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Disease-detecting breathalyser wins award

Owlstone Medical co-founder Billy Boyle was inspired by the death of his wife Kate to colon cancer, following a late diagnosis.

A company which has created a breathalyser that could be used to diagnose diseases such as cancer early has been named the winner of the prestigious MacRobert Award 2018.

Cambridge-based Owlstone Medical developed the breathalyser, called the ReCIVA Breath Sampler, after co-founder Billy Boyle was inspired by the death of his wife Kate to colon cancer, following a late diagnosis.

The device aims to save lives by detecting unique disease biomarkers in people’s breath and aims to save 100,000 lives and the global healthcare sector millions.

It could also potentially be used to identify which medicine a patient will respond to best, paving the way for precision medicine.

The company is currently undertaking trials with GlaxoSmithKline and Cancer Research UK.

Owlstone Medical has now created a device that is dependable and non-intrusive, and has the potential to revolutionise the way we diagnose and treat a vast array of diseases Dame Sue Ion, judging panel chairwoman

The MacRobert Award is run by the Royal Academy of Engineering and is viewed as the UK’s most prestigious for engineering innovation as well as the longest running.

The Owlstone Medical team was presented with its award by the Princess Royal along with a £50,000 prize at a ceremony at the Tower of London on Wednesday night.

Dame Sue Ion, chairwoman of the judging panel, said: “Owlstone Medical stood out because of the extraordinary engineering its breath sampler, and the associated breath biopsy platform, required to bring these technologies to life.

“The company has demonstrated exceptional innovation at every stage of development; from the mask used to help capture breath, the tubes that help collect the samples, to the software and hardware designed to ensure the tests are reliable and repeatable.

“Owlstone Medical has now created a device that is dependable and non-intrusive, and has the potential to revolutionise the way we diagnose and treat a vast array of diseases.

“The societal benefit is clear to see, and I believe they could realise their vision of saving more than a billion dollars in global healthcare costs and saving hundreds of thousands of lives.”

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