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7 March, 2019 - 11:45 By Tony Quested

Owlstone powers new asthma diagnostics research

Cambridge technology is at the heart of a fresh initiative designed to dramatically improve asthma diagnosis.

Owlstone Medical has teamed up with the University of Manchester for a three-year study which has secured almost £250k of funding from Asthma UK and Innovate UK.

Owlstone will be deploying its novel Breath Biopsy® platform to collect breath samples from asthmatic patients and healthy controls, which will then be analysed to identify breath-based biomarkers for the definitive diagnosis of asthma and to guide effective front-end treatment decisions. This research will be embedded within RADicA (Rapid Access Diagnostics for Asthma study), an NIHR Manchester Biomedical Research Centre funded study of asthma diagnosis.

Although asthma is an extremely common condition, diagnosis can be challenging as there is presently no reliable and definitive diagnostic test available. 

Current guidelines recommend asthma is diagnosed based on clinical judgement, combining the presence of symptoms suggestive of asthma with results in the most commonly used pulmonary tests (spirometry, peak flow variability, bronchodilator reversibility) and the fraction of exhaled nitric oxide (FENO), which focus primarily on the large airways. 

While these tests have been used for many years, evidence shows that they are poor at diagnosing asthma because asthma affects both large and small airways, and it is now recognised that the small airways are just as important to establish a clear diagnosis.

Breath is emerging as a highly promising way to directly measure metabolites reflecting underlying disease activity. This non-invasive approach can provide important information relating to both small and large airway function that can offer a window into the lung health of an individual, including identification and monitoring of disease.

Billy Boyle, co-founder and CEO at Owlstone Medical, said: “Our partnership with the University of Manchester builds on prior work Owlstone Medical has done as part of the STRATA trial. 

“Also funded and supported by Asthma UK and Innovate UK, STRATA was designed to conduct research into the use of VOCs in patients' exhaled breath as a way to select the best individualised treatment. 

“We remain committed to deploying Breath Biopsy to help the 5.4 million people with asthma in the UK and estimated 339 million worldwide who could benefit from personalised healthcare.”

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