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Owlstone Medical Wins Contract from U.S. Department of Defense to Develop Handheld Breath Biopsy Device for Early Infectious Disease Detection

  • Initial award recognizes potential of proprietary Owlstone Medical technology for non-invasive viral and bacterial respiratory infectious disease detection
  • Goal of the project is to provide a device to every warfighter in the field where access to diagnostic testing or medical personnel is limited

17 May 2023 -- Cambridge, UK -- Owlstone Medical, the global leader in Breath Biopsy for applications in early disease detection and precision medicine, today announced that it had won an award from the US Defense Innovation Unit (DIU), a division of the US Department of Defence (DoD), for ‘Exhaled Breath Diagnostics’. The ‘EXHALE’ project, focused on the early detection of human infection using volatile organic compounds (VOCs) on breath, will develop a handheld device capable of non-invasive detection of pre-symptomatic respiratory infectious disease.

Warfighters routinely operate in remote environments where access to medical personnel is limited and the ability to diagnose infectious disease early is challenging. Under these conditions, the risk of contracting a respiratory disease, and subsequently its spread to other personnel, is high and can have a severe impact on mission readiness. Most current diagnostic testing platforms are unsuitable to be deployed in the field, and so there is a significant need for a portable solution.

The portable device by Owlstone will be adapted to work off battery power and detect VOCs present in exhaled breath, filling a gap in infectious disease detection. By aiming for the earliest possible identification of asymptomatic infected individuals in the field, the device would reduce the risk of disease transmission wherever deployed, providing a strategic advantage to the force.

Based on the Company’s proprietary FAIMS technology, the device will be developed over a two-year period, supported by clinical studies to be performed at Duke University. Initial work will focus on identifying and validating breath biomarkers for viral and bacterial pathogens and defining performance requirements for the device. If successful, there is potential for a second phase to the project for further development of the device to the point of being ready for high-volume manufacturing by Owlstone, and global deployment in the field.

Billy Boyle, co-founder and CEO at Owlstone Medical, said: “We have completed multiple studies in lung inflammation and bacterial and viral infectious disease (including COVID) with major pharma and academic partners, providing us with a broad list of candidate biomarkers for consideration in this project. We have a proprietary technology in FAIMS, and extensive experience with device development and sensor design, including in small handheld devices. With proven expertise and technology in both areas, we believe Owlstone is uniquely positioned to support the EXHALE project and are pleased that the DIU agrees and has awarded us this contract.”

About Owlstone Medical 
Owlstone Medical’s vision is to save 100,000 lives by realising the enormous promise of breath-based diagnostics through the development and application of Breath Biopsy, a unique platform capable of both biomarker discovery and use in routine clinical testing.
The platform includes ReCIVA, a proprietary sample collection device that can take stable breath samples anywhere, the world’s only commercial Breath Biopsy Laboratory located in Cambridge, UK, and the Breath Biopsy VOC Atlas, the most extensive catalogue of identified volatile organic compounds (VOCs) commonly found on breath. The Company’s technology is protected by over 120 granted and pending patents and has been used in more than 100 research papers.

Owlstone Medical’s Research Products and Services are being deployed at over 100 sites around the world with large pharmaceutical companies including AstraZeneca, Actelion (a J&J company), and GlaxoSmithKline and leading academic institutions. Projects are supported by Breath Biopsy OMNI, the most advanced solution for reliable end-to-end global breath VOC analysis, which is helping researchers advance biomarker discovery and disease research and maximising the chances of finding clinically relevant breath biomarkers.

The company has an active portfolio of Breath Biopsy tests in development for the early detection of lung cancer and liver disease, both areas of high unmet clinical need that represent multi-billion dollar market opportunities. In digestive health, clinical tests for Small Intestinal Bacterial Overgrowth and carbohydrate malabsorption are already on market, and breath testing is emerging as an effective way for patients to monitor and manage symptoms. Visit: