We humans are sadly deficient in our sense of smell. Dogs, for example, have 50 times as many olfactory receptors in their noses, as humans and the portion of a dog’s brain dedicated to analyzing smells is 40 times
proportionally larger. Law enforcement and search-and-rescue organizations routinely use dogs to sniff out narcotics, explosives, and bodies at disaster sites. There’s also a growing corpus of research on dogs’ ability to detect viruses, bacteria, and cancer in humans or their bodily fluids. Dogs may have the upper nose at this point compared with digital health technology, but sensors may soon end the canine supremacy.

We wrote about the SniffPhone in early 2016. The device employs nanosensors to detect disease from breath samples. Three years ago Technion-Israel Institute of Technology was just beginning to develop SniffPhone using Na-Nose technology to detect gastric cancer. Work continues on SniffPhone, which is now in the prototype testing phase.

The original partners in the project have been joined by others including VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland. VTT’s roles in the SniffPhone project include building the data transfer platform to move data from the smartphone to the cloud, a mobile app that guides users in giving breath samples, and multiple levels of test result analysis, from preliminary reads for users and more in-depth analytic reports for physicians.

The SniffPhone collaboration has been successfully tested and the company has clinically validated several prototypes. Last fall, the SniffPhone project won the 2018 Innovation Award given by the European Commission for the Most Innovative Project. Now the group is seeking financial backing to commercialize the SniffPhone through a new spin-off entity.