February 11, 2014

Space age technology for locating dangerous gases is being adapted to transform smartphones into cancer-finding tools.

The Scripps Translational Science Institute is joining forces with Vantage Health to harness the Vantage Health Sensor, a small device that attaches to a smartphone and analyzes certain volatile organic compounds (VOCs) using gas chromatography and mass spectrometry.

The initial test, which involves gathering and transmitting data through a smartphone app, will focus on detecting certain VOCs associated with lung cancer.

“This is arguably one of the most vital and exciting steps in our effort to transfer the technology out of the labs at NASA and into the marketplace, as part of our commercialization process,” said Jeremy Barbera, Vantage Health’s chairman and CEO, in a prepared statement.

[Infographic: What mHealth will look like in 2024.]

Based in Redwood, Calif., Vantage Health was borne out of a partnership announced this year between parent company Nanobeak and NASA to commercialize mHealth products using NASA’s patented chemical sensing technology – which NASA is using to detect trace gases in the crew cabin of the International Space Station.

Calling this kind of partnership “essential for testing and validation of wireless and mobile health technologies,” Steven Steinhubl, MD, Scripps Health’s digital medicine director, explained in the release that it has the potential to expand beyond lung cancer “for transformational changes in the way we diagnose and treat a wide range of conditions.”

Indeed, Vantage Health plans to use this technology to help detect lung, colon, breast, prostate and ovarian cancer, as well as to develop mobile screening capabilities for medical adherence, heart failure, diabetes, tuberculosis, oxidative stress disorder, metabolic impairment and HIV/AIDS.

San Diego-based STSI’s Center for Digital Medicine will oversee the initial lung cancer effort, and the organizations intend to test the app first in San Diego, followed by a second location in the Midwest and a third in New England.

This is the latest in a series of innovative mHealth projects undertaken by STSI, a National Institutes of Health-sponsored consortium launched in 2008, led by Scripps Health and including The Scripps Health Translational Institute and headed by Eric Topol, MD, Scripps Health’s chief academic officer and a professor of genomics at the Scripps Research Institute.

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