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Bill Gates backs this biotech with $1.1M for developing electronic nose to diagnose diseases via breath

Cardea's Dr Kiana Aran
Image credits: Cardea Bio

Cardea Bio, the San Diego-based world’s only mass producer of biocompatible semiconductors has just been recently awarded a $1.1M grant by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. The biotech is developing a BPU (Biosignal Processing Unit) assay with high sensitivity and specificity incorporating receptors capable of detecting volatile compounds to rapidly diagnose infectious diseases in developing countries. Cardea’s biotech infrastructure is based on proprietary biology-gated transistors.

“We’re obviously very pleased to have received funding from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, and we’re even more excited about the prospects of this project. Using our BPU Platform to bring novel and feasible diagnosis capabilities to developing countries was a major driver as to why we started Cardea in the first place. Developing an electronic nose with the potential to diagnose diseases like COVID, malaria, cancer, and so on, is literally a dream come true!” stated Brett Goldsmith, PhD, Cardea’s CTO.

The electric nose and BPUs by Cardea

Cardea’s next-gen biotech infrastructure is based on proprietary biology-gated transistors which leverage biocompatible graphene instead of silicon and replaces optical signal observation with direct electrical molecular signal analysis. The company’s liquid-gated graphene Field Effect Transistors (gFET) are extremely versatile, allowing all kinds of biosignals to be measured on the sensor, so that different types of biological signals can be electronically translated to digital information even in near real-time.

The result of using Cardea’s transistors has been the ability to generate & stream multi-omics data to measure real-time biological signals. The goal of the electric nose project is to verify the ability of Cardea BPUs functionalized with an insect Odorant Receptor (iOR) to detect agonist odorants. Through previous projects, Cardea has already amassed a solid understanding of the compatibility between iOR’s and BPUs. The team is perfectly positioned to create an assay demonstrating the feasibility of this detection methodology.

Successful completion of this project will provide Cardea with the validation that its BPU Platform has the potential to meet the demands of a large variety of engineered OR-enabled products for sensing apps in clinical health, environmental monitoring, agriculture, and biosecurity, among many more. Cardea hopes to later focus on developing a point-of-care POC testing device that can rapidly screen for common infectious diseases in developing countries.

Cardea was founded in 2013 by Brett Goldsmith, Kiana Aran and Ross Bundy. The biotech firm is now manufacturing its proprietary chips at scale thanks to its international patent.  Dr Kiana Aran, associate professor at Keck Graduate Institute, and Chief Scientific Officer at Cardea Bio was awarded the 2021 Nature Research Award for Inspiring Women in Science in the Scientific Achievement category by Nature – a world-leading scientific journal.

Through the BPU platform, Cardea’s long-term vision is to democratize access to the biosignals and insights behind the most advanced tech on our planet: Nature and biology. This way, the Internet of Biology is becoming possible. It’s of benefit to many to have a single platform capable of a wide range of detection and diagnostic applications drastically reducing development time and cost. The ultimate benefit is experienced by developing countries deploying a single instrument with application-specific tests in a rapid and cost-effective manner, yielding the largest impact in critically underserved communities.

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