This breathalyzer aims to predict cancer

June 14, 2018  12:40

The ReCIVA (as in “respiration collector for in vitro analysis”) breath sampler can detect the kinds of volatile organic compounds (VOCs) in people’s breath that are early indicators of lung cancer, colon cancer, and other diseases. It’s meant to substitute for costlier, more invasive CT scans and biopsies.

Origin: Boyle, a Belfast native, spent a decade researching ways VOCs could help diagnose, say, complications from chemical warfare. He shifted to civilian applications in 2016, after his wife died of colon cancer at age 36, leaving him with twins.

Funding: Owlstone has raised $38.5 million in venture funding to expand, including by building U.S. labs.

Testing: Hospitals in a half-dozen European countries are helping conduct Phase II clinical trials, supported by $1.6 million from the U.K.’s National Health Service.

Next Steps

In November, Owlstone teamed up with pharma giant GlaxoSmithKline Plc to try to identify markers for chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, which affects about 329 million people around the world. Boyle says he hopes to have the breathalyzers in clinics late next year and sell them for less than $100 each. Eric Topol, director of the Scripps Translational Science Institute, says Owlstone’s early successes make it a leader in the emerging field but that clinical trials and further diagnostic tests are among the remaining hurdles before the technology has a chance to reach the mainstream.



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