Owlstone, Thermo Fisher Partner to Identify Novel Biomarkers Through Breath Sampling


Thermo Fisher Scientific and the U.K.’s Owlstone Medical have partnered to advance the early diagnosis of cancer and other diseases through the discovery and validation of novel biomarkers by non-invasive breath sampling.

Both Owlstone and Thermo Fisher will work together to integrate Thermo Fisher’s Orbitrap gas chromatography mass spectrometry (GC-MS) instrumentation into Owlstone Medical’s Breath Biopsy platform. The collaboration will qualify Thermo Fisher's mass analyzers for the detection of new biomarkers through a validated discovery and routine analysis project, the company’s announced this morning. The two companies said the partnership will initially seek to qualify the mass analyzer for the detection of new biomarkers. The analytical methods will be used to conduct metabolomics studies of breath samples for unique biomarkers that could translate into non-invasive, routine screening solutions for improved early diagnosis of cancer and other disease, the companies added.

Morten Bern, director of marketing of gas chromatography at Thermo Fisher, said there is a growing need for non-invasive diagnostic solutions to support early disease detection, patient treatment and increase remission rates.

“The combination of our Orbitrap GC-MS technology with Owlstone Medical's Breath Biopsy platform provides a unique basis to improve patient outcomes through the discovery of novel biomarkers and their incorporation into research use and clinical tests,” Bern said in a statement.

Owlstone Chief Executive Officer Billy Boyle agreed. He said the Thermo Fisher platform’s ability to “detect a wide range of chemicals during both targeted and untargeted analyses without losing selectivity or sensitivity” makes it a strong partner for his company’s breath biopsy platform.

“With a large and rapidly expanding installed base of GC Orbitrap systems, our partnership with Thermo Fisher Scientific represents an exciting opportunity for cross-promotion of the platform and technique, by which the benefits of Breath Biopsy can be broadly realized,” Boyle said in a statement.

The collaboration between the two companies will be supported by a joint marketing and customer support effort to ensure a global reach of Owlstone’s Breath Biopsy platform. The bulk of the work conducted by the two partners will take place at Owlstone Medical’s Cambridge, UK, Breath Biopsy laboratory.

If the collaborative effort between the two companies is successful, Owlstone said the technology will become a standard part of its biomarker discovery process, where metabolomic studies are conducted on breath samples,

For Owlstone, the collaboration with Thermo Fisher builds on its growing partnerships with other companies. In May, Owlstone and Janssen subsidiary Actelion partnered to discover and validate a breath-based test to help facilitate the early diagnosis of pulmonary hypertension and its subtypes. Under that partnership, the companies will collect breath exhaled Volatile Organic Compounds from over 1,000 patients using Owlstone Medical’s device. The results will be analyzed to identify signals associated with pulmonary hypertension in order to develop biomarker signatures that can help facilitate earlier detection of the disease. Early diagnosis of PH is very difficult, and even at an advanced stage presents similar to other heart and lung conditions, the companies noted at the time the deal was struck.

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