Owlstone – cancer breathalyser

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Owlstone Billy Boyle

Owlstone Medical in Cambridge has closed a $7 million fundraising to commercialise its disease breathalyser.

The business was spun out of parent company, Owlstone Inc, by co-founder Billy Boyle to develop and commercialise the breath test for use in clinical diagnostics and precision medicine with applications in cancer, inflammatory and infectious disease.

The investment round was led by UK-based Medtekwiz Advisory and will be used to fund ongoing clinical trials of the breathalyser in lung and colon cancer screening.

Owlstone Medical was created to leverage proprietary and proven Field Asymmetric Ion Mobility Spectrometry (FAIMS) technology for the advancement of the breath test device.

FAIMS measures volatile organic compound (VOCs) metabolites in patient’s breath or bodily fluids which are specific to disease. Measurement of VOC biomarkers allows diagnosis of disease at a very early stage, to enable more effective treatment and better patient outcomes.

Owlstone Medical is managed by a highly experienced team and supported by world-renowned experts in lung cancer diagnosis. Billy Boyle, the CEO, is an engineering graduate from Cambridge University and one of the original co-founders of Owlstone Inc, which was spun out of the university in 2004 and has raised $28 million in investment and won over $25m in engineering grants – largely from the US Military.

Boyle said: “Securing this funding is further validation of our technology, and we are excited to progress our vision to revolutionise the detection and diagnosis of cancer, infectious and inflammatory diseases.

“The breathalyser we are developing provides clinicians with a highly sensitive, non-invasive diagnostic, which will enable early detection and improve patient outcomes.

“We are also working with pharma partners to develop non-invasive companion diagnostics to better match patients to treatment for emerging personalised therapies.”

Regius Professor Christofer Toumazou, advisor to Medtekwiz and recently appointed to the Owlstone Medical Board, said: “I am delighted to have joined the board and to be involved at such a milestone in the development of the Company.

“With the investment, I look forward to seeing a step change in the way serious disease can be diagnosed and monitored – particularly for colon and lung cancer, which are two of the biggest cancer killers worldwide.”

The potential of the technology to enable rapid detection of disease, without the need for costly, invasive medical procedures, saw Owlstone Medical win the Business Weekly Astra Zeneca-MedImmune Life Science Innovation award. That was mid-March and in the previous month the company won an NHS contract for STRATA, adapting the breathalyser technology for precision medicine and companion diagnostics.

Prior to that, it received a $1.4 million NHS contract for LuCID (Lung Cancer Indicator Detection) to use FAIMS technology in the early detection of lung cancer.

• PHOTOGRAPH SHOWS: Billy Boyle

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