Owlstone Medical's $6.5M funding from investors and Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation

By Liza Laws

- Last updated on GMT

© Getty Images
© Getty Images

Related tags Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation breath biopsy Owlstone Medical Hiv

Owlstone Medical, a global leader in Breath Biopsy for early disease detection and precision medicine, has announced a funding to the tune of $6.5 million.

The money is to support the development of breath-based diagnostics for infectious diseases.

The funding comprises a $5 million equity investment and an initial $1.5 million grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, marking the foundation's first equity position in a breath diagnostics company.

The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation (BMGF), formed from the William H. Gates Foundation and the Gates Learning Foundation, stands as a prominent American private foundation established by Bill Gates and Melinda French Gates. Operating from its headquarters in Seattle, Washington, the foundation was inaugurated in 2000 and is recognized as one of the largest charitable organizations globally, with reported assets totaling $69 billion in 2020.

Based in Cambridge, UK, Owlstone aims to use this funding to advance its Breath Biopsy platform and enhance its capabilities in identifying breath biomarkers for diseases such as tuberculosis (TB) and HIV.

With a focus on diseases that disproportionately affect the developing world, Owlstone seeks to develop cost-effective detection technologies for volatile organic compounds (VOCs) that could serve as disease markers.

Billy Boyle, co-founder and CEO of Owlstone Medical, expressed the significance of early disease diagnosis in improving health outcomes, especially in resource-constrained settings. He said: “By enabling swift and non-invasive detection of disease, breath analysis has the potential to save lives and dramatically reduce the burden of illness.”

Boyle highlighted Owlstone's unique position to transform infectious disease diagnosis through its Breath Biopsy platform and emphasized that the funding will accelerate the discovery and validation of VOC biomarkers.

The $5 million equity investment will support advancements in the Breath Biopsy platform, including the expansion of the VOC Atlas database and the development of a remote-use real-time breath analyzer. Notably, this marks the first time the Gates Foundation has invested in a breath diagnostics company.

The $1.5 million grant funding will be allocated to two projects. First, in partnership with the University of Cape Town, South Africa, Owlstone aims to identify candidate VOC biomarkers for TB and develop breath diagnostic approaches.

Second, collaborating with investigators from Imperial College, UK, and Oxford University, UK, Owlstone will analyze VOCs from blood samples of HIV patients to identify biomarkers correlating with HIV viral load.

Additionally, the data collected from these projects will contribute to further populating Owlstone's Breath Biopsy VOC Atlas. Complementary activities are also underway with the US Department of Defense under the 'EXHALE' project, where Owlstone is developing a handheld device for non-invasive detection of pre-symptomatic respiratory infectious diseases.

The funding from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation highlights, says Owlstone Medical, the importance of innovation in global health initiatives and positions the company as a key player in advancing the mission to improve health outcomes, particularly in resource-limited settings.

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