Owlstone Medical has received a contract from the US Department of Defense’s (DoD) division Defense Innovation Unit for the development of a handheld breath biopsy device for the early detection of infectious diseases.

The funds will be used for the ‘EXHALE’ project that calls for the development of a handheld device to facilitate the non-invasive detection of pre-symptomatic respiratory infectious disease.

This project aims to detect human infections early by analysing volatile organic compounds (VOCs) found in breath.

To be developed by the company within two years, the portable device will be able to run on battery power and detect VOCs in exhaled breath, bridging the gap in the detection of infectious diseases.

The US DoD intends to procure a portable diagnostic testing solution to help warfighters on the battlefield where access to early infectious disease detection and diagnosis is limited.

The device aims to rapidly detect asymptomatic individuals who are infected in the field. By attaining this, it minimises the chances of disease spread in any deployed location, offering a strategic edge to the military force.

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By GlobalData

Owlstone Medical co-founder and CEO Billy Boyle said: “We have completed multiple studies in lung inflammation and bacterial and viral infectious disease (including Covid) with major pharma and academic partners, providing us with a broad list of candidate biomarkers for consideration in this project.

“We have a proprietary technology in FAIMS and extensive experience with device development and sensor design, including in small handheld devices.”

The device will be developed using Owlstone’s FAIMS technology. Clinical studies will be conducted at Duke University to support its development.

The work will initially involve the identification and validation of breath biomarkers for viral and bacterial pathogens while also establishing the performance criteria for the device.

If successful, the project has the potential to enter a second phase, which will involve further developing the device until it is ready for large-scale manufacturing by Owlstone. Once completed, the device can be globally deployed for field use.