Owlstone Medical Secures $6.5 Million to Support Development of Breath-based Diagnostics for Infectious Disease

Published on: 25 Apr 2024, under Press Releases

  • $5 million equity investment and initial $1.5 million grant funding committed by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation for development of breath-based diagnostic solutions to improve outcomes in the developing world
  • Funding represents the first time the foundation has taken an equity position in a breath diagnostics company
  • Funding will also support enhancement of the Breath Biopsy platform, including the VOC Atlas


Cambridge, UK, April 25, 2024: Owlstone Medical (“Owlstone”), the global leader in Breath Biopsy® for applications in early disease detection and precision medicine, today announced it has secured funding from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation (“the Gates Foundation” or “the foundation”). The funding is comprised of a $5 million equity investment to advance Owlstone’s Breath Biopsy platform and $1.5 million in grant funding to develop breath-based diagnostics and identify breath biomarkers for tuberculosis (TB) and human immunodeficiency viruses (HIV).

Owlstone, with support from the foundation, is interested in developing new cost-effective detection technologies for volatile organic compounds (VOCs) that could serve as markers of diseases that disproportionately affect the developing world. With the new funding, Owlstone seeks to understand whether this approach is suitable for TB and HIV detection and to explore a path by which breath-based testing could be deployed for rapid screening and earlier diagnosis.

Billy Boyle, co-founder and CEO at Owlstone Medical, said: “Early diagnosis is a critical determinant of health outcomes. By enabling swift and non-invasive detection of disease, breath analysis has the potential to save lives and dramatically reduce the burden of illness in resource-constrained settings. This investment by the Gates Foundation is a testament to how Owlstone is uniquely positioned to transform infectious disease diagnosis through our Breath Biopsy platform. The funds will accelerate both the discovery and validation of VOC biomarkers, and the development of a fieldable, low cost, simple to use device.”

The $5 million equity investment will support advancements of the Breath Biopsy platform, including expansion of the Breath Biopsy VOC Atlas (1) database and for development of a remote-use real-time breath analyzer. This component of the funding will be the first time that the foundation has taken an equity position in a breath diagnostics company.

The $1.5 million in grant funding to support the identification of breath biomarkers will be used across two projects:

  • TB: In partnership with the University of Cape Town, South Africa, Owlstone aims to identify a panel of on-breath candidate VOC biomarkers that differentiate TB subjects from healthy controls and to develop breath diagnostic approaches based on exploiting the metabolic features of TB using in vitro approaches.
  • HIV: Working with investigators from Imperial College, UK, and Oxford University, UK, Owlstone will analyze VOCs from blood samples from subjects with HIV and will work to identify a panel of on-breath candidate VOC biomarkers that correlate with HIV viral load.

In both areas, the data collected will also be used to further populate Owlstone’s Breath Biopsy VOC Atlas.

Activities complementary to this project are underway with the US Department of Defense (2) (the ‘EXHALE’ project) where Owlstone is developing a handheld device capable of non-invasive detection of pre-symptomatic respiratory infectious disease, providing further support for Owlstone’s ability to advance the foundation’s mission.


  1. https://www.owlstonemedical.com/science-technology/breath-biopsy-voc-atlas/
  2. https://www.owlstonemedical.com/about/news/2023/may/17/OML-wins-DIU-contract/




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What is Breath Biopsy®:

Breath Biopsy represents an entirely new way to determine the chemical makeup of breath by measuring volatile organic compounds (VOCs), gaseous molecules that can be sampled quickly and non-invasively. VOCs originate from all parts of the body as the end product of metabolic processes, making Breath Biopsy applicable to a wide range of diseases including lung cancer, liver disease, and digestive disease. Breath also contains microscopic aerosol particles from the lungs and airways, which can contain a wide range of biomarkers including for infectious disease. The nature of Breath Biopsy therefore makes it perfectly suited to addressing two of the major challenges of healthcare today: early detection of disease and precision medicine.


About Owlstone Medical:

Owlstone Medical’s vision is to save 100,000 lives by realizing 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-scale Breath Biopsy Laboratory located in Cambridge, U.K., 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 160 granted and pending patents and has been used in more 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), 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 maximizing the chances of finding clinically relevant breath biomarkers.

The Company has a 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, under the OMED Health brand, clinical tests for Small Intestinal Bacterial Overgrowth and carbohydrate malabsorption are on market in the U.K., and a handheld device and app for longitudinal monitoring of digestive health is in development.