Breath Biopsy device scoops award for engineering innovation

Owlstone Medical, a diagnostics company developing a breathalyser for disease, has announced the team behind its Breath Biopsy platform has been named the winner of the Royal Academy of Engineering’s MacRobert Award 2018. The Breath Biopsy platform, including the ReCIVA Breath Sampler, is claimed to give the potential for earlier diagnosis and precision medicine across cancer, inflammatory disease and infectious disease.

The MacRobert Award gold medal and a £50,000 prize was awarded by her Royal Highness The Princess Royal at the Academy’s Awards Dinner at the Tower of London on 27 June 2018.

First presented in 1969, the Award has recognised the extraordinary potential of innovations that have changed the world we live in. In 1972, for instance, the judges honoured the development of the first CT scanner by EMI – seven years before its inventor Sir Godfrey Hounsfield received the Nobel Prize. Last year’s winner was the Cambridge-based team behind the Raspberry Pi.

Dr Dame Sue Ion, chair of the MacRobert Award judging panel, said: “Owlstone Medical has demonstrated exceptional innovation at every stage of development; from the mask used to help capture breath, the tubes that help collect the samples, to the software and hardware designed to ensure the tests are reliable and repeatable.”

Breath Biopsy is said to be the first platform capable of capturing breath samples and analysing them in a robust and reproducible way, and is in use at more than 100 clinical sites around the world. The development of a standardised Breath Biopsy platform will enable Owlstone Medical to build a robust, comparable Breath Biopsy Digital Biobank including thousands of breath VOC profiles matched to phenotype, and overcome many of the historical challenges associated with the identification of VOCs and how these are associated with specific diseases.

Billy Boyle, co-founder and CEO at Owlstone Medical, commented: It’s a huge honour to have won the MacRobert Award and for the whole company to be recognised for their hard work over the last three years in developing the Breath Biopsy platform and establishing breath diagnostics as a new industry category. We know that in cancer, early detection is our greatest opportunity to save lives - our company mission is to save 100,000 lives and we won't stop until we achieve this.