A chip for rapid molecular diagnosis: the story behind FTH srl
November 2020

Let's imagine to have, instead of the classic nose-pharyngeal swab (the one used, for example, to detect the presence of Coronavirus), a chip on which a drop of saliva is applied and which, after being inserted into a machine, tells us if a particular target molecule is present in our body, whether it is viruses, bacteria or certain proteins. All this within a few minutes and without the operator needing special technical skills, so that it can be carried out in self-diagnosis.

What may sound like science fiction is instead the device on which FTH srl (FemtoRays) is working, an innovative startup located in Polo Meccatronica in Rovereto and bound to change the world of traditional diagnosis. 

FTH and silicon photonics technology

Born in 2017 and arrived in Trentino the following year, FTH works in the field of molecular sensors based on silicon photonics technology. These are chips that use laser light instead of electrons to detect a target molecule inside the fluid.

The device, once finished, will be revolutionary because it will allow a diagnosis in a very short time (a few minutes), will be easy to use and will allow not only to identify the presence of viruses or bacteria, but also their quantity.

The latter is a fundamental functionality, especially when a pathology is given not so much by the presence of one or more molecules, but overall by their concentration in the body.



So Many Good Reasons to Choose Trentino

"Since for a startup the implementation time is very important, we thought that coming to Trentino was the ideal solution, not only to have access to funds, but also for the presence of an ecosystem that would allow us to be faster to go to market". 

Carlo Guardiani – CEO FTH srl

FTH chose to put down roots immediately in the autonomous Province of Trento for various reasons. First of all, the excellence of the research centers in the area, in particular the University of Trento and Fondazione Bruno Kessler (FBK), with which it immediately established collaborations. Indivenire is also part of this ecosystem, an innovative startup that works to simplify the dialogue between small companies and research centers, while offering scientific expertise that helps them to finalize their projects quickly. The company will go with FTH employees to FBK's laboratories to support them in making the device more efficient.

Crucial in the choice of location was also the presence of a logistical infrastructure such as Polo Meccatronica in Rovereto, which provides its prototyping laboratory ProM Facility and is home to some of the most technological companies in the area.

Speaking instead of financial aspects, a key factor has been played by a public institution well disposed to invest in research and innovation. One example is the Matching Fund call for proposals launched by Trentino Sviluppo in 2019 and won by FTH. It is an instrument to support finance that provides the possibility of equity support to some innovative startups in addition to an investment of equal or higher amount made available by a private investor. In the case of FTH, Trentino Sviluppo entered the company's capital with 200,000 euros, which in fact represents the maximum amount provided by the call for tenders.

Molecolar diagnosis by chip: the story behind FTH srl  

Invest in Trentino presents the full video interview with FTH srl and INDIVENIRE.