Sumitomo Chemical Co. is providing some 100 million yen ($934,000) to an Israeli startup working to develop a sensor that can detect novel coronavirus infections by scent recognition.
The Japanese company recently announced the decision to shoulder some 70 percent of the funds needed for NanoScent Ltd. to develop the sensor.
The diagnostic sensor uses the startup's scent detection technology to detect viral infections from nasal exhalations within 30 to 60 seconds, it said. The Israeli company is seeking to attain 90 percent precision.
The sensor is being tested at hospitals in Israel and Europe and with companies that are developing high-precision testing technologies. It is expected to take several years before the sensors are put into practical use, according to the Japanese company.
Unlike conventional testing methods, the sensor does not require collecting samples from the nose or throat with swabs and risk causing injuries. The cost of the test is expected to remain low at around 1 euro ($1.1).
The development of the technology "can be applied not only to COVID-19 but also to...areas where future pandemics are anticipated," Sumitomo Chemical said in a news release earlier this month.
The company added it will "continue to promote a variety of initiatives to fight against pandemics through open innovation with startups and academia."
Currently, the polymerase chain reaction test is the dominant testing method for novel coronavirus, but samples must be sent to laboratories for processing and it can take several hours before the results are known.
Amid the growing demand for a simpler and faster testing method, the Japanese government has approved test kits that can detect the virus antigens in 15 to 30 minutes.