Yokogawa Electric Corporation and Hirotsu Bio Science Inc. (HBS) announced that they have signed an investment and partnership agreement with the goal of expanding the use of HBS’s N-NOSE cancer screening test service, which utilizes the highly sensitive olfactory sensory functions of nematodes to detect cancer. Under this agreement, Yokogawa will invest in HBS, and be responsible for the manufacturing and maintenance of N-NOSE’s automatic analysis equipment. The two companies are also aiming to develop new automatic analysis equipment and promote the global growth of the N-NOSE business.
Issues with cancer screening include the difficulty of detecting cancer at an early stage and the fact that not enough people are having these tests, and this can be attributed to the lack of a primary screening test method that can easily detect many kinds of cancer with high accuracy and at low cost. These issues have become particularly acute during the COVID-19 pandemic as many people with underlying diseases are reluctant to risk exposure to the virus by visiting medical institutions to undergo testing. The N-NOSE service presents a solution to these issues, but to provide this service to a broader segment of the market, HBS must now scale up the production of its automatic analysis equipment.
With Yokogawa's manufacturing capacity and life science know-how, the two companies will be able to build a system for the mass production and maintenance of this automatic analysis equipment and meet the expected growth in demand for testing. They will also explore collaboration in the development of next-generation automatic analysis equipment and the global expansion of the N-NOSE business. For this business, HBS will provide nematode cancer screening technology and know-how, and Yokogawa will leverage its core measurement, control, and information technologies, and a global network that spans 62 countries. To share the risks and returns of these collaboration activities, the two companies have agreed to adopt the same revenue sharing method used by many companies in the IT software and systems sectors.
The N-NOSE primary screening service uses nematodes, organisms that are about one millimeter long, have an excellent sense of smell and are inexpensive to nurture, to detect cancer from trace amounts of odorants in urine samples. HBS research has found that nematodes are able to detect at a very early stage (0 or 1) 15 different cancers, including gastric, colorectal, and lung cancer, with a probability of about 86%. This comprehensive cancer test only requires the one-time submission of a urine sample and costs much less to administer than other currently available tests. Having completed development of its own automatic analysis equipment, HBS launched the N-NOSE service in January 2020. In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the company is now planning for the spring 2021 launch in Japan of an “N-NOSE at home” service that can be conducted at home.