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Owlstone Medical Gets $6.5M in Funding From Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation

NEW YORK — Owlstone Medical on Thursday said it has received $6.5 million in funding from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation to help advance its breath-based diagnostics technology for tuberculosis and HIV.

Owlstone is developing a platform, called Breath Biopsy, designed to analyze biomarkers contained in volatile organic compounds (VOCs) and respiratory droplets in exhaled breath. About a year ago, the Cambridge, UK-based firm received a US Department of Defense contract to use the technology for a handheld diagnostic instrument for respiratory infectious diseases.

According to Owlstone, the Gates Foundation has made a $5 million equity investment in the company, which will be used to further develop Breath Biopsy, to continue building a database of breath-based VOCs, and to create a remote-use breath analyzer device.

The philanthropic organization has also committed $1.5 million in grant funding to help Owlstone identify breath-based biomarkers that can differentiate people infected with TB from healthy individuals, as well as ones that correlate with HIV viral load.

"The funds will accelerate both the discovery and validation of VOC biomarkers, and the development of a fieldable, low-cost, simple-to-use device," Owlstone Cofounder and CEO Billy Boyle said in a statement.