conducted when creating their innovative products has resulted in the startup to be awarded a Phase 2 SBIR (Small Business Innovation Research) grant of nearly $2 million from the National Institute of Health in order to aid in continued research and development of Nima’s sensor technology for its consumers.

In response to the gluten antibody, the Nima chemistry team developed a pair of antibodies to detect gluten called 13F6 and 14G11 antibodies which bind a portion of the gluten called the 33-per fragment of gluten, the “toxic” portion of the gluten protein that causes an autoimmune response. The team also developed antibodies to detect peanut called 20B10 and 16B1 antibodies that bind to a peanut protein called Arah3, which can be found in various types of peanut and is more stable under processing conditions such as heat due to roasting.

Food establishments and foodies alike around the world have positive reviews of Nima’s portable testing sensors, especially the former as the products helped them retained and gained customers who have food allergies to certain food items that they serve. One example of a food establishment that successfully incorporates Nima’s technology in the creation of their food is a bakery in Southampton, New York called Tate’s Bake Shop that allowed Nima to test their cookies and determine if their cookies are completely gluten-free and safe for consumption.

Nima’s blog page includes posts written by members of the Nima community that recommend restaurants that are friendly and accommodating to individuals with gluten and peanut allergies based in each city that the member is located in. Another example was a blog post written by a member who lives in San Francisco who had conducted research by calling 25 restaurants in the city to make sure that they serve gluten-free French toast and the research concluded that only 6 of the 25 restaurants offered gluten-free French toast on the menu, which is helpful information for gluten-sensitive individuals to know which restaurants to go to if they are craving gluten-free French toast.

Nima’s portable testing devices can also be connected to the consumers’ cell phones via Bluetooth which then can also provide the consumers a map of restaurants that serve gluten-free food and a list of packaged foods that the consumers had consumed recently. However, although Nima’s technology is helpful to consumers who want to eat foods that align well with their gluten and peanut sensitivities, they should also be aware not to ditch their EpiPen, an epinephrine shot designed to treat anaphylactic allergic reactions, since the data gathered from Nima on certain foods and ingredients might come out as inaccurate.

As of Sept. 10, Nima has raised $13.2 million in Series A funding and although the products aren’t necessarily inexpensive (the Gluten starter kit costs $289 and the dozen test capsules cost $72), Nima has been influential in enhancing the consumer food testing industry through the innovative food technology that tracks gluten and peanut-based ingredients for the consumers. It can be a matter of time before many restaurants, supermarkets, local grocery stores, bakeries, and cafes will begin using Nima’s portable food testing products in the near future to develop new food creations that adapt to people’s sensibilities in regards to certain ingredients.