Monell Center Receives Funding for First-of-its-Kind Conference to Establish Universal Chemosensory Testing

For immediate release
Contact: Karen Kreeger,

NIH funds awarded to discuss monitoring smell and taste throughout life, akin to vision and hearing.

PHILADELPHIA (April 3, 2023) – The Monell Chemical Senses Center, with colleagues from Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH), The Ohio State University, and University of Florida, has received funding from the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders (NIDCD) to organize a visionary conference titled, “Towards Universal Chemosensory Testing.” The overarching goal is to involve multiple stakeholders to develop strategies for implementing routine chemosensory testing – smell, taste, and related senses – across the lifespan as a part of healthcare in the United States. The conference, to be held November 6 – 7, 2023 in Philadelphia as part of a larger set of related events, will bring together scientists, clinicians, public health officials, patients, healthcare industry professionals, and others to identify opportunities and challenges to institute routine chemosensory testing.

“The COVID-19 pandemic has brought smell and taste dysfunction to the attention of the world,” said conference lead organizer, Valentina Parma, PhD, Monell Assistant Director and Assistant Member. “Despite the significant role of these senses in signaling disease, as well as safety, emotional connection, and quality of life, the diagnosis of chemosensory disorders is far from accessible for most patients or routinely implemented by most healthcare providers.” Parma is joined by conference co-organizers Mark Albers, MD, PhD, MGH; Steven Munger, PhD, University of Florida; and Kai Zhao, PhD, Ohio State, who are all recipients of a previous National Institutes of Health RADx℠ Radical initiative funding to develop chemosensory testing for COVID-19.

The COVID-19 pandemic is leaving millions of people with persistent smell and taste disorders, increasing the number of those who experience disrupted connections with their surroundings, including family and friends, food, and the environment. “The benefits of smell and taste to health and quality of life are often ignored until injury or disease compromises their function,” said Katie Boateng, president of the Smell and Taste Association of North America, a patient advocacy group. In addition to the significant reduction in positive mood and quality of life that smell and taste disorders bring, loss of taste and smell can be an early harbinger of several health concerns, including other types of infections and neurodegenerative diseases.

The conference program will:

  • Share state-of-the-art methods in chemosensory testing,
  • Identify benefits and practices of chemosensory screening for individuals and at the population level, per the NIDCD current strategic plan,
  • Communicate shared information with medical associations, health care professionals, academic institutions, governmental agencies, insurance companies, industry, and the general public,
  • Increase the proportion of adults with smell or taste disorders who discuss the problem with a provider per the Healthy People 2023 goals,
  • Culminate with a peer-reviewed consensus paper on universal chemosensory testing detailing the rationale and recommendations that emerge from discussions.

Before COVID-19, about 20 percent of people in the US reported chemosensory dysfunction in their lifetime. This percentage greatly increases if we consider that using smell and taste testing among people with COVID alone detects 67 percent of those who have experienced smell loss and 43 percent taste loss. Relying on self reports does not capture more than 20 percent of people that have smell loss but are unaware of it.

“This lack of routine smell and taste screening prevents us from fully understanding the prevalence of chemosensory dysfunction,” said Parma.

The availability of universal chemosensory testing could significantly improve health care experiences, health outcomes, and quality of life for patients, as well as reduce the economic burden of chemosensory dysfunction and its consequences. “The adoption of universal smell testing as part of routine care has the potential to reduce the burden of diseases that have smell and taste loss as an early symptom, including neurodegenerative disorders and several mental health disorders,” said Patricia Lucas-Schnarre, CEO of Ahersla Health, a company working to bring rapid smell tests to market.

The conference will also be book-ended by two patient-focused events for caregivers, patients, clinicians, scientists, and policymakers to share information and create stronger connections among stakeholders. Bringing the relevant medical disciplines and practices together – primary care practitioners, nurses, otolaryngologists, chemosensory scientists, patients, insurance executives, and public health professionals – will help proposed strategies emerging from the conference become clinical realities.

For more information on the NIH scientific presentations, patient-focused programming and to preregister, please visit

Individual and group sponsorships are still available – please contact Jenifer Trachtman at

Media, please contact Karen Kreeger, at


The Monell Chemical Senses Center is an independent nonprofit basic research institute based in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Founded in 1968, Monell‘s mission is to improve health and well-being by advancing the scientific understanding of taste, smell, and related senses, where our discoveries lead to improving nutritional health, diagnosing and treating disease, addressing smell and taste loss, and digitizing chemosensory data.