Owlstone Medical will partner with Renji Hospital in Shanghai to conduct a clinical trial assessing the Breath Biopsy diagnostic breathalyzer platform in early detection of lung cancer, through a collaboration that marks Owlstone’s expansion into China, the partners said today.

Under the collaboration, whose value was not disclosed, Owlstone Medical and Renji Hospital agreed to jointly conduct a first-of-its-kind clinical trial in China, to be led by Professor Li-wei Wang, Director of Oncology at Renji Hospital.  

“We are hopeful that our collaboration will result in screening tools that meaningfully help combat lung cancer and other diseases in China and globally,” Dr. Wang said in a statement. “Breath-based diagnostics have the potential to revolutionize the way that this challenge is approached.”

Owlstone Medical has agreed to provide its Breath Biopsy technology, including breath collection stations, analytical instrumentation, and the procedures and training necessary to support the lab’s operation.

To provide operational support for the study, a Breath Biopsy laboratory will be established at Renji Hospital. The lab will support additional research studies in cancer and other areas that the partners have also agreed to carry out beyond the clinical trial.

The trial is being conducted with support from the Li Ka Shing Foundation, which said in a separate statement that it is committing $2 million toward the Breath Biopsy study and a separate study not involving Owlstone Medical or Renji Hospital.

The Foundation cited China’s high cancer mortality rate—1 in every 4 deaths are caused by cancer, with lung cancer having the highest mortality rate in China—as well as national statistics showing approximately 700,000 new cases are diagnosed each year, with about 600,000 deaths resulting.


China Expansion Strategy

Owlstone Medical co-founder and CEO Billy Boyle stated that expansion into China through the establishment of the Breath Biopsy lab, and the development of collaborations represented an important part of Owlstone Medical’s strategy, citing the opportunity to access the large healthcare networks and “substantially” accelerate clinical trials in the world’s most populous nation.

“Renji Hospital is a leader in cancer and other areas of medical research and represents an ideal partner for us,” Boyle said. “Through its affiliation with the Shanghai Jiaotong University School of Medicine, and with over 50,000 inpatients per year, the studies undertaken in this newly established Breath Biopsy lab will prove to be a significant driver of our goal to save 100,000 lives, and we are excited to begin.”

In addition to the Breath Biopsy study, the Li Ka Shing Foundation is supporting a study by US biopharma startup Evolve Biosystems and Zhejiang University’s College of Animal Science focused on antibiotic-free animal farming. The study will assess use of Evolve’s proprietary probiotics, designed to ensure healthy piglet growth. This research, dubbed “Probiotics to Replace Antibiotics,” aims to combat the huge threat to health and our environment caused by antibiotics abuse, the Foundation stated.

The Foundation —established by the billionaire who has been reported to be Hong Kong's richest man—added that the Evolve and Owlstone Medical studies reflected its commitment to advancing tech through partnerships.

“Mr Li believes that creativity is the cornerstone of economic progress, and in an era of high-growth competition, creativity is not just a good idea but a way of life,” the Foundation stated. “Communities need to participate in aggregating their collective wisdom for scaling social impact by working together to build a new model that leverages technological disruption and innovation to explore viable solutions to persistent problems.”

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