Breath Biopsy platform scoops the UK’s most prestigious award for engineering innovation

Published on: 27 Jul 2018, under Breath Biopsy

The Royal Academy of Engineering reveals Owlstone Medical as the winners of the 2018 MacRobert Award

Cambridge, UK, June 27 2018: Owlstone Medical, a diagnostics company developing a breathalyzer for disease, has announced the team behind the Company’s unique Breath Biopsy® platform has been named the winner of the MacRobert Award 2018 by the Royal Academy of Engineering. Owlstone Medical’s Breath Biopsy platform, including the ReCIVA Breath Sampler, has opened up the potential for earlier diagnosis and precision medicine across cancer, inflammatory disease and infectious disease.

Her Royal Highness The Princess Royal presented the team of engineers from Cambridge-based company Owlstone Medical with the MacRobert Award gold medal and a £50,000 prize at the Academy’s Awards Dinner at the Tower of London this evening. The presentation of the Award recognizes outstanding innovation, tangible societal benefit and proven commercial success.

The MacRobert Award, run by the Royal Academy of Engineering, is the UK’s longest running and most prestigious award for engineering innovation. First presented in 1969, the Award has recognized the extraordinary potential of innovations that have changed the world we live in. In 1972, for instance, the judges honored the development of the first CT scanner by EMI – seven years before its inventor Sir Godfrey Hounsfield received the Nobel Prize. Last year’s winner was the Cambridge-based team behind the Raspberry Pi.

Breath Biopsy is the first platform capable of capturing breath samples and analyzing them in a robust and reproducible way, and is in use at more than 100 clinical sites around the world. The development of a standardized Breath Biopsy platform will enable Owlstone Medical to build a robust, comparable Breath Biopsy Digital Biobank including thousands of breath VOC profiles matched to phenotype, and overcome many of the historical challenges associated with the identification of VOCs and how these are associated with specific diseases.

The winning team members are: Billy Boyle, Co-founder & CEO; David Ruiz-Alonso, Co-founder & COO; Max Allsworth, Chief Scientific Officer; Alastair Taylor, VP of Engineering; Matthew Hart, VP of Research and Development.

Dr Dame Sue Ion DBE FREng FRS, Chair of the MacRobert Award judging panel, said: “Owlstone Medical stood out because of the extraordinary engineering that its breath sampler, and the associated breath biopsy platform, required to bring these technologies to life. The company has demonstrated exceptional innovation at every stage of development; from the mask used to help capture breath, the tubes that help collect the samples, to the software and hardware designed to ensure the tests are reliable and repeatable.

“Owlstone Medical has now created a device that is dependable and non-intrusive, and has the potential to revolutionize the way we diagnose and treat a vast array of diseases. The societal benefit is clear to see, and I believe they could realise their vision of saving more than a billion dollars in global healthcare costs and saving hundreds of thousands of lives.”

Billy Boyle, co-founder and CEO at Owlstone Medical, commented: It’s a huge honor to have won the MacRobert Award and for the whole company to be recognized for their hard work over the last three years in developing the Breath Biopsy platform and establishing breath diagnostics as a new industry category. We know that in cancer, early detection is our greatest opportunity to save lives – our company mission is to save 100,000 lives and we won’t stop until we achieve this.

To find out more about Owlstone Medical’s Breath Biopsy platform and mission to save 100,000 lives, watch the video here.


Notes to Editors


ReCIVA Breath Sampler developed by Owlstone Medical.

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About Owlstone Medical

Owlstone Medical has developed a unique breathalyzer for disease. The company’s vision is to become the global leader in non-invasive breath tests for early disease detection and precision medicine across cancer, inflammatory disease and infectious disease with the aim of saving 100,000 lives and $1.5 billion in healthcare costs.

Owlstone Medical’s Breath Biopsy® platform is creating a new industry category, based on the routine detection and analysis of volatile organic compound (VOC) biomarkers in breath, which has the potential to revolutionize healthcare. The award winning ReCIVA Breath Sampler is the first standardized breath collection device designed to capture the VOC biomarkers present in breath, which are then analyzed using Owlstone Medical’s Breath Biopsy services and products.

Owlstone Medical is developing breath tests for the early detection of lung and colorectal cancer. These are two of the most common cancer killers worldwide and represent multibillion dollar market opportunities. The company has an active clinical diagnostics/screening pipeline including the world’s largest breath-based clinical trials. The Breath Biopsy platform is also being deployed in the PAN cancer trial, a collaboration with Cancer Research UK studying the early detection of eight different cancer types in breath.

