Owlstone Medical and Imperial College collaborate to study underlying causes of asthma exacerbations

Published on: 1 Nov 2016, under Breath Biopsy

Breath analysis technology to be used in leading clinical study to predict and characterise onset of severe asthma attacks

Cambridge, UK, November 01, 2016: Owlstone Medical, a diagnostics company, today announced it has entered into collaboration with Imperial College London, the world leading science-based research institution and university. The company’s breath analysis technology will be deployed in an ongoing study led by Imperial College to evaluate underlying causes of exacerbations in severe asthma patients.

An estimated 300 million people worldwide suffer from asthma, with 250,000 annual deaths attributed to the disease. The fundamental causes of asthma are not completely understood, however the strongest risk factors for developing asthma are a combination of genetic predisposition with environmental exposure to allergens and irritants including respiratory infections. Predicting and characterising patients who are likely to have an exacerbation despite optimal therapy is a critical step towards guiding patient management and improving outcomes for severe asthma sufferers

Volatile organic compounds (VOCs) in breath have been shown to correlate to inflammatory subtypes in asthma, and can also discriminate between viral and bacterial infection, which are extremely relevant in treatment optimization. Owlstone Medical uses the Respiration Collector for In Vitro Analysis (ReCIVA), in combination with the Field Asymmetric Ion Mobility Spectrometer (FAIMS) sensor platform, to accurately and selectively detect volatile organic compounds (VOCs) in breath.

Commenting on the study, Fan Chung, Professor of Respiratory Medicine at Imperial College Faculty of Medicine said: “The causes of the exacerbations that occur in those suffering from severe asthma remain a mystery; elucidating these will represent a major advance that could lead to preventive measures and better targeted treatments.”

“VOCs analysis of exacerbations will enable a more rapid translation towards point of care analysis and correct treatment of patients,” added Ian Adcock, Professor of Respiratory Cell & Molecular Biology at the National Heart and Lung Institute, Imperial College.

Billy Boyle, co-founder and CEO at Owlstone Medical, said: “Characterising asthma exacerbations and predicting how patients will respond in certain situations will lead to improved treatment regimes, reduced hospital admissions and emergency treatments, and improved quality of life for asthma patients. Owlstone Medical was created specifically to advance our disease breathalyzer and we will be providing both clinical and academic researchers and pharma companies with access to our technology as part of our services offering, to enable the development of more effective treatments and ultimately better patient outcomes.”

To find out more about Owlstone Medical visit: www.owlstonemedical.com

Notes to Editors

ReCIVA (old)
Owlstone Medical’s ReCIVA Breath Sampler

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About Owlstone Medical:


Owlstone Medical has developed a breathalyzer for disease. With a focus on non-invasive diagnostics for cancer, infectious disease and inflammatory disease, the company aims to save 100,000 lives and $1.5B in health care costs by 2020.

The company’s microchip FAIMS (Field Asymmetric Ion Mobility Spectrometer) sensor is a platform technology that can be programmed in software to detect targeted biomarkers of disease in breath (and other bodily fluids). FAIMS can be used in clinical diagnostics and precision medicine with application in cancer and a wide range of other medical conditions. Highly sensitive and selective, these tests allow for early diagnosis when treatments are more effective and where more lives can be saved.

Owlstone Medical is currently developing tests for lung and colorectal cancer, two of the most common cancer killers worldwide. The company also sells R&D tools and services to academic, clinical and pharma partners who want to develop breath based diagnostics for their own applications.

Founded in 2004 as a spin-out from the Engineering Department at the University of Cambridge, Owlstone Inc is a profitable business selling it’s proven FAIMS technology to military and industrial customers globally. Owlstone Medical was spun out from Owlstone Inc in 2016 to develop and commercialise FAIMS in diagnostic applications.

Owlstone Medical is headquartered in Cambridge, UK, with offices in London, UK.

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