Why we should care more about the small molecules in our world?

Small molecules are everywhere and come under a variety of names. They are

  • Metabolites
  • Nutrients (sugars, amino acids, vitamins), flavours, allergens or toxins in the food we eat
  • Medicines we take when we are ill
  • Pollutants in our rivers
  • Toxins bacteria produce that make us ill
  • Hormones in your body

All living organisms produce small molecules, whether they are single cells, plants or humans. Importantly, they are easily absorbed, incorporated or processed by living organisms. 

Small molecules are essential for normal function and health. One organism’s ’good’ small molecule can be another organism’s ‘bad one’ and often it can be the quantity of a small molecule that can turn it from being ‘good’ to ‘bad’.

Small molecules are currently not easy to measure.  You can test for some of them via dipstick tests, but these only exist for a small selection of the thousands of small molecules that exist. Also currently you can only test for one small molecule at a time.  The alternative is to send samples off to a lab for analysis using complex specialist equipment, which takes time and money. 

Camena is currently developing simple, handheld, small molecule analysers that can be used in many different settings by the public and professionals alike.  It will look for as many or as few small molecules in a sample as you need and it will give you instant results.

Camena’s technology can enable a wide range of small molecules to be quickly and efficiently tested. It brings benefits to both individuals as well as businesses.


  • In the developing world, you could quickly identify drinking water sources that are a public health risk, such as those that are polluted or contain toxins that cause serious diseases (e.g. cholera toxin).
  • At home you could use it to test whether your food contains the things you would like it to, such as vitamins, minerals or amino acids.  Or it may tell us about the things we want to avoid in our food, such as caffeine, allergens, pesticides or antibiotics.
  • Used by people in their homes, testing could enable them to look after their wellbeing and fitness.  You could use them to check that you are getting all the nutrients you need or maybe keep an eye on stress hormones like cortisol.


  • If you are a food producer, you could instantaneously check your source ingredients to avoid contaminations, such as paralytic shellfish toxin, food colourings, pesticides and alkaloids.  Or you could look for certain key ingredients you would like to see, such as vitamin C levels in your oranges or unique aromas in your wine grapes.
  • If you use large fermenters such as those involved in brewing beer, making wine or culturing yoghurt, which use living cells, you could use our analyser to keep a close eye on what is happening.
  • Our analysers could be used to measure the health of our rivers and lakes and rapidly identify and stop any sources of pollution. 
  • Conversely, responsible farms and factories could use our monitors to regularly and very quickly monitor any water they release back into the rivers and sewers, avoiding any inadvertent release of pollutants.

The range of areas that can benefit from quick, simple small molecule analysis exceeds the thousands of small molecule types present in the world. Camena’s key differentiator is being able to test for multiple small molecules at one time, when and where you need to run the tests.

This is just the start of opening up the intelligence that we can gain from the small molecules that surround us in our everyday lives.

Watch our video to find out more