KY SBIR/STTR MATCH AWARDEE: Luke Boatright

VerraGlo, LLC 

 Describe your SBIR/STTR project and what your company does or will do? 

VerraGlo, LLC, a producer of analytical testing kits and reagents, was awarded a Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) grant by the USDA to produce sensors for measuring oxidation levels in edible fats and oils.  VerraGlo’s novel Metal-Phosphate Luminophore sensors generate light proportional to the oxidative level of oils in an easy to use, one-step process eliminating the toxic solvents used in the multi-step conventional technique.    

What is innovative about your SBIR/STTR project? 

VerraGlo’s hydroperoxide sensors possess peroxidase-like activity and generates chemically-stimulated luminescence in a non-polar environment proportionally to the hydroperoxide content of edible fats & oils.    

Advantages of this new technology, compared to conventional technique (in use since 1949), are: 

  • Does not generate toxic solvents that are expensive to purchase and must be used under a laboratory fume-hood, and that have to be disposed of as hazardous waste. 
  • The method uses no laboratory glassware, no solvents and no cleanup; the sample vial is disposable.  
  • Assays can be conducted in the field with commercially available handheld luminometers. 
  • The VerraGlo assay is more sensitive in the most important lower peroxide value (PV) range where the existing iodometric titration technique has poor sensitivity and poor reproducibility. 
  • Costs much less and takes less time (about 3 minutes). 

What was the greatest challenge you encountered in developing your innovation and/or launching your startup and how did you overcome it? 

New technology is sometimes slow to be accepted, especially in an ancient industry like the edible fats and oils market. The Peroxide Value (PV) is the single most important quality indicator for edible fats and oils. VerraGlo, LLC continues to work with major edible oil suppliers, food processors, equipment and chemical supply companies, and strategic partners to demonstrate the many advantages of the VerraGlo PV assay and to continue to expand the market for our novel sensor material.  

What are you most proud of about your company? 

 For decades both edible oil producers and food processors have clamored for a method to replace the antiquated conventional method for measuring peroxide value because of its lack of sensitivity, complexity and use of toxic solvents.  The VerraGlo PV patented sensor material overcomes all these disadvantages with a truly novel technology.  

What piece of advice do you have for SBIR/STTR applicants – or – what have you learned that you wish you’d known when pursuing SBIR? 

Having adequate data/examples to demonstrate “proof of concept” is important for any grant application.  For SBIR/STTR specifically, having a solution to a long-standing problem in an existing market can help.

What is the most important ingredient or ingredients for a thriving innovation ecosystem? 

 The basis of innovation is blend of creativity and practicality.  Creativity takes time and persistence.  Identifying quality products/project outside of ones area of expertise is extremely difficult.  Having an evaluation system with dedicated professionals to identify projects that are innovative and marketable is paramount to a thriving innovation ecosystem.  

What makes Kentucky a great place to pursue SBIR? 

Kentucky has an important blend of qualified professionals and commitment to supporting the development of new ideas and new markets. 

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