Xenobiotic Biotic Detection Systems has won an export achievement award from the U.S. Department of Commerce after working with foreign countries to protect their food supply.

Undersecretary of Commerce for Technology Phil J. Bond presented the award to the company at the N.C. Biotechnology Center on Aug. 15.

The Durham company landed a contract with the Belgian government in September to help protect that country’s food supply from chemical contamination. It also has successfully marketed its bio assay for detecting toxins, called Calux, in a number of international markets, recently licensing it to Hiyoshi Corp. in Japan.

Xenobiotic won the six-year licensing agreement from Belgium after the government examined six other products for the job.

“The achievement award is the first level in recognizing a company’s export success,” Bond tells Local Tech Wire. “We lead the world in many tech areas, and this is a reminder that 95 percent of the market is in the rest of the world.”

The Xenobiotic assay detects the presence of dioxins, PCBs and dibenzofurans, all highly toxic man-made compounds. The company genetically engineered mammal cell lines so that they make the enzyme luciferase when these toxins are present.

Luciferase is found in fireflies, so the cells glow like the insects when the toxins are present, brightening as the level of concentration increases. This makes the assay a quick and simple test for the toxins in foods, animal feeds and tissue.

Xenobiotic says it is pursuing validation of its dioxin assay with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, Department of Agriculture, Environmental Protection Agency and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

During Bond’s visit, the Biotech Center also hosted a roundtable meeting of area luminaries representing regional universities, companies, and the biotech community.

The group included Biotech Center President Leslie Alexandre, Cogent Neuroscience Chief Executive Max Wallace, Duke University Vice Provost of Research James Siedow, Alphavax President and CEO Peter Young, Kenneth Tindall, president of the N.C. genomics and bioinformatics consortium, Kenan Institute for Emerging Issues Director Noah Pickus and Forest Biotech Institute Executive Director Robert Kellison.

Bond concluded the session by telling the group two things in particular struck him: Wallace’s suggestion that governments and communities must “embrace audacity” to help innovative biotechnology companies, and Pickus’ suggestion that the government can supply a “bully pulpit,” for promoting the positive use of biotechnology.

Xenobiotic Biotic Detection Systems: www.dioxins.com