Owlstone Medical And IAHFIAW Partner For Early Detection Of Malignant Mesothelioma

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Owlstone Medical, a global diagnostics company developing a breathalyzer for applications in early disease detection and precision medicine, has formed a partnership with the International Association of Heat and Frost Insulators and Allied Workers (IAHFIAW), formerly known as the Asbestos Workers, a building trades union in the United States and Canada, to identify and verify breath-based biomarkers for the early detection of malignant mesothelioma.

Founded in 2004, based in Cambridge, UK, Owlstone Medical’s vision is to save 100,000 lives and $1.5 billion in healthcare costs by realising the enormous promise of breath-based diagnostics through the development and application of Breath Biopsy®. The Breath Biopsy platform includes ReCIVA®, a proprietary sample collection device that can take stable breath samples anywhere, the world’s only commercial Breath Biopsy Laboratory located in Cambridge, UK, and the development of the world’s largest Digital Breath Biobank matched to patient phenotype.

Since 1903, the IAHFIAW has worked to assist its membership in securing employment, to defend their rights and advance their interests as working men and women, and by education and cooperation, raise them to that position in society to which they are justly entitled. The IAHFIAW is affiliated with the AFL-CIO and the Canadian Labour Congress and represents nearly 30,000 highly skilled and highly trained workers in the construction trades.

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The IAHFIAW understands the dangers of asbestos and continues to fund research to find a cure for the insidious diseases it causes through a number of initiatives, including multiple research and medical partnerships throughout the United States and Canada and the creation of the Insulators’ Tissue Bank Asbestos Research Charitable Trust, which was created through a partnership with Mt. Sinai Medical Center. This repository uses actual tissue samples from people with documented exposure to asbestos in the laboratory to find new ways to diagnose, treat and prevent asbestos-related conditions, including mesothelioma. Each year, members raise and donate over a million dollars to fund research for asbestos-related diseases.

The partnership between Owlstone Medical and the Heat and Frost Insulators aims to address the need for early detection by using Breath Biopsy® to examine the chemicals found on the breath of individuals with documented historical exposure to asbestos and radiologically and histologically confirmed mesothelioma. The project will be divided into two phases and is expected to run for three years. It will be financially supported by Heat and Frost Insulators’ Tissue Bank Asbestos Research Charitable Trust nonprofit. The first phase, approved on April 24, will focus on identifying volatile organic compounds (VOCs) found in the breath of individuals diagnosed with malignant mesothelioma.

The second phase will be a blind study to verify the sensitivity, specificity and positive and negative predictive values of selected VOC biomarkers identified in the first phase. Breath samples will be collected using Owlstone Medical’s ReCIVA® Breath Sampler and will be analyzed by their state-of-the-art Breath Biopsy laboratory in Cambridge, UK. The study will be led by Principal Investigator Dr. Michael R. Harbut, and co-Investigator Dr. David Svinarich, Ascension Healthcare’s Vice President of Research.

“The population of those who have been exposed to asbestos and are at risk of having existing early-stage disease or developing malignant mesothelioma later in their lives includes a substantial portion of our membership. The long-term health of our members is of primary importance to the IAHFIAW, and we are confident that our partnership with Owlstone Medical will provide significant advances in the early diagnosis of this disease.” – James P. McCourt, General President, IAHFIAW

“The diagnosis of malignant mesothelioma is typically very late in the course of the disease when surgery is not viable owing to its proliferation, and the cancer is less responsive to chemotherapy. To change this, reliable diagnostic tests that enable the earlier detection of malignant mesothelioma in at-risk populations are badly needed.” – Michael R. Harbut, MD, MPH, Clinical Professor of Internal Medicine at Wayne State University School of Medicine and Michigan State University College of Human Medicine, and medical advisor to the IAHFIAW

“Malignant mesothelioma is a powerful example of an unaddressed medical need where Breath Biopsy has the potential to make a substantial difference. Through this partnership, we are looking not only to advance the early diagnosis of malignant mesothelioma, but also to demonstrate that breath-based screening has the potential to have a substantial impact on a wide range of environment-driven disease.” – Billy Boyle, co-founder and CEO at Owlstone Medical


  1. https://www.biospace.com/article/-owlstone-medical-and-the-international-association-of-heat-and-frost-insulators-and-allied-workers-partner-to-identify-breath-biomarkers-for-the-early-detection-of-malignant-mesothelioma/?keywords=biobank
  2. https://www.crunchbase.com/organization/owlstone-medical-2#section-overview