Breakout Ventures
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Breakout Ventures

A Sense for What is Important

Many of you, who have followed Breakout Labs companies over the years, will remember C2Sense describing the application of their ultra small, highly selective, low cost, gas sensors for industrial safety and agriculture. You might have missed, however, the expansion of their chemical sensing toolkit to exploit technologies already available in cameras and cell phones. With Authentags™ and the Halo™ reader, C2Sense is preparing for new markets including pharmaceutical safety and human diagnostics, and is currently raising a Series A1 to support commercial launches next year.

C2Sense uses nanotechnology to develop mobile sensing platforms that reveal a hidden world of information across applications in gas sensing, rapid medical diagnostics, and product authentication.

Sensing the Invisible
Since its founding in 2013, C2Sense has greatly expanded its capability to rapidly and inexpensively sense a variety of invisible volatile molecules — a.k.a. gases — to extract actionable information from the local environment. With intellectual property and feasibility studies on over fifty individual gases in hand, the company is working with corporate partners to develop mobile-ready applications in industrial safety, fire detection, and air quality.

While exploring the potential to not only detect but also impart chemical signatures as detectable “tags” to meet growing market demand for product authentication and safety monitoring, the C2Sense team, led by Chief Technology Officer, Dr. Bob Deans, quickly realized that they also had the knowhow to use chemical luminescence — invisible to the naked eye — with existing hardware and machine learning to create a potent, optically-based authentication system. Thus, the intellectual property for Authentags™ and Halo™ were born.

In fact, with the appropriate software installed, current cell phones can recognize the C2Sense Authentag. “This link between using a phone to recognize a chemical tag is the key breakthrough of the technology,” said C2Sense Product Manager, Dr. Merry Smith. “Fundamentally, this represents a new way that a smartphone can interact with the world.”

The technology has multiple applications. For example, there’s authenticity. Is this a real Rolex? Use your cell phone to look for the invisible tag before you buy. Is this supply of pharmaceuticals from a certified manufacturer? Scan the product as it runs along a conveyor belt. Then, there is product integrity. Has this package been tampered with? Is this packaged food safe? Adding tags that react to oxygen or humidity by emitting a luminescent signal could be used to let your supplier or you know if your food or medicine has been dangerously exposed. And then, there are human diagnostics.

Sensing COVID-19
Like businesses everywhere, deep technology startups have struggled to maintain operations, communications, and partnerships since the world has been hamstrung by a global pandemic. But, as one of the world’s infectious disease heroes Louis Pasteur noted, chance favors the prepared. C2Sense had of course considered the potential for their Halo reader technology in human diagnostics, and CEO George Linscott quickly realized that the company had an obligation and an opportunity to raise the priority of that application.

“As COVID-19 swept across the world, and we saw in the news that the shortage of testing was worsened by a lack of equipment to read the tests, we knew we had to help.” said Linscott. “In under 4 months, using a phone as a reader, we were effectively and accurately reading COVID-19 antigen assays at concentrations that exceed the published performance of leading companies like BD and Quidel without the need to have lab equipment interpret the results. This demonstrates the power of the Halo platform.”

Currently, C2Sense is modifying one of the top-performing COVID-19 Antigen rapid tests in the entire world, made by a top diagnostics company, to work on the Halo Platform. They hope to have the test in the market by Q1 of 2021, but the technology could work with essentially any diagnostic test based on the tried-and-true fluorescence immunoassay (FIA), a workhorse of the diagnostic world. FIAs are currently processed and read in specialized, centralized laboratory testing facilities. The ability to move that into the home, schools, and places of work is an obvious game-changer.

The company has a road map to bring more tests to the market in 2021 (COVID-19 Antibody, Flu A/B …) and continue to enhance the performance of Halo using proprietary C2Sense reagents and materials. They are actively seeking commercial partners in technology, pharma, telemedicine and consumer direct testing.

“Halo will enable lab-quality diagnostics to be used at home,” said Linscott. “Covid-19 has shown us the dangers and inefficiencies of centralized point of care testing. Halo-enabled telemedicine will allow us to be diagnosed in the safety and comfort of our homes, reducing the chance of spreading infection and saving time, money and lives.”

Sensing the Future
In 2019, C2Sense closed a $14M series A financing led by Safar Partners. Leading up to the raise, the company recruited George Linscott (left) as the new CEO, who brings both a track record and a passion to take C2Sense to the next level as a commercial-scale company. C2Sense cofounder and MIT Professor Tim Swager has also stepped up his activities with the company, serving as a key strategic technology advisor and focusing on a next generation of nanosensors. The team has expanded and moved from their former home at The Engine in Cambridge, Massachusetts to a larger space of their own where they are scaling up manufacturing capabilities in readiness for commercial launches next year. 2021 will be a pivotal year for the company, which has plans to establish applications and sales centers on the West Coast, Asia and Europe.

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