Innovation That Matters

| Photo source Scentian Bio

Biosensors that can 'smell' like insects


A biosensor based on insect smell receptors could greatly improve the sustainability of the food supply chain

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Spotted: Scentian Bio is the first company in the world to combine insect olfactory receptors with electronics to create a synthetic ‘insect nose’. Why would anyone want an insect nose? The answer is that Scentian’s insect ‘nose’ is incredibly sensitive – outperforming the nose of a beagle by more than 1,000 times. When combined with a library of Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs), the biosensor can rapidly deliver information about the composition of any number of compounds.

Scentian Bio CEO Jonathan Good told Springwise that, “At the broadest level we are creating a smell superpower, leveraging the amazing ability of insects to smell volatile organic compounds to unlock a real-time chemical view of the world.”

The company created the biosensor by synthesising the proteins that insects use to smell and then connected these to a biosensor platform. This is what allows Scentian to replicate the incredible sensitivity of insect smell and taste without the use of actual insects.

Good pointed out that a biosensor this sensitive has a wide number of uses. It could, “solve all manner of problems — when we want to know what things are made of (for quality, security), about metabolic processes (for ripeness, health, nutrition), and biology (for pest management, sustainable farming) our traditional optical view of the world is limited, but Scentian Bio biosensors can unlock this.”

The company has so far raised a total of $7.2 million (around €6.8 million) in funding, including $1.7 million (around €1.6 million) in grant funding from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. Scentian will use the funding to grow its team, develop its technology platform and accelerate commercialisation plans. Good reported that the company is already “working on pilots with early customers ahead of [its] first sales at the end of next year. [The] initial focus is on quality assurance for key food ingredients.”

Improving the food supply chain is at the heart of a number of recent innovations spotted by Springwise. These include an African startup working to close the gap between farmers and retail and an SaaS solution for ensuring seed-to-table supply chain sustainability.

Written By: Lisa Magloff



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