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Owlstone Medical

Scientist on May 22, 2023

This installment of Suppler Spotlight® highlights Owlstone Medical, a biotechnology company with the goal of finding ways to improve non-invasive diagnostics for respiratory diseases, liver diseases, cancer, digestive health and other conditions.

What is your company’s mission?

Our overall mission is to save 100,000 lives and $1.5B in healthcare costs, and we envision Owlstone Medical as the global leader in Breath Biopsy for early detection and precision medicine. We began our mission to identify better ways to detect cancer earlier when the chances of treatment being effective are dramatically higher. Every time you breathe out there are a vast array of chemicals in your breath that originate from deeper within your body, and some of these may indicate the presence of cancer long before any symptoms show. Although we began our mission to fight cancer, we have now realized that breath biomarkers have the potential to improve diagnostic tests and monitoring technology for clinical trials in a range of contexts, including cardiometabolic disease and respiratory disease, as well as to investigate the impacts that the microbiome has on our health. Ultimately, we believe that breath analysis is promising and can revolutionize how we diagnose and monitor disease and conduct clinical trials.

What products and services do you offer?

We offer a selection of breath analysis tools and services to serve every researcher’s possible need to incorporate breath biomarker analysis into their studies. For example:

  • The Breath Biopsy® Collection Station provides the tools you need to collect non-invasive, reproducible breath samples and includes the ReCIVA® Breath Sampler, CASPER® Portable Air Supply and the Breath Biopsy® Collect Software. Together, these learn patient breathing patterns and selectively collect the volatile compounds in exhaled breath (known as volatile organic compounds, or VOCs) that can be analyzed as potential biomarkers.
  • Our Breath Biopsy® OMNI® platform offers the most advanced service for the global analysis of VOCs in exhaled breath. OMNI® is a complete end-to-end solution incorporating expert support for study design, data analysis, biological interpretation and specialist technology for breath collection. Also available as part of our OMNI® platform is our Breath Biopsy® VOC Atlas, a recently developed catalog of validated VOCs found “on-breath” to support biomarker discovery.

What problems do you solve?

Different states of health and disease within the body are diagnosed and monitored during clinical trials using a variety of tests of biological substrates such as feces, blood or even tissue biopsies. On top of being expensive, invasive tests are difficult to tolerate, which makes recruitment and ethical approval for clinical trials involving them challenging. Breath analysis can sample compounds that have volatilized from the bloodstream into the lungs via the alveolar membrane, and therefore breath is enriched for informative metabolites from processes throughout the body. Breath is a virtually inexhaustible resource from the body, and collection is completely non-invasive and comfortable, removing the associated risks and limitations for clinical trial design. The compounds found in exhaled breath can be pre-concentrated, and large volumes of breath can be taken at regular, short intervals allowing for easy longitudinal monitoring of a range of metabolic pathways. Information at this frequency can be difficult to achieve with more invasive methods, positioning breath analysis as a new platform that can improve biomarker monitoring. We provide the technology and expertise needed to detect, measure, identify and validate breath-based biomarkers for our academic and pharmaceutical partners.

What are the most innovative tools and technologies that you offer?

  • The Breath Biopsy® VOC Atlas is a catalog of validated and quantitated volatile organic compounds (VOCs) found in breath, allowing for targeted biomarker discovery study designs, reducing the time-consuming and costly validation procedures of untargeted approaches.
  • Our Exogenous Volatile Organic Compound (EVOC®) probes provide a reliable and high-sensitivity approach to boost low-signal biomarkers by introducing certain compounds into the body to explore how they are absorbed, metabolized or excreted – probing specific pathways and offering a readout of metabolism by enzymes and organs. This approach could greatly improve the signal-to-noise and reliability of compound detection in exhaled breath.
  • We have recently launched OMED Health, bringing diagnostic-grade breath tests for the monitoring of hydrogen and methane in exhaled breath. We are partnered with the Functional Gut Clinic in this endeavor to conduct studies related to early detection and precision medicine of gastrointestinal disease, as well as the discovery of novel biomarkers. Our at-home breathalyzer that can analyze exhaled breath on the go will be launched this year. A similar approach could be adopted for other volatile compounds in the future, for example, to support decentralized clinical trials by allowing breath biomarker testing with portable devices to be undertaken at home.

What are your competitive advantages?

We are the world-leading experts in breath research with the largest breath analysis lab in the world, and we can offer support throughout the entire research process, from the early stages of study design, power calculations and statistical frameworks, through to analysis and data interpretation. We can also offer every piece of equipment and product needed to incorporate breath in your research, meaning that we can offer a complete solution to our customers. We are always thinking of how better to address the problems we face, and our EVOC probes are an example of our innovative problem-solving. We have the experience and technical expertise to face challenges and find solutions.

Who are your clients?

Owlstone Medical provides high-value Breath Biopsy Products and Services to pharmaceutical and academic clients including Cleveland Clinic, Mayo Clinic, AstraZeneca, Actelion Pharmaceuticals (a J&J company) and GSK, where we support their biomarker discovery or disease research projects.

What new products and services are you developing in 2023?

We have entered a partnership with Bicycle Therapeutics; together we will investigate the potential of combining our technologies to develop antigen-targeted diagnostic probes. These probes will use bicyclic peptides as their targeting mechanism that will be linked with Owlstone’s EVOC® probes. This work will initially focus on lung cancer screening as the first proof of principle for the broader opportunity by promoting the selective accumulation of the probe at the tumor for increased signal and enhanced specificity.

We have also recently launched our Breath Biopsy VOC Atlas, a revolutionary catalog of validated on-breath VOCs that can be used as a reference for targeted biomarker studies. This catalog will be expanded as more and more VOCs are validated to be found in exhaled breath, actively supporting breath analysis and biomarker discovery. The VOC Atlas is Owlstone Medical’s answer to some of the greatest challenges that slow breath biomarker translation into the clinic.

Where are your laboratories and offices located?

Our laboratories and office are based in Cambridge, UK, and we have a small scientific team based in the US.