Fox Foundation Awards $670K to Develop Smell Test for Early Diagnosis

Mary Chapman avatar

by Mary Chapman |

Share this article:

Share article via email
SP-420 and grant award

A $670,000 grant by the Michael J. Fox Foundation will go toward advancing a technology platform that might lead to a smell test to detect Parkinson’s disease (PD) in its early stages, allowing an earlier start to treatment and, possibly, leading to better therapies.

The grant, given to Yesse Technologies, will allow the company to build on previous work that recently validated the existence of a distinctive odor to Parkinson’s patients. That smell, caused by an oily skin secretion called sebum, can be identified by a specific subset of odorant receptors — proteins in the nose that detect smells, company researchers also discovered.

Yesse now aims to develop a nose-on-a-chip platform, it reports in a press release, enabling Parkinson’s to be suspected before symptoms are readily evident.

“We are thrilled that The Michael J. Fox Foundation continues to fund our cutting-edge science in their mission to transform the way new Parkinson’s disease treatments are developed and tested,” said Charlotte D’Hulst, Yesse’s CEO and co-founder.

The company reports that its digital platform harnesses the known biology of the nose and marries it with nanotechnology — the study and manipulation of matter at extremely small sizes. The overarching goal is to decode olfaction and to use the power of a new field called odoromics to enable odor-based disease diagnostics.

Yesse has partnered with imec, a Belgium-based research and development innovation hub in nanoelectronics and digital technologies.

On this project, Yesse is collaborating with Bas Bloem, a Parkinson’s neurologist at Raboud University Medical Center in the Netherlands, an established center of excellence for Parkinson’s care, and founder of the university’s Parkinson Centrum Nijmegen.

“We are running one of the largest clinical studies reviewing the long-term effect of Parkinson’s disease in patients: the Personalized Parkinson Project,” Bloem said. “By collecting patient sebum samples and providing them to Yesse Technologies, we are facilitating the potential development of a much-needed non-invasive biomarker for Parkinson’s disease, enabling more efficient treatments down the road.”

Through its proprietary platform, Yesse aims to mimic in the lab how a nose works. The platform uses engineered biomaterial that contains sensors the nose uses to detect smells. As an odor scanner, the nose-on-a-chip technology aims to unlock a first Odoromics database that could be used in a variety of applications.

Within Parkinson’s, Yesse has identified a set of potential sensors activated by the odor of different groups of patients.

The company’s core technology, the ORion21 genetic platform, is the product of more than 30 years of research into the sense of smell and being advanced under an exclusive licensed from The City University of New York.