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Smell Detection Tech Company Raises $4M in Seed Funds

Dog's nose

(85Miranda, Pixabay.

1 July 2022. A start-up biotechnology company creating a system that translates an animal’s sense of smell into electronic signals is raising $4 million in seed equity funds. The work of Canaery, in Gainesville, Florida, is based on research by neuroscientists at New York University and Allen Institute of Brain Science in Seattle.

Canaery, formed in 2020, is developing a process that captures the refined and advanced olfactory senses of working animals, like dogs trained to detect drugs or explosives, that far exceed the abilities of humans. Research by neuroscientist Dmitry Rinberg at New York University medical school studies mechanisms for sensory neurons to process olfactory stimulation. Rinberg’s lab investigates ways olfactory centers in the brain code and process signals from receptor neurons in the nose, with proteins from receptor genes. Animals like mice and dogs have many more of these receptor genes than humans, making their sense of smell more refined.

Rinberg is a scientific founder of Canaery along with Peter Ledochowitsch, formerly a staff scientist at the Allen Institute. Ledochowitsch’s work focuses on algorithms for analysis of brain signals, particularly sensory signals. In Nov. 2021 Ledochowitsch was part of a team that published a paper in Nature Methods describing an algorithm called DeepInterpolation for discriminating between signals and noise in independent measurements of neural activity.

Translate odors into chemical signatures

Canaery is developing a paper-thin printed circuit, about one-fourth the size of a postage stamp, that fits inside the nose of a working animal trained to detect certain odors. In addition to dogs, for example, certain rat species are trained to detect land mines. While many mammal species have more refined olfactory senses than humans, they usually can be trained to detect very limited numbers of chemical compounds. Canaery says its neural interface circuit detects any number of scents and translates them into chemical signatures, even if the animal is unfamiliar with a scent.

Those chemical signatures, says the company, are then coded into transmissions to the cloud for processing, which happens within seconds. Canaery says its technology can be applied to screen for infectious diseases, identify zoonotic diseases from animals, identify plant diseases in their early stages, and simultaneously search for multiple security  risks, such as explosives, biological threats, environmental hazards, and contraband.

“Canaery is the first company to successfully harness the miracle of nature’s olfactory system instead of trying to reinvent millions of years of evolution,” says Canaery CEO and founder Gabriel Lavella in a company statement released through BusinessWire. Canaery was one of 13 companies taking part in the IndieBio’s 2021 class in San Francisco, a biotechnology incubator for science entrepreneurs.

The company is raising more than $4 million in seed funds, led by life science venture investor Breakout Ventures in San Francisco. Joining the round are Dolby Family Ventures, KdT Ventures, and SOSV. “For years,” says Lindy Fishburne, Breakout Ventures managing partner and Canaery board member, “we have looked at approaches to digitize scent and have never found a solution as elegant and scalable as Canaery’s technology.”

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