What do you get when a chemist pokes his head into a physicist’s Iowa laboratory? 

Something very, very small. 

Two Central Iowa professors and a college-based venture capital incubator are behind the nanotechnology introduced in ExpresSeed, a new, portable genetic detection system. 

Developed by Aaron Santos and Derek Lyons at Simpson College, the hand-held system is only slightly larger than an iPhone 6 but gives farmers a portable system to detect thousands of genetic traits in a single plant sample, right at the sample’s origin point. 

Once the user plugs a sample into the ExpresSeed device, the system uploads data into cloud-based storage to aid in field management and gene detection, Lyons said in a pitch to 1 Million Cups Des Moines on Feb. 21 at the Science Center of Iowa. The system allows users to confirm the presence of traits both wanted and unwanted — something Lyons said could benefit producers, regulators and patent holders alike. 

The system, which uses DNP123 nanotechnology developed by Santos and Lyons, could also be expanded into wildlife management or veterinary science capabilities — “any organic matter” that could be tested, Lyons said. 

ExpresSeed launched in 2017 with membership by the Emerge Foundation, a venture capital corporation also based at Simpson College.