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AstraZeneca selects Owlstone's Breath Biopsy in service agreement
CAMBRIDGE, U.K.—Owlstone Medical's Breath Biopsy, a breathalyzer for diagnosis, will be put through its paces in a newly announced service agreement with AstraZeneca plc. The latter will apply Owlstone Medical's technology in the search for biomarkers that can aid in patient stratification when it comes to disease phenotypes for asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).
Though no financial details were disclosed, the agreement stipulates that Owlstone Medical will grant AstraZeneca access to its Breath Biopsy Services, including the development of classification algorithms to aid in identifying breath biomarkers. It is thought that extrapolating disease phenotypes for asthma and COPD, and any targetable characteristics, can shed more light on numerous differences among obstructive lung diseases and enable more precise treatments.
“This agreement with AstraZeneca demonstrates our unrivaled expertise in breath biomarkers,” Billy Boyle, co-founder and CEO at Owlstone Medical, said in a press release. “Through our Breath Biopsy Services, we are well positioned to assist the AstraZeneca team to explore how Breath Biopsy can identify novel biomarkers for asthma and COPD and to optimize their application in precision medicine.”
The Breath Biopsy platform is centered on the detection and analysis of volatile organic compound (VOC) biomarkers in the breath. Owlstone Medical's ReCIVA Breath Sampler captures VOC biomarkers for analysis with Breath Biopsy services. As explained on the Owlstone Medical website, “The pattern of VOC biomarkers produced by the body reflects metabolic processes taking place within a person’s cells and tissues, within their microbiome, and from their response to environmental exposures. VOCs are gaseous molecules that can be sampled quickly and non-invasively from breath, urine or other bodily fluids. Particular patterns of VOC biomarkers are characteristic of specific disease processes, because their production is linked directly to metabolic activity in the body. Changes in the concentrations of VOCs occur at the very earliest stages of disease; detecting these VOC biomarkers can therefore allow for disease diagnosis before other physical symptoms have become apparent. Early diagnosis is critical in the successful treatment of cancer, as well as infectious and inflammatory diseases.”
Owlstone Medical adds that it takes about one minute for blood to travel the entirety of the circulatory system, and sampling breath for a minute or more means that “even very low levels of systemic VOC biomarkers can be preconcentrated, collected and analyzed.”
The company is researching the utility of its Breath Biopsy Services in asthma on its own as well, with the Stratification of Asthma Treatment by Breath Analysis (STRATA) project. This initiative is seeking to classify asthma patients based on their inflammatory subtype to see if it improves treatment outcomes. The work is being funded by an Innovate UK grant.
This is far from the only Breath Biopsy news to come out of Owlstone Medical so far this year. In late March, the company announced that it had launched its Breath Biopsy Kits to enable the discovery and validation of breath-based biomarkers for researchers. Owlstone Medical offers Breath Biopsy Collection Kits, Breath Biopsy Discovery VOC Kits and Breath Biopsy Target VOC Kits.
“Our goal is to help realize the potential of breath biopsy and make it accessible to the widest research base. By launching kits, we are making the process of collecting and analyzing a sample of breath as straightforward as possible and ensuring high-quality and reproducible results. We want to help researchers to be successful, as this will, in turn, lead to more breath biopsy tests being developed and further establish breath biopsy as a new industry category across a broad range of applications in early disease detection and precision medicine,” Boyle said at the time.
In January, Owlstone Medical reported that it had been selected as one of three winners of the global Idiopathic Pulmonary Fibrosis (IPF) Catalyst Challenge thanks to its Breath Biopsy platform. The IPF Catalyst Challenge, created by Three Lakes Partners, seeks to engage scientists in the technology, healthcare and research communities to develop quality-of-life solutions for IPF patients and their caregivers. The three winners each received $333,333 of the $1,000,000 award.