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Owlstone Medical, Trade Union Partner on Breath-Based Biomarkers for Malignant Mesothelioma

NEW YORK (360Dx) – Owlstone Medical said today that it has formed a partnership with the International Association of Heat and Frost Insulators and Allied Workers (IAHFIAW) to identify and verify breath-based biomarkers for the early detection of malignant mesothelioma, a rare and treatment-resistant disease caused by exposure to asbestos and asbestiform fibers.

Financial and other terms of the deal were not disclosed.

The partnership between Cambridge, UK-based Owlstone Medical and Lanham, Maryland-based IAHFIAW aims to address the need for early detection by analyzing chemicals found in the breath of people with documented historical exposure to asbestos and radiologically and histologically confirmed mesothelioma. The partners will use Breath Biopsy, Owlstone Medical's method to measure volatile organic compounds (VOCs) in breath.

The project is being divided into two phases and expected to run for three years. In the first phase, investigators will focus on identifying VOCs in the breath of people diagnosed with malignant mesothelioma, the partners said. In the second phase, investigators will conduct a blind study to verify the sensitivity, specificity, and positive and negative predictive values of selected VOC biomarkers identified in the first phase. Investigators will collect breath samples using Owlstone Medical’s ReCiva Breath Sampler and analyze them in the firm's laboratory in Cambridge.

Identifying people among this population who are either predisposed to developing malignant mesothelioma or who already have early-stage disease would likely "dramatically improve prognosis" by limiting disease progression through earlier therapeutic interventions, Owlstone Medical and IAHFIAW said.

Billy Boyle, cofounder and CEO at Owlstone Medical, said in a statement that through its partnership with IAHFIAW, the firm is "looking not only to advance the early diagnosis of malignant mesothelioma, but also to demonstrate that breath-based screening has the potential to have a substantial impact on a wide range of environment-driven disease."

IAHFIAW, a building trades union in the US and Canada, is formerly known as the Asbestos Workers. A nonprofit, the Heat and Frost Insulators’ Tissue Bank Asbestos Research Charitable Trust, will provide financial support for the project.