$50m for company sniffing out cancer on the breath of patients

Owlstone Medical CEO Billy Boyle with the company's ReCiva device

A company developing a breathalyzer that can detect diseases including cancer on a patient’s breath has raised $50m.

Owlstone Medical has closed its Series C funding round, bring the total invested in the Cambridge Science Park company since its inception to $73m.

The funds have been raised to expand commercial opportunities in precision medicine including through the launch of targeted Breath Biopsy kits, and to enable further investment in the technology platform to support the development of additional high value applications.

The initial $15m phase of this financing round, revealed in March, was led by Aviva Ventures, the venture capital arm of Norwich insurer Aviva plc, and Horizons Ventures, the private investment arm of Mr. Li Ka-shing. The additional $35 million completion of the round, announced today, was led by Horizons Ventures, joined by a group of highly regarded global strategic investors including Ventura Capital and Foxconn Technologies Group.

What is Breath Biopsy?

Breath Biopsy represents an entirely new way to measure the chemical makeup of breath by measuring volatile organic compounds (VOCs), gaseous molecules that can be sampled quickly and non-invasively from breath, and enabling whole-body sampling. These compounds are produced as the end product of metabolic processes within the body, meaning that underlying changes in metabolic activity can produce particular patterns of VOCs characteristic of specific diseases.

VOCs originating from all parts of the body are captured in breath, making Breath Biopsy applicable to a wide range of diseases including cancer, inflammatory disease, infectious disease, metabolic disease, cardiovascular disease and respiratory disease. The nature of Breath Biopsy, and VOC biomarkers, make them perfectly suited to addressing two of the major challenges of healthcare today: early detection and precision medicine.

Breath collection is carried out using Owlstone Medical’s ReCIVA Breath Sampler, which ensures reliable, reproducible collection of VOCs. Subjects breathe a controlled supply of air, and samples of their exhaled breath are captured and stabilized on Breath Biopsy Cartridges, which can then be shipped for analysis with Owlstone Medical’s Breath Biopsy analytical platform, using mass spectrometry or FAIMS to determine their VOC profile. Advanced data analytic techniques can then be applied in order to pinpoint the VOCs of interest.

"The potential to transform cancer detection and precision medicine"

In this round, Owlstone Medical says it sought participation from organisations that in addition to capital investment would also be able to provide strategic support for the business. With these long-term investors now in place, the company is in a position to benefit from improved access to key markets such as China, to clinical and academic researchers to support product development efforts, to high-quality manufacturing partners, and to additional international funding sources.

Horizons Ventures’ Patrick Zhang said: “Following our initial investment in Owlstone Medical, we have become further convinced that Breath Biopsy has the potential to transform the fields of early cancer detection and precision medicine in the years to come. We believe that Owlstone Medical is uniquely positioned to be able to facilitate this change and so have provided additional support to help realize this vision.”

Billy Boyle, co-founder and CEO at Owlstone Medical, said: “The closing of this round of financing marks a significant milestone for Owlstone Medical as it places us in a very secure financial position with a balance sheet sufficient to pursue all of our strategic commercial and development plans over the next several years, which we will execute through a combination of internal efforts and partnerships with industry leaders.

“We have been gratified by the high level of international interest we have received over the course of this raise, demonstrating that the need for improved diagnostic modalities that solve the challenges of early detection and precision medicine is global. We enjoyed particularly strong interest from Asian investors in the round, and as China is a key market for the Company we are encouraged by the strategic value of these partners as we seek to accelerate entry into this market.”

Earlier this year Owlstone’s device won the Royal Academy of Engineering’s MacRobert Award, the biggest prize in UK engineering.

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