PathSensors Breaks into the Potato Testing Industry

Baltimore-based PathSensors is expanding its pathogen detection capabilities to create a high throughput tuber testing assay for the potato industry.

Published online: Mar 05, 2019 Articles, New Products
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PathSensors is excited to break some new ground and expand their pathogen detection capabilities to work closely with the potato industry. The Baltimore-based biotechnology company is focused on delivering highly rapid and sensitive pathogen detection solutions to the agriculture, food safety, and biodefense industries and is currently working to employ their technologies to save time and money for potato seed growers.

Andrew Flannery, PathSensors' vice president of product development, attended Potato Expo in Austin, Texas, Jan. 9-10. The expo was a gathering of leaders in the potato industry, from grower associations to chip manufacturers and marketing associations. PathSensors attended as a company creating diagnostic solutions for potato disease and received valuable insights from other attendees about challenges they face.

The current potato testing process is long and arduous. Potato farmers generally grow tubers in their home states before shipping these tubers to seed certification labs, which then ship the tubers to be grown out into sprouts in Hawaii so that the leaves may be tested for plant disease. This process involves large amounts of sample processing time, months of waiting, and has the added expense of shipping and testing outside of the continental United States. Wouldn’t it be great to make testing simpler? That’s why PathSensors is working to develop a high throughput potato tuber testing assay.

To achieve this goal, PathSensors scientists have started working to create assays for the most common viruses that can infect potatoes. They are first focusing on potato virus Y, a Potyvirus which is commonly tested for in seed potatoes. This proof-of-concept assay will be developed in collaboration with two USDA-ARS scientists, Ramon Jordan and John Hammond, who are experts on Potyviruses and developed monoclonal antibodies for their detection.

“Potato virus Y causes one of the major potato diseases wherever potatoes are grown worldwide, causing losses of up to 60 percent; necrotic strains are especially important,” they commented. By creating a novel Potyvirus biosensor, PathSensors instruments can be used to detect to rapidly detect PVY in the required high testing volumes to help growers know they are producing high quality seed.

PVY will be the first of many pathogens afflicting potato crops detected by PathSensors technology. The biotech company has licensed antibodies from organizations like Science and Advice for Scottish Agriculture (SASA), and Fera Science Limited in the United Kingdom in order to do further research into developing assays for the detection of other viruses, like potato mop-top and potato leafroll.

PathSensors is looking to gather more stakeholder input to help optimize product development. If you are involved in the potato growing or testing process and would be willing to answer a few questions about your experiences, please reach out to Serena Thomas, whose contact info is listed alongside this article.