The company also sees a significant role for Breath Biopsy in precision medicine, where it can provide dynamic information about a patient’s disease activity and identify patients most likely to respond to a particular therapy. Breath Biopsy aims to ensure that the right therapy is given to the right patient at the right time, helping to improve patient outcomes and reduce healthcare costs.

Owlstone Medical’s Breath Biopsy clinical laboratory is a unique, revenue generating capability that allows pharmaceutical, clinical and academic partners worldwide to explore breath-based biomarkers to optimize their own precision medicine activities. The commercialization of Breath Biopsy precision medicine companion diagnostics through pharmaceutical partners is expected to provide Owlstone Medical with a significant royalty stream as breath-based precision medicine becomes a reality.

Owlstone Medical was spun out of Owlstone Inc. in 2016 to develop and commercialize medical applications of its proprietary microchip chemical sensing technology, Field Asymmetric Ion Mobility Spectrometry (FAIMS), which is sold in the military and industrial sectors globally. The company has raised a total of $38.5 million in equity financing, and is backed by technology investor Horizons Ventures, and Aviva, a leading healthcare insurer.

Owlstone Medical is headquartered in Cambridge, UK.

Breath Biopsy®

If you want to learn more about Owlstone Medical’s Breath Biopsy platform, why not download our free ebook: Breath Biopsy: The Complete Guide?

Breath Biopsy Complete Guide

About Royal Academy of Engineering

1. The MacRobert Award. First presented in 1969, the MacRobert Award is widely regarded as the most coveted in the industry. Founded by the MacRobert Trust, the award is presented and run by the Royal Academy of Engineering, with support from the Worshipful Company of Engineers. For more information, visit:
Previous winners include EMI Ltd, who in 1972 developed the CT Scanner, a vital medical device that can now be found in almost every hospital in the developed world. In 2002 Cambridge Display Technologies won the MacRobert Award for its light emitting polymer displays for televisions and smart phones. In 2016 the Award was given to Blatchford for Linx, the first ever prosthetic limb with integrated robotic control of the knee and foot.
Last year’s winner was Cambridge-based Raspberry Pi, for the small but mighty microcomputer that has revolutionized control systems and redefined how people engage with coding. Originally conceived as a way to boost computer science applications to the University of Cambridge, Raspberry Pi has created a whole new class of computer that has transformed the way engineers design control systems in industry. Before Raspberry Pi, each industry had its own suppliers of control computers, which in turn reduced competition and lowered quality. The robust and flexible Raspberry Pi has swept this market away and over half of Raspberry Pis are now sold to industry.
Raspberry Pi has also proved phenomenally successful in its original educational ambition. Over 16 million devices have been sold in total, re-engaging people with the power of coding, and helping to ensure that future generations are equipped for the increasingly digital jobs of the future. This success has been enabled by the Pi’s affordability: the product has been developed at a price-point that makes it accessible to anyone: just $35 (£28) for the flagship product, or an even smaller version, the Raspberry Pi Zero, at $5 (£4).
The 2018 MacRobert Award judges are:
– Dr Dame Sue Ion DBE FREng FRS (Chair)
Consultant; Honorary President, National Skills Academy for Nuclear
– John Baxter CBE FREng FRSE
Chairman, Advanced Nuclear Research Centre (ANRC), University of Strathclyde; former Group Head of Engineering, BP
– Keith Davis
Former Chairman, The MacRobert Trust
– Professor David Delpy CBE FREng FRS FMedSci
Emeritus Professor of Biomedical Optics, University College London
– Professor Nick Jennings CB FREng
Vice-Provost (Research and Enterprise), Imperial College London
– Professor Sir John McCanny CBE FREng FRS
Regius Professor Emeritus, Electronics and Computer Engineering, Queen’s University Belfast
– Professor Ric Parker CBE FREng
Former Director of Research and Technology, Rolls-Royce plc
– Dr Frances Saunders CB FREng
Former Chief Executive, Defence Science and Technology Laboratory (DSTL)
– Professor Sir Saeed Zahedi OBE FREng RDI
Technical Director, Blatchford

2. Royal Academy of Engineering
As the UK’s national academy for engineering, we bring together the most successful and talented engineers for a shared purpose: to advance and promote excellence in engineering.
We provide analysis and policy support to promote the UK’s role as a great place to do business. We take a lead on engineering education and we invest in the UK’s world-class research base to underpin innovation. We work to improve public awareness and understanding of engineering. We are a national academy with a global outlook.
We have three strategic challenges:
– Make the UK the leading nation for engineering innovation
– Address the engineering skills crisis
– Position engineering at the heart of society

By investing in Owlstone Medical you can help make this happen sooner.

We are on a mission to save 100,000 lives. By investing in Owlstone Medical you can support our research and help make this happen sooner.

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