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Cambridge, U.K.-based clinical diagnostics company Owlstone Medical has secured a £4.9 million ($7 million) investment from Medtekwiz to fund ongoing development and clinical trials of its breathalyzer technology in lung and colon cancer screening.

Recently spun out of parent company Owlstone Inc., Owlstone Medical was established specifically to develop and commercialize its proprietary Field Asymmetric Ion Mobility Spectrometry (FAIMS) technology for a disease breathalyzer with applications in diagnosing cancer and inflammatory and infectious diseases. FAIMS measures volatile organic compound metabolites in a patient’s breath or bodily fluids to allow disease detection at a very early stage, which in turn will allow clinicians to provide earlier and more effective targeted treatments.

“The breathalyzer we are developing provides clinicians with a highly sensitive, noninvasive diagnostic, which will enable early detection and improve patient outcomes. We are also working with pharma partners to develop noninvasive companion diagnostics to better match patients to treatment for emerging personalized therapies,” said Billy Boyle, co-founder and CEO of Owlstone Medical.

The technology for the breathalyzer was developed by its parent company, a 12-year-old spinout of Cambridge University specializing in chemical and gas detection, whose application has been largely in the defense industry for the detection of chemical agents on the battlefield. It leverages a dime-sized silicon chip that can detect multiple gases and organic compounds at parts-per-billion sensitivity.

Owlstone first began testing the technology as a potential medical diagnostic more than two years ago under a Small Business Research Initiative Healthcare contract to study market potential and to prove the ability of FAIMS to detect volatile lung cancer biomarkers. In late 2014, it won a £1 million grant from the National Health Service (NHS) to fund its LuCID (Lung Cancer Indicator Detection) project, a consortium of academic and clinical partners organized by the company to continue development of the diagnostic. Earlier this year, it won a contract from NHS to develop the diagnostic as a tool for the stratification of asthma patients intended to provide a more precise diagnosis in order to match patients with the most effective treatment.

According to Bret Bader, CEO of parent company Owlstone Inc., the investment from Medtekwiz to create Owlstone Medical is the first step to broader development of the FAIMS technology. “This transaction and the creation of Owlstone Medical is a template for our strategy of creating market specific spin outs in order to take a focused approach to solve profound problems,” Bader said.

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