Billy Boyle is 39 years old and he is the CEO of Owlstone Medical Ltd, a 100-employee startup based out of Cambridge, England.
Boyle is a Belfast native and spent a decade researching ways that volatile organic compounds could help diagnose complications that come from something like chemical warfare. His wife died of colon cancer at 36 years old, leaving him with their twins.
Meet the ReCIVA
Boyle created this ground-breaking device and named it the ReCIVA. It rolls right off of the tongue, right?
Anyways, that stands for Respiration Collector for in vitro analysis.
This is meant to substitute for the costlier and more invasive treatments such as a CT scan or biopsy.
Owlstone focuses on non-invasive diagnostic techniques for cancer, inflammatory disease, and infectious disease.
The company aims to save 100,000 lives and $1.5 billion in health care costs by 2020.
What's In Vitro Analysis?
The word "in vitro" means in the glass.
So they will take a microorganism, cell, or other biological molecules and pull them from their normal biological context.
You could call it a "test-tube experiment" if that sounds more relatable.
The reason they do this is because studies that are conducted use parts of an organism and completely isolate them from their normal biological surroundings. This allows them to get a more detailed or convenient analysis.
So How Does the ReCIVA Work?
You will take the breathalyzer machine and put the mask on your face and breathe... That's it.
The machine will ionize the volatile organic compounds that you exhale to register a chemical fingerprint. A computer communicates with the apparatus to analyze the readings to determine whether you need to get further tests for one or more of dozens of diseases.
Owlstone has raised $38.5 million in venture capital to expand - including building labs in the U.S. Hospitals in 6 European countries are using this machine to help conduct Phase 2 clinical trials. The U.K.'s National Health Service supported Owlstone with an additional $1.6 million.
The company's microchip called FAIMS stands for Field Asymmetric Ion Mobility Spectrometer. It kind of sounds like what Doc used in Back to the Future, right? This technology can be programmed in software to detect certain biomarkers in your breath.
Owlstone is currently developing tests for lung and colorectal cancer - two of the most common cancer killers worldwide. They are also working on asthma stratification by a therapeutic response.
What's Next for The ReCIVA?
Owlstone is a profitable business founded in 2004 as a spin-out from the Engineering Department at the University of Cambridge.
They sell their proven FAIMS technology to military and industrial customers around the globe. Owlstone Inc was created in 2016 in order to develop and commercialize FAIMS in diagnostic systems.
Every year, fifty of the leading entrepreneurs, investors, technologist, reporters, and providers who dedicate themselves to bringing technological advancements to healthcare are recognized at the Top 50 in Digital Health Dinner. The dinner is hosted by Rock Health, Fenwick & West, Goldman Sachs, and Square 1 Bank.
Within these top 50 people, a number of individuals and organizations are awarded through nominations from the digital health community. They are chosen for making exceptional progress in driving resources, attention, and innovation toward a massively better healthcare system.
Everything from writing health care policies to steering corporate acquisitions and moving technology from test bench to bedside.
Check Out LuCID, the Lung Cancer Indicator Detection
LuCID is a multi-center prospective trial using Owlstone's technology to screen for lung cancer.
We all know that an early detection can save lives.
Funded by an NHS development contract, Owlstone Medical is conducting research into detecting lung cancer by measuring the volatile organic compounds that the patient exhales.
While Phase 1 is complete, clinical trial Phase 2 has begun. The FAIMS technology that Owlstone has created has been shown to detect certain biomarkers with a promising sensitivity.
In fact, they are able to detect threshold concentrations that are ten times lower than previously reported. Initial analysis shows that a successful introduction of lung cancer screening programs using the ReCIVA and FAIMS could save 3,200 lives per year and £82 million in treatment costs alone.
The second phase of this study isn't cheap, either. The SBRI grant from the UK National Health Service gave Owlstone £1.1 million to help with this study.
This trail is led by Dr Robert Rintoul at Papworth Hospital over near Cambridge UK. The study investigators are recognized experts in lung cancer at Europe's leading hospitals and clinics.
There are clinical sites spread over 5 different countries.
Wrapping It Up
It always amazes me when there's a huge technological advance in medicine.
This ReCIVA may be the start of earlier detection without as many invasive procedures.