Noze, a Canadian artificial intelligence startup, was given a $1 million grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to create a breathalyzer that uses a unique sensor array on a chip that is powered by a centralized AI platform to detect breath biomarkers (VOCs). The company says this technology will enable rapid screening and diagnostics of diseases such as malaria and tuberculosis in developing countries.
“We are thrilled to have the support of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation as we develop an affordable and easy-to-use breathalyzer that can accurately detect infectious diseases to help millions of people,” says Karim Aly, the CEO at Noze.
Digital olfaction is a niche field of computing that works on the detection and classification of scents. In a human, cells in the nose send electrical signals to the brain, where groups of interconnected neurons turn those signals into the sensation of smell. Similarly, companies such as Noze, Aryballe, and Intel are working on classifying these electronic signals according to data patterns. Basically, sensors are used to detect different scents based on AI models that are ‘trained’ to tell different scents apart based on chemical composition and other characteristics.
In the case of exhaled breath contains data about a person’s health status due to the efficient exchange between the blood and air in the lungs. By targeting metabolic biomarkers present in the breath, Noze’s platform can provide instant and low-cost diagnostics, the company says.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, Noze’s technology was among the first to detect airborne markers released by persons infected with coronavirus and influenza, leading to potential solutions for other healthcare challenges.
Malaria is a major global health problem and a significant cause of death and illness in developing countries, particularly among children and pregnant women. According to the 2021 World Malaria Report, almost fifty percent of the world lives in areas at risk of malaria in 87 countries and territories.
“Breath-based diagnostics will be a game-changer for healthcare accessibility, and our ability to launch a portable device and deliver it on a massive, worldwide scale can be a powerful new tool to fight the spread of malaria and tuberculosis, in addition to many other diseases,” adds Aly.
Noze is working to develop a diagnostic breathalyzer, which may be ready by the end of 2023. Additionally, Noze is collaborating with the Montreal Heart Institute on health-related projects and clinical trials which utilize its digital odor perception platform.