Tech Transfer eNews Blog

U Bristol researchers developing diagnostic technology that “sniffs” out diseases


By Jesse Schwartz
Published: November 6th, 2019

Researchers at the UK’s University of Bristol are developing a device that mimics the acute sense of smell possessed by dogs and other mammals, with a goal of sniffing out the faint chemical signatures of chronic diseases. The technology may also have significant industrial applications.

A new start-up formed to commercialize the technology, Rosa Biotech, has raised just under $1 million.

The research was inspired by the ability of trained dogs to smell malaria and Parkinson’s disease. It combines synthetic protein engineering with artificial intelligence to create a diagnostic device aimed at early detection.

“Over the past 20 years, we have learnt how to design new proteins completely from scratch,” said Dek Woolfson, a professor at the Bristol BioDesign Institute, whose team helped develop the technology. “We built a series of barrel-shaped proteins that resemble proteins of the mammalian olfactory system, but are much simpler, easier to make and easier to handle,” he explained. 

The “barrels” can be arrayed in a variety of ways and loaded with dyes, causing different color pattersns to emerge. Those patterns are then analyzed using machine learning, translating the color pattern into indicators of disease.

Based out of Bristol’s Unit DX bioscience hub, Rosa Biotech has begun working with clinicians and pharmaceutical companies to refine its platform for different applications, the company said. 

“The scientific team has developed a sensing platform that is both sensitive enough to detect the faint chemical signature given off by chronic diseases but also versatile enough to be applied to a broad range of sensing challenges, such as the complex manufacturing process for high-value drugs,” said Rosa Biotech CEO Andy Boyce.

Source: Fierce Biotech

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