SpotitEarly raises $6.2 million for early detection of cancers based on olfactory abilities of dogs
Each type of cancer has a unique odor, and most also have a common denominator. Dogs can detect these odors in a fraction of a second
The Israeli biotechnology startup SpotitEarly, which is developing a technique for early detection of cancer, has completed a $6.2 million Seed funding round led by Hanaco Ventures. Additional investors include Jeff Schwartz, Michael Eisenberg, and Avishai Avrahami.
SpotitEarly’s technology marries algorithmics and AI with the olfactory abilities of dogs. The test can detect the presence of several cancers in one person’s body: lung, prostate, breast, and colon cancer, with the company saying that more types will follow in the future.
The test has been developed thanks to the discovery of the “cancer odor.” It is now known that cancerous tumors in their early stages secrete, first into the blood and then into the respiratory system, molecules carrying volatile organic compounds (VOCs). Each type of cancer has a unique odor, and most also have a common denominator. Dogs can detect these odors in a fraction of a second, and their sensitivity to the scents has been proven in several studies to be greater than those of any medical tests or devices currently in use.
In terms of patients, the screening comes down to wearing a designated mask and breathing into it for the duration of five minutes.
The screening test can be carried out from the patient's residence, screening institute, or clinic. At the end of this process, the mask is placed in a hermetically sealed package and sent back to the company's lab.
The lab is planned to work completely autonomously: the samples are inserted into sniffing ports within the lab. The trained dogs then quickly go through the sniffing ports. Each sample is scanned by a number of dogs in a unique method, in any case where a dog identifies an odor associated with a positive cancer sample they provide a clear indication. SpotitEarly's unique methodology, trains the dogs to scan the breath samples in a manner experienced by the dogs as a stimulating playtime. The scanning process for each sample takes only a few seconds and holds the potential to save lives or alternatively spare long months of stress and anxiety while waiting for scanning results for healthy patients.
The whole process is analyzed in real-time by a technological system, designed by the company including dynamic sensors, AI systems, and algorithmics aimed to maximize the lab's capabilities and the predication accuracy.
The company is in the process of one of the most extensive clinical studies in this field in the world, led by the Sourasky (Ichilov) Medical Center in Tel Aviv and the Hadassah Medical Center in Jerusalem, to prove the test’s efficacy. In the preliminary phase, SpotitEarly studied 700 verified samples and showed that the test has very high sensitivity in detecting the presence of a variety of cancers, even in the early stages. Early detection raises the chances of recovery significantly.
The company’s system makes it possible to run about one million tests per year out of one laboratory. The cost of the test is estimated at about 20% of the cost of tests for early-stage cancer currently in use. The results are available within a few days.
The company was founded by four friends with experience in technology, digital health algorithmics, product development, and entrepreneurship: Roi Ophir, Ohad Sharon, Udi Bobrovsky, and Ariel Ben Dayan. Ben Dayan, who serves as CEO, is an IDF reservist with the rank of Colonel, who is formerly the commander of Israel’s prominent Oketz canine unit.
“The statistics speak for themselves,” Ben Dayan said. “Nine out of 10 cancer patients who discover the disease early will survive. In contrast, unfortunately, nine out of 10 who discover it late will not survive. The ability to combine technology with a canine’s developed sense of smell, to create an accessible and accurate test that covers many different cancers, will significantly increase the number of people who get tested regularly. It will contribute to the saving of many lives.”
"Early cancer detection and diagnosis saves lives," said Pasha Romanovski, Founding partner of Hanaco Ventures. “The experienced team at SpotitEarly is developing unique technology to solve a complex medical and economic problem. The company's disruptive solution will offer a never before seen accuracy for early cancer detection in a quick and accessible way and at a better cost. We are happy to support the talented team in this important task."