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SCENT S.r.l (SemiConductor-based Electronic Network for Tumors) is a company whose mission is to design, test, manufacture and market screening tools for detection of tumor formations and pathologies through the analysis of chemical variations in the composition of the gases produced by human organism.

They can be emitted both directly and indirectly via organic materials. Such screenings are innovative with respect to the traditional ones, which are based on the analysis of organic material from human tissues, with the advantage of being less invasive for the patient and more complete. In fact, several variables are analyzed, which had never been considered before by instruments already on the market, and which are effective tumor markers according to the scientific literature.

A first application concerns the preliminary screening of colorectal tumor formations (since the stage of adenoma). The instrument, indicated with the name of SCENT A1, is now the form of a prototype (Italian patent number: RM20144000595 and request for international PCT extension obtained) and its characteristics are portability, low cost and ease of use even by unqualified personnel. SCENT A1 will represent a form of pre-analysis in the field of colorectal cancer (CCR) diagnostics, which currently relies on methodologies not completely reliable, e.g., the fecal occult blood test (FOBT), or invasive and expensive such as colonoscopy and sigmoidoscopy, sources of further hardships for patients already debilitated and often old. SCENT A1 will provide the health care system a safe and effective method of pre-diagnosis, to support FOBT, already accepted by the Italian health system for all subjects older than 50 years. SCENT A1 will act alongside the latter, in order to reduce the number of false negatives, whose existence is known (above 20%) and causes late intervention. In those states where FOBT or other pre-screening tests are not adopted, such as Russia, Poland, Brazil, Argentina and Spain, SCENT A1 will be proposed, after clinical validation, as a method of preventive diagnosis on population at risk. The introduction of SCENT A1 will decrease the number of deaths due to cancers not diagnosed by FOBT, with a significant socio-health impact. The system will also allow to collect a large number of statistical data on the population and to use the positive results to reveal any high risk areas.

The idea comes from reading and studying the medical and scientific literature on the subject, and has been the main object of three thesis in physics. A branch in continuous evolution in the diagnosis of cancer is based on the detection of volatile organic compounds (VOCs), compounds that have a high vapour pressure at room temperature. Such compounds have different chemical nature depending on the type of cancer and are originated from diseased cells, due to the modification of the protein structure of their membrane (peroxidation) and their metabolic activity. VOCs can be identified either directly, in the environment surrounding the cells, and indirectly through the breath, after being conveyed by the bloodstream to the lungs. SCENT A1 focuses on the pre-diagnosis of CRC (since the stage of adenoma) and, being this tumor localized in the intestinal region, it is known in the literature and verified by laboratory tests that VOCs generated from it directly affect the composition of feces, altering their odor. The diagnosis tool proposed by us is therefore able to detect with extreme precision such alterations, so as to provide a criterion for distinguishing between feces of healthy subjects and subjects suffering from intestinal polyps or carcinomas. The operational idea is based primarily on the application of nano-structures, which are of great current interest for industrial applications, to the medical field. SCENT A1 is made of a core of nano-structured sensors, based on semiconductor powders. These sensors are capable of monitoring small changes in gas concentrations of the order of tens of parts per billion (ppb), in line with VOCs variations inside of the human body. SCENT A1 will provide an effective and non-invasive CRC pre-screening, by analyzing stool samples exhalations. SCENT A1 is currently in the form of a patented MVP (Minimum Viable Product). The performance of laboratory tests gave extremely encouraging results about the capability of SCENT A1 of distinguishing between stool samples of healthy subjects and of patients with polyps, by means of a simple threshold system. Additional double blind tests will be needed for certification of the instrument. Changes in the electronics and packaging will help us to make it "user-friendly", less bulky and ready for market introduction. Since May 2016 a clinical validation protocol of the device was launched, in collaboration with gastroenterologists of the University Hospital S. Anna of Ferrara (UNIFE) and the unit “Unità Operativa Igiene Pubblica”, Dipartimento Sanità Pubblica (AUSL). After the approval of the protocol by the Ethics Committee, all subjects resulted positive to FOBT are invited to undergo the SCENT A1 tests before colonoscopy. They will receive a special container that must be delivered to return frozen to the Centro Screening dell’Emilia Romagna of Ferrara with the sample inside. The test results will then be compared with the results of FOBT and colonoscopy (gold standard). The test will continue for at least one year in order to calibrate and validate then clinically SCENT A1.

The organizational chart of the Scientific Committee consisting of six people, is as follows:

  • Andrea Gaiardo: Chemical Expert 
  • Sandro Gherardi: Technical and Information Technology Manager
  • Alessio Giberti: Data Analysis Expert
  • Nicolò Landini: Lone Administrator
  • Cesare Malagù: President of the Scientific Committee
  • Giulia Zonta: Sales Executive and Head of Human Resources
  • Antonio Cimelli, Elena Pezzi, Claudio Bolognesi and Davide Ferrari are the first investors of SCENT.

List of milestones of SCENT S.r.l:

  • Realization of the first prototype SCENT A1 - January 2013
  • Victory StartCup competition - October 2014
  • Italian Patent Application (RM2014A000595) - October 2014
  • YEI Franci @ Innovation Award 2014 - December 2014
  • Innovami IMOLA, Award for the best business idea - June 17, 2015
  • Marzotto Prize 2015 - November 2015 • 5th place in the top 15 biotech StartupItalia - July 2016



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