Bio-enabled Sensors for Environmental and Community Health

Stemloop is developing a platform for inexpensive and rapid detection of pathogens and heavy metals in water. Our technology re-purposes the natural sensing machinery of microorganisms into easy-to-use formats for widespread testing and surveillance of health threats.


Critical need for this Technology

Laboratory testing does not scale. It is too costly, too complicated, and too slow. It requires centralized testing infrastructure filled with sophisticated instrumentation that require a high degree of technical expertise to operate. In practice, this means you pay upwards of hundreds of dollars and wait days, if not weeks, for a single piece of data from the past. These characteristics prevent high-resolution data collection and risk mitigation for community and environmental health threats when and where they are needed.

Supplemental Need for this Technology

Legionella is a slow growing genus of bacteria that proliferates in building water systems. When aerosolized and inhaled, Legionella can cause Legionnaire’s Disease (LD) – an often-fatal pneumonia that disproportionately impacts the elderly and those with comprised health. LD outbreaks are incredibly costly to organizations—often resulting in large legal settlements—and carry enormous reputational risk. While traditional testing for Legionella involves a week-long incubation in a laboratory incubator, Stemloop’s simple point-of-use kit for Legionella surveillance provides actionable information in minutes, thereby allowing for effective water management.

Potential CO2 Reduction

Delivering test samples from distributed locations to a centralized laboratory causes greenhouse gas emissions. On-site testing, enabled by Stemloop’s technology, would avoid these emissions. However, the relatively small market for this service and product results in relatively small GHG emissions reduction impact.


  • Laboratory-based testing
  • Unreliable or difficult-to-use on-site testing

Potential Markets

Non-medical laboratory testing is over a $20B market in the US alone. Environmental testing comprises $8B of that market and is expected to grow above GDP growth in the coming years, driven by heightened awareness of health threats, a fast-changing climate and growing population, increased regulations and protections for the public and the environment, and a desire for corporate social responsibility.

Key Innovation

Stemloop is comprised of world leading innovators in cell-free synthetic biology.

Gyorgy Babnigg, Argonne Primary Scientist

Gyorgy Babnigg is one of two principal investigators working with Stemloop on the project. He is a bioinformatician/molecular biologist at the Biosciences Division at Argonne National Laboratory currently focusing on using
microfluidic approaches in high throughput protein engineering and synthetic biology applications.

Andrzej Joachimiak, Argonne Primary Scientist

Andrzej Joachimiak is one of two principal investigators working with Stemloop on the project. He is the Director of the Structural Biology Center at Argonne National Laboratory and co-director of the Center for Structural Genomics of Infectious Diseases. He is an expert in synchrotron-based X-ray crystallography and structural biology.

R & D Status of Project

Stemloop is advancing cell-free sensors and diagnostics developed at Northwestern University, including the ROSALIND platform for the detection of pharmaceuticals, human health biomarkers, disinfection byproducts and heavy metals. Our current focus is on improving the sensitivity and specificity of our biosensors to meet customer requirements.

Team Overview

  • Khalid K. Alam, Ph.D. – Founder and CEO
  • Julius B. Lucks, Ph.D. – Cofounder
  • Michael C. Jewett, Ph.D. – Cofounder
  • Anne E. d’Aquino, Ph.D. – Scientist
  • R C. Baer, Ph.D. – Scientist
  • Mary Elizabeth Adler – Technician
  • Dick T. Co, Ph.D. – Advisor

Technology Profile

Social challenge: UN Sustainable Development Goals 3 (Good health and well-being), 6 (Clean water and sanitation), 9 (industry, innovation, and infrastructure), and 11 (sustainable cities and and communities).