Israeli scientists have told an audience of peers in London how they have developed a “cancer-sniffing nose” using nanotechnology to detect the disease early.

Professor Hossam Haick, an Israeli Christian, delivered Technion UK’s Ron Arad lecture at the Royal College of Physicians last week.

The electronic ‘nose’ he developed can smell 17 diseases on a person’s breath, including Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, tuberculosis, diabetes and lung cancer.

The non-intrusive medical device, which works by identifying as disease’s bio-markers, has attracted the attention of billionaires such as Bill and Melinda Gates, whose foundation focuses on the diagnostics of diseases.

“Every disease has a unique signature – a ‘breath print,’” Haick said. “The challenge is to bring the best science we have proven into reality by developing a smaller device that captures all the components of a disease appearing in the breath.”

Haick works at the Department of Chemical Engineering and the Russell Berrie Nanotechnology Institute at the Technion in Israel and is an expert in the field of nanotechnology and non-invasive disease diagnosis.

The University said the latest advances in his research mean that it has the potential to identify diseases though sensors in mobile phones and wearable technology, and with more analysis and data it may even be able to predict cancer in the future.

“We cannot develop this technology in Israel without developing the best science,” he said. “Integrating the software, machine learning and academic intelligence will make a critical change in the early detection and prevention of cancerous diseases.”