New Breath Biomarker Panel Test Can Distinguish Chronic Lung Diseases

Joana Carvalho, PhD avatar

by Joana Carvalho, PhD |

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Owlstone Medical has launched a new breath biomarker panel test — a “breathalyzer for disease” — to distinguish different chronic inflammatory lung diseases, including idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis (IPF), asthma, and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).

The new panel test was designed to support research seeking ways to distinguish the various types of chronic lung diseases.

Besides supporting research, the company’s new test, called the Respiratory Diseases Research Use Only (RUO) Panel, also aims to improve patients’ monitoring and ease the process of therapy selection.

“The Respiratory Diseases RUO Panel is the first to be commercially launched by Owlstone Medical and opens an important new phase in the application of breath to address areas of high clinical need,” Billy Boyle, co-founder and CEO of Owlstone Medical, said in a press release.

“This Panel further validates our strategy of identifying promising biomarkers from multiple sources,” Boyle added. “We look forward to making further announcements as our robust test pipeline continues to develop.”

Despite having distinct causes, many chronic inflammatory lung diseases have similar symptoms, making it difficult for clinicians to identify them and treat patients accordingly. Moreover, until now, there were no non-invasive, cost-effective ways to characterize lung inflammation or to study the specific signaling cascades involved in each particular disorder.

The RUO Panel, now commercially available, aims to provide a solution to both of these problems. The panel comprises a core set of volatile organic compounds, or VOCs, that have been associated with different inflammatory lung diseases.

VOCs are gaseous substances that can be rapidly and easily sampled from a person’s breath in a noninvasive manner by the company’s proprietary Breath Biopsy test.

These compounds can be naturally produced by the body’s own metabolism — endogenous VOCs — or arise from external sources, including diet, certain medications, or exposure to environmental agents. These externally produced compounds are known as exogenous VOCs.

Regardless of their origin, VOCs can be used to assess a person’s overall health, and are now being investigated as potential markers of lung disease onset and progression.

The core set of VOCs that are included in the company’s RUO Panel was identified from nearly 4,000 breath samples collected and analyzed in 17 different studies employing Owlstone’s products and services.

In a first stage, the RUO Panel will be available for research purposes only, as a supplement to the company’s Breath Biopsy OMNI Assay. The test panel will be used by pharmaceutical and clinical research clients to support the development of new therapies and to monitor patient responses to treatments, as well as to better understand the onset, development, and progression of lung disorders.

Owlstone also is planning to develop an in vitro or in the lab diagnostic (IVD) test based on its RUO Panel, which will be used to assist physicians in selecting the best possible treatments for their patients. That test also will help physicians to monitor patient responses to therapy.

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