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Combating Food Allergies

Allergy Amulet CEO and co-founder Abigail Barnes

As a lifelong food allergy sufferer, Abigail Barnes cofounded Allergy Amulet in 2012 and serves as CEO.  The Allergy Amulet is a rapid, portable, point-of- consumption food allergen detection device that connects  to a patent-pending disposable test strip. The device enables simple, mobile measurements to help individuals avoid ingesting target allergens. It can be worn as a necklace or bracelet,  or integrated into products like a keychain or epinephrine autoinjector. The company, based in Madison, WI, was awarded  a CES booth in Eureka Park as a finalist at CTA’s Innovate Celebrate conference during its startup competition. 

Why did you start  Allergy Amulet?
To increase food transparency and provide those managing food allergies (like myself) greater assurances that their foods are safe. Dining out and eating foods prepared by others presents considerable challenges for those managing food allergies and food sensitivities. As someone who has been hospitalized six times for my food allergies, I am acutely aware of the risks. Allergy Amulet grew out of my experiences living with food allergies, and the obstacles I had to overcome when traveling abroad and dining out.

How does your business model intersect with science and tech?

Our work on semi-conductive molecularly imprinted polymers (MIPs) represents a breakthrough development in the field of MIPs. These scientific advancements carry with them the potential to help millions of individuals managing a food allergy or intolerance by providing users additional information about their food’s safety. More than 15 million people in the U.S. have a food allergy, and over 80 million people have a food intolerance. To date, no effective preventative solution is available for these individuals other than strict avoidance, which is far from foolproof. Between 1996 and 2006, restaurants were responsible for more than half of all food allergy fatalities. This is a statistic we’re trying to change. 

What lessons have  you learned?

As a founder, it helps to know your strengths and weaknesses. I’ve learned to play to the former and build a team that excels in the latter. Surrounding yourself with the right people and partners is key, and I’ve been fortunate in that regard.

What was your Eureka Park experience at CES like?

Showcasing at Eureka Park resulted in some great PR for the company, including a feature on CNN that listed us as one of the top 17 coolest gadgets of the future. We received a lot of positive feedback on our product, which was reaffirming. We were humbled by all of the incredible innovation happening around us and the brilliant and creative folks we met over the course of the event

How is the Allergy Amulet making a difference in the lives of kids? 
Today, one in 13 kids has a food allergy, which translates to about two kids in every classroom.  This represents a huge increase in  food allergies among kids over the past two decades. Not only do we hope to help kids avoid inadvertently ingesting harmful foods, but part of our core mission at Allergy Amulet is to also help eliminate the social stigma that can accompany food allergies through education and awareness.

Cindy Loffler Stevens