The problem with cancer-detecting dogs is that, well, they’re dogs. Hospitals haven’t embraced the idea of a diagnostic tool that poops, barks, and requires feeding. With such concerns in mind, technology startups have hustled to build digital devices that can mimic the dogs’ olfactory sense and reduce the need for biopsies and CAT scans. Metabolomx, a 12-person outfit in Mountain View, Calif., now appears on the fast track—insofar as such a thing exists in the heavily regulated medical field—to bringing a cancer-sniffing device to market.

Senior Scientist Dr. Nuria Queralto using the Metabolomx Breath Analysis Instrument. The machine requires patients to breathe in and out for four minutes.

Cody Pickens for Bloomberg Busin

The problem with cancer-detecting dogs is that, well, they’re dogs. Hospitals haven’t embraced the idea of a diagnostic tool that poops, barks, and requires feeding. With such concerns in mind, technology startups have hustled to build digital devices that can mimic the dogs’ olfactory sense and reduce the need for biopsies and CAT scans. Metabolomx, a 12-person outfit in Mountain View, Calif., now appears on the fast track—insofar as such a thing exists in the heavily regulated medical field—to bringing a cancer-sniffing device to market.

Senior Scientist Dr. Nuria Queralto using the Metabolomx Breath Analysis Instrument. The machine requires patients to breathe in and out for four minutes.

Cody Pickens for Bloomberg Busin

The Cancer Sniffing Machine

Inhale, Exhale
Inhale, Exhale

The problem with cancer-detecting dogs is that, well, they’re dogs. Hospitals haven’t embraced the idea of a diagnostic tool that poops, barks, and requires feeding. With such concerns in mind, technology startups have hustled to build digital devices that can mimic the dogs’ olfactory sense and reduce the need for biopsies and CAT scans. Metabolomx, a 12-person outfit in Mountain View, Calif., now appears on the fast track—insofar as such a thing exists in the heavily regulated medical field—to bringing a cancer-sniffing device to market.

Senior Scientist Dr. Nuria Queralto using the Metabolomx Breath Analysis Instrument. The machine requires patients to breathe in and out for four minutes.

Cody Pickens for Bloomberg Busin
Telltale Images
Telltale Images

The chemical sensor formulations in the nano printer.

Cody Pickens for Bloomberg Busin
Crucial Fluids
Crucial Fluids

Formulations of the chemical sensors in micro-centrifuge tubes (both left and right in the image). Each formulation is unique and corresponds to one of the spots (indicators) in a sensor array (not depicted because it is the size of a postage stamp) that detects lung cancer.

Cody Pickens for Bloomberg Busin
Loading Up
Loading Up

The disposable lung cancer sensor module is inserted into the breath analysis instrument.

Cody Pickens for Bloomberg Busin
Disposable Technology
Disposable Technology

Each lung cancer sensor module is disposable.

Cody Pickens for Bloomberg Busin
The Nano Printer
The Nano Printer

Chief Scientist Dr. Sung Lim loading the nano printer. The nano printer is used to create the sensor that detects lung cancer. Nano printers like this one are also used in DNA sensors.

Cody Pickens for Bloomberg Busin
Reading Biomarkers
Reading Biomarkers

A laboratory bench experiment confirming the sensor detection of lung cancer biomarker analytes at specific concentrations. The biomarker analyte is created in volatile form in a bubbler (the jar) and the concentration is set with mass flow controllers. The set concentration of the lung cancer biomarker is then presented to the sensor.

Cody Pickens for Bloomberg Busin