Health Innovators: Owlstone Medical’s Billy Boyle on breath biopsy technology

In the latest episode of our Health Innovators series, Paul Tunnah speaks to Billy Boyle, co-founder and CEO of Owlstone Medical, one of the UK’s most promising diagnostic startups.

The Cambridge, UK-based company is on a mission to save 100,000 lives and $1.5bn in healthcare costs with its breath biopsy platform for early detection of cancer.

Owlstone is developing a breath-based analyser that captures Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs) in breath non-invasively, and analyses them with high sensitivity. It could help diagnose a huge range of diseases, including lung, bladder and breast cancer.

After studying engineering at Cambridge University, Boyle founded Owlstone Inc in 2004 with a focus on sensor technology for military and industrial applications. After recognising the potential of the technology to be applied in healthcare, Boyle spun Owlstone Medical out in 2016 and now has a a team of over 170 people.

The company is running the world’s largest breath-based clinical trials and has raised over $100m in investment.

In this interview, Boyle discusses the challenges of pioneering a new breath modality and diagnostic pathway in healthcare and how Owlstone Medical is addressing clinical trial development and reimbursement. He also looks at the impact of COVID-19 and why the pandemic has highlighted the importance of breath as a sample metric.

You can find more episodes in our Health Innovators series here, including interviews with longevity investor Sergey Young and Propeller Health CEO, David Van Sickle.