NEW YORK (360Dx) – Owlstone Medical announced today an investment by Aviva Ventures, the venture capital arm of insurance company Aviva, which that it will use to drive commercialization of its breath biopsy platform and test adoption.
The investment takes Owlstone Medical's total funding to $23.5 million since it was spun off from Owlstone Inc. in 2016.
Neither Owlstone nor Aviva disclosed the investment value, but The Sunday Telegraph reported online Saturday that Aviva had invested $5 million in Owlstone Medical, and that the funding will support a 3,000-patient study into lung cancer detection.
The firm's breath biopsy clinical trials are now focused on asthma and colorectal and lung cancer, but will be extended to cover many cancers and other diseases, Owlstone Medical said in an e-mail to 360Dx.
The firm's disease breathalyzers employ field asymmetric ion-mobility spectrometry, a variant of ion-mobility spectrometry. A chemical sensor on a silicon chip measures volatile organic compound metabolites or biospecimens that are specific to cancers and other medical conditions.
The firm noted that its instruments are portable, easy to use, and suitable for point-of-care applications. Measuring VOC biomarkers may allow non-invasive, early-stage disease diagnosis, as well as more effective treatment and better patient outcomes, the firm said.
VOC metabolites in breath are the endpoint of gene, transcription, and protein expression, so they reflect gene-protein-environment interactions, according to the firm. Therefore, breath biopsy is "more sensitive to the earliest stages of cancer than techniques that rely only on genomic analysis," the firm said.
Traditional approaches to breath sampling have relied upon collecting a single exhaled breath, the firm said, adding that its platform collects breath over a longer time than traditional approaches, so it can sample VOCs originating from anywhere in the body.
A blood cell takes around one minute to circulate through the body. VOCs move efficiently from the blood into the alveolar air, and into exhaled breath. Capturing the VOCs exhaled during this one-minute window provides a snapshot of their presence throughout the body, the firm added.
Aviva Ventures Managing Director Ben Luckett said in a joint statement with Owlstone that technology is evolving rapidly, and it is critical for businesses such as Aviva to collaborate with startups like Owlstone Medical, to invest in entities that look to "disrupt the future of insurance." Going forward, preventing medical problems will be "just as important as the cure," he added.
Owlstone Medical CEO Billy Boyle said in the statement that the investment from Aviva further validates its technology and breath biopsy as "a new approach to medical diagnostics."
The firm said that Aviva will promote it and "build awareness of breath biopsy as a new standard in diagnostics."