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A startup using AI to flag pathogens and contaminants just raised an $8.5M Series A

Alexandria-based HyperSpectral already has pilot program contracts with the Department of Defense and a California food lab.

HyperSpectral got its start identifying pathogens in food (Sameer Rao/Technical.ly)

A Northern Virginia startup building technology to identify health threats like pathogens and contaminants recently landed major funding to expand product development and hire more employees. 

Alexandria-based HyperSpectral raised $8.5 million during its Series A round, which was announced on Wednesday. The firm uses artificial intelligence in conjunction with spectral data,  which includes everything from ultraviolet to infrared light range, to identify “unwanted substances,” cofounder and CEO Matt Theurer told Technical.ly.

Founded in 2022, HyperSpectral’s technology started off in the food safety sector, where it identified threats like E. coli, salmonella and listeria. The platform informs users if, for example, a food shipment is contaminated, in a matter of minutes. The company has also moved into human health to spot similar issues, including viruses and pathogens. Theurer and his fellow cofounders were inspired by the pandemic and the slowness of COVID testing results. 

“It just wasn’t fast enough,” Theurer said. “Traditional methods … take a significant amount of time to determine the presence of a pathogen and identify it. … The problem of rapid identification of pathogens is still a problem, whether you talk about human health or in food.”

This funding round, the startup’s first formal raise, was co-led by New York City-based RRE Ventures and Madrid, Spain-rooted Kibo Ventures. Correlation Ventures and GC&H Investments, both headquartered in California, also participated in the round. 

These firms offered more than just capital, Theurer said: The partners are very engaged and will help in scaling HyperSpectral. Kibo Ventures’ presence in Europe also opens up opportunities to expand to other countries. 

“This is not a US problem,” Theurer said. “This is a global problem that we’re trying to solve.”

With the funds, Theurer said HyperSpectral will focus on expanding the technology to be able to identify additional pathogens and contaminants. The company just received a contract for a pilot program with the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, out of the Department of Defense, to develop defense-related applications for the technology — mainly to identify the origin of different raw materials. Theurer said he sees use cases for identifying and responding to biothreats and chemical weapon threats, too. 

The company also has a pilot program with a Central Valley California food testing laboratory, where it is working to pinpoint different pathogens. HyperSpectral declined to specify the name of the facility. 

In addition, HyperSpectral is in conversations with the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority about using the technology to detect bacteria in wounds and identify whether they are antibiotic-resistant versus antibiotic-susceptible strains.

There are also plans to increase the staff size. Right now, HyperSpectral’s team has 13 people. Theurer hopes to double that number in the next 12 months. While the startup is headquartered in Alexandria, a lot of the tech development happens out of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

Theurer’s overall goal is to enhance safety and make finding these pathogens, viruses or contaminants easier. HyperSpectral’s software is also “hardware agnostic,” meaning the platform can be incorporated into different clients’ gear. 

There were more than 20 recall, withdrawal and safety alerts published by the Food and Drug Administration in May. With this technology from HyperSpectral, issues can be caught before products are on the shelves, Theurer said. 

“This is the opportunity to not only make the food supply safer,” Theurer said, “but to actually lower costs and deal with supply chain problems that occur.”

Companies: Department of Defense / MIT

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