Olfactomics Ltd, with whom Innokas Medical started a cooperation in 2018, is a Finnish startup company that develops a smart surgical blade capable of detecting cancer during surgery. The device is based on an electronic nose, which analyzes smoke that evaporates from tissues that are cut by electrocautery blade. The device assists the surgeon in removing the tumor completely in a single operation. The technology has many potential applications also beyond the operating room.
Olfactomics Ltd, a startup medical technology company based in Tampere, Finland, achieved remarkable success in research and innovation funding program Horizon 2020 of the European Union. The company won the highly competitive SME1 and SME2 grants in one year. Both grants have the acceptance rate of approximately 5%. Olfactomics was supported by Innovation Manager Ltd during the application process.
“The success in Horizon 2020 program not only gives us significant financial leverage, but most importantly evidences the approval of independent experts. The evaluation has multiple stages and includes also a live pitch session in Brussels”, tells Antti Roine, MD, CEO of Olfactomics.
The core of the team comes from a research group that studies medical applications of artificial olfaction. The group has previously shown that the technology is capable of detecting prostate-, pancreatic and ovarian cancers as well as identifying bacteria. The idea for smart surgical blade came up when the technology was tested on analysis of surgical smoke, fume that evaporates from tissues when they are cut with an electrosurgical blade. Early results were encouraging, and the feasibility of the technology has already been demonstrated in breast cancer. Other cancers are currently under research.
“The key application of the technology is the detection of residual cancer in the surgical margin, a particular problem in breast cancer surgery where every fifth patient requires multiple surgeries to remove the cancer completely", Roine continues.
The technology behind the smart scalpel is based on a variant of ion mobility spectrometry. The method is related to mass spectrometry but omits the need for high vacuum, thus reducing the cost and complexity of the technology drastically. Existing sensors do not fulfill the requirements of the challenging application and Olfactomics decided to build the sensor in-house, in collaboration with Finnish medical technology company Innokas Medical. Jenni Tuulos, Head of Design Studio at Innokas Medical, believes in the expected potential of the innovation.
“In our opinion, Olfactomics is one of the most promising Finnish startups in medical technology sector. Their technology is innovative, and they have a strong founding team, with required clinical and technical background”, Tuulos says and continues:
“We are extremely happy on the opportunity to partner with Olfactomics in device co-creation from this very early stage. This demonstrates the trust that our client has in our high-quality product development services.”
The sensor technology behind the smart scalpel has potential beyond operating room. The most promising applications are infection diagnostics, industrial process monitoring and detection of toxic compounds in ambient air or other substances. In near future, Olfactomics will offer the sensor technology as standalone for researchers and enterprises working in these fields.
“We have experience from most sensors on the market and have good understanding on their strengths and weaknesses. We aim to leverage this experience to create the best sensor possible”, explains Niku Oksala, the Chairman of the Board of Olfactomics, Professor of Surgery and Leader of the Research Group in Tampere University.
With the newly obtained funding, Olfactomics accelerates the development of the smart scalpel, aiming to bring the medical device to market in early 2020s. To secure the necessary resources, Olfactomics will initiate the discussions for the next capital raise for international market entry.
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