The Electronic Nose, which has the potential to diagnose tuberculosis (TB) in symptomatic patients, was awarded a $950,000 grant here on Monday from Grand Challenges Canada and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to support further development and testing of this ground-breaking technology.

Sputum

The funding will help determine whether the Electronic Nose is able to detect TB immediately and non-invasively from the patient's breath in order to replace the time-consuming testing with sputum.

It is estimated that up to 4 lakh lives can be saved in the developing world every year by early diagnosis, immediate treatment and reduced transmission.

TB has been all but eliminated in the developing world, but in poor countries it claims close to 1.7 million lives yearly and is second only to HIV/AIDS as the world's most deadly infectious disease. “This important discovery is testimony to the power of innovation to save lives,” said Dr. Peter Singer, CEO of Grand Challenges Canada. “Diagnosing TB and other pulmonary diseases simply by testing a patient's breath is a bold idea with potentially big impact.”

Biomarkers

The Electronic Nose is the outcome of collaboration between the International Centre for Genetic Engineering and Biotechnology in New Delhi, India, and Next Dimension Technologies in California. The New Delhi innovators are working with sensors developed in California to track biomarkers in the breath. Those biomarkers may hold promise to identifying TB, leading to earlier diagnosis and improved patient treatment.

“We hope to take the concept of the Electronic Nose to the next level by developing and testing a prototype of the hand-held, battery-powered device,” said Virander Chauhan and Ranjan Nanda, lead researchers. “Our goal is to make the Electronic Nose widely available in poor, remote areas where tuberculosis often breeds and spreads, devastating so many lives.”

Grand Challenges Canada is funded by the government of Canada through the Development Innovation Fund announced in the 2008 Budget. Grand Challenges Canada works in a consortium with Canada's International Development Research Centre and the Canadian Institutes of Health Research.