The eNose Company originated from research into ‘smelling’ bacteria with the aid of sensors. This research established the basis for the electronic nose, the Aeonose, capable of detecting a wide range of organic substances in a person’s breath. Each measurement quickly and easily produces a certain pattern that may be characteristic of a certain disease. For example, the Aeonose can detect tuberculosis or certain forms of cancer – not as a diagnosis, but as a strong indication that justifies a follow-up examination.
The characteristic patterns are determined by measuring the breath of healthy and sick people. For each pattern of disease, the eNose Company developed an algorithm to make a distinction between ‘healthy’ and ‘diseased’ patterns and stores these patterns in a still expanding database. The business model is based on a ‘pay-per-use’ approach. Each test, for example by a medical specialist, accesses the database in the cloud and a message is returned within seconds indicating whether the patient has an elevated probability of having a certain disease. The eNose Company built an Aeonose prototype for testing purposes.
DEMCON was engaged to build a more robust, easily producible design and to guide the medical certification process. The challenge hereby was that the device had to be identical to the first version in terms of functionality (to maintain the validity of the already populated database) and appearance (the moulds for the housing had already been produced). To simplify assembly, the pneumatics and the electronics were redesigned. The implementation of the original breath sampling system was fairly complex, with a tangle of tubes. DEMCON replaced this with a single manifold that is easy to connect to the printed circuit board using a robust connection.
The first version was 3D printed, however, milling and gluing the components ultimately results in a better cost price and a more precise finishing. The device includes three sensors, each able to detect different type of substances. Originally each sensor was equipped with a small circuit board, attached to the main circuit board. DEMCON developed a new design for a single circuit board that incorporates the three sensors. In addition, the device was provided with a new version of the user interface. The interface was equipped with a touch film – a film with push buttons to operate the device – and LED status indicators.
The total test takes fifteen minutes (any dirt in the surrounding air is first filtered out) whereby the patient is required to breathe through the Aeonose for five minutes. The system includes a timer to put the patient at ease by informing him/her of the test’s progress. In addition, DEMCON was responsible for the industrialisation, and for the time being DEMCON production is responsible for the assembly. The redesign resulted in a product that can easily and reliably be assembled. Now it is up to the eNose Company to definitively demonstrate that it is possible to easily and reliably detect diseases with the Aeonose.