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Aviva invests £4m in Owlstone Medical for cancer-detecting breath tests

Insurance giant Aviva has thrown 5 million US dollars (£4 million) worth of financial backing behind a breath test that can detect life-threatening diseases.

Aviva Ventures, the FTSE 100 firm's venture capital arm, has made an investment in Owlstone Medical, which has developed a breathalyser to identify certain cancers and illnesses at an early stage.

The investment means Owlstone Medical has now raised 23.5 million US dollars (£19.3 million) in funding since spinning out of Owlstone Inc in 2016.

Ben Luckett, managing director of Aviva Ventures, said the firm was a great example of a start-up looking to disrupt the future of insurance.

"Its strong team and ground-breaking product gives us every confidence in its future success.

"Technology is evolving rapidly and so it is critical for large, global businesses like Aviva to collaborate with start-ups such as Owlstone Medical.

"Traditionally, insurance has supported customers in the aftermath of a problem, going forward prevention will be just as important as the cure."

The move comes as Owlstone looks to develop tests for two of the most common types of terminal cancer: lung cancer and colorectal cancer.

Billy Boyle, chief executive of Owlstone Medical, said: "Investment from Aviva as one of the major global insurance brands further validates our field asymmetric ion mobility spectrometry technology and breath biopsy as a new approach to medical diagnostics.

"We are very pleased that Aviva is supporting us in our mission to save 100,000 lives and 1.5 billion US dollars (£1.2 billion) in healthcare costs."

Aviva announced earlier this month that it had secured a 12% rise in operating profits to £3.01 billion for the year ending in December as it saluted a ''breakout year'' for its fund management arm.

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