The science behind Nima
Nima’s founding team met at MIT, and the product was built by engineers and doctorates from MIT, Caltech, Stanford, and Dartmouth, with experience building consumer products at companies like Nike, Google, and Johnson & Johnson, and medical devices at companies like Cepheid and Agamatrix. Nima was developed by adapting antibody-based chemistry used for protein or allergen detection, designed into a hardware device that is portable and easy to use, and using electronic sensors and proprietary algorithms to detect test results. The primary criteria considered when designing Nima were sensitivity and specificity to gluten or peanut, speed, portability, and ease of use.
Nima's scientific advisory board
The Nima experience touches many aspects of life: health, wellness, science, food service, and data. Since its inception, Nima has been supported and guided by professionals and researchers in healthcare, nutrition, and the food service space. Each one of our advisors is a pioneer in their respective space.
Nima’s antibody-based chemistry
An antibody is a large, y-shaped protein that recognises and binds to a specific target protein. Antibodies are routinely used to detect specific proteins in chemistry lab tests.
The gluten antibody
The Nima chemistry team developed a pair of antibodies specifically for the detection of gluten. There are existing gluten antibodies on the market, but none of them met the sensitivity and specificity requirements that we needed for Nima. The Nima 13F6 and 14G11 antibodies bind to a portion of the gluten protein, called the 33-mer fragment of gluten, which is known as the “toxic” portion of the gluten protein that causes an autoimmune response.
Nima's gluten antibody is currently being used in the Biofront gluten Elisa kit, having been evaluated for excellent performance in sensitivity and specificity in a wide variety of foods.
Nima’s test capsule
Each Nima capsule contains a test strip preloaded with our antibodies. If protein is present in the food being tested, the antibodies will bind to the protein and present a signal change on the strip that is detected by the Nima electronics and processing algorithm.
Liquid extraction buffer
When the protein is present in food, the molecules are trapped inside other food molecules surrounding them. In order to detect the protein in food, the molecules need to be isolated and extracted from the rest of the food molecules. The Nima team designed an extraction buffer solution that is capable of breaking apart the bonds between those proteins and other food molecules, leaving the protein itself in a liquid solution, which reacts to the strip.
Grinding and mixing mechanism
When testing food for a specific allergen, there are several mechanical steps necessary to deliver a result. Screwing the cap shut begins a grinding process on the food to break the food into small particles to increase the amount of surface area exposed to the buffer solution. After the food is ground, the final twist of the cap will expose the food to the extraction buffer solution. Nima uses a motor to mix the food and the buffer in the capsule. Once the mixing is complete, the solution passes onto the test strip loaded with antibodies, where the chemical reaction begins.
Nima’s sensor and algorithm
As the test strip develops, an electronic sensor and associated algorithm detect the test result. Reading the result electronically eliminates the need for a trained operator to be evaluating the results (as is required with other lab-format tests) and reduces the likelihood of misinterpreting results (as often happens with at-home pregnancy tests). The algorithm is improved and updated via Bluetooth connection through the Nima mobile app. The algorithm can be updated by downloading the latest firmware updates from the app.
The Nima system has been rigorously tested in Nima's lab, in the field and via third parties.
The full report on the efficacy of the Nima Gluten Sensor conducted by the Nima R&D team (results referenced above) has been recently published online by Food Chemistry journal.
A full report on the efficacy of the Nima Gluten Sensor as conducted by the Food Allergy Research and Resource Program (FARRP) was published online by The Journal of Food Protection. You can watch a webinar on the testing methodology and results here.