The Spark M-20 is a nanotechnology-based, handheld device that detects toxic methanol in beverages and sanitizers, which may soon also be applied for intoxication screening in human breath. Here, we share our pathway and experiences during the translation of this university-originated innovation into a commercial product that today is serving customers in 23 countries on 6 continents.
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We thank the entire Alivion team for their great passion, terrific commitment and trust that a start-up company, as well as the development and marketing of a novel product require. Furthermore, the authors thank the generous funding by the ETH Zürich Research Commission (Project ETH-05 19-2), the Swiss National Science Foundation (Grant 159763, 175754, 183298 and R’EQUIP 170729) and the Swiss State Secretariat for Education, Research and Innovation (grant MB22.00041 ERC-STG-21 “HEALTHSENSE”) that enabled this innovation. Finally, we gratefully acknowledged contributions to the development and validation of the research prototype by S. Abegg, L. Magro, D. Bischoff, S.E. Pratsinis (all ETH Zürich), N. Derron and P.A. Gerber (both University Hospital Zürich).
A.T.G. and J.B are cofounders and shareholders of Alivion AG. A patent application for this methanol detector has been submitted by ETH Zürich.
Doctors Without Borders: https://methanolpoisoning.msf.org/en/outbreaks-worldwide/
Methanol as major chemical feedstock: https://www.statista.com/statistics/1065891/global-methanol-production-capacity/
0.063 vol% temporarily for sanitizers by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA): https://www.fda.gov/media/145262/download
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Güntner, A.T., D’Andria, M. & van den Broek, J. The road to commercializing the mobile methanol detector Alivion Spark M-20. Nat Rev Bioeng 1, 385–387 (2023). https://doi.org/10.1038/s44222-023-00068-y