CAMBRIDGE, England– Owlstone Medical (“Owlstone”), 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 U.S. Defense Innovation Unit (DIU), a division of the U.S. Department of Defense (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.”