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A handheld device to collect breathing sample for early diagnosis of asthma intakes £1.4M funding


Several devices are being developed to help manage asthma, such as the cardboard inhaler and Nuvoair. However, there haven’t been many advancements in asthma diagnosis. Thankfully, due to the Covid-19 pandemic, there’s now a significant focus on developing diagnostic technology for asthma. 

Revolutionary lung test device

Have you heard about PulmoBioMed? It’s a spin-out from Northumbria University, introducing a new lung test that could revolutionise the early diagnosis of asthma and other conditions.

This British startup recently secured £1.4m in funding for its innovative non-invasive mouthpiece, designed to collect fluid samples from the lungs for condition detection. Dubbed as PBM-HALE, this handheld device effectively separates aerosol droplets from the mouth and deep lung sources. What’s remarkable is its affordability—claimed to be 40 times cheaper than endoscopy, the conventional method involving a camera-equipped tube passed through the throat and into the lungs.

The investment round was led by the North East Venture Fund, backed by the European Regional Development Fund and managed by Mercia Ventures. Additional support came from Northumbria University, SFC Capital, and private investors across the USA, EU, and UK. Additionally, PulmoBioMed secured a £700,000 grant from Innovate UK to showcase the benefits of its technology. With these resources, the startup aims to commercialise its technology and target the lucrative US market.

Further, the funding will enable it to develop a cost-effective manufacturing process to scale up production and register its product in the US. It also plans to relocate from the university to new premises in Newcastle city centre and create seven new jobs in the year ahead.

40x cheaper than endoscopy

The PBM-HALE device can be easily used more than 40 times and it cheaper than endoscopy, an invasive technique where a tube is inserted into the lung with a one in seven risk of injury.

Dr Sterghios Moschos, founder and CEO, said: “PulmoBioMed was founded during the pandemic to address the need for reliable breath-based diagnostics. We have solved fundamental problems to enable quick and non-invasive deep lung sampling, with minimal training, and as frequently as necessary. Over 300 million asthma patients suffer slow diagnosis and millions of others are hospitalised every year with pneumonias that are impossible to diagnose with current tests. By helping clinicians understand their patient’s disease and select treatments that work, PBM-HALE has the potential to transform respiratory care.”

Alex Simpson of Mercia Ventures added: “PulmoBioMed’s success demonstrates the rise of the healthtech industry in regions like the North East. World-class innovations are no longer confined to the ‘golden triangle’ of Oxford, Cambridge and London – regional companies like PulmoBioMed are emerging as important players, thanks in part to the strength of regional universities and support available from funds such as the NEVF alongside private investors.”

Professor Andy Long, Vice-Chancellor and Chief Executive at Northumbria University, said: “PulmoBioMed’s technology has the potential to deliver enormous impact in healthcare on a global scale and we are thrilled to see this recognised through strong investor confidence in this Northumbria spinout.  This investment success reflects the calibre of the University’s growing pipeline of IP arising from our world-class research and highly entrepreneurial teams. It further evidences our commitment to driving economic growth in the region, boosting the development of new businesses and supporting the creation of new high-quality jobs here in the North East.”

PulmoBioMed was founded in 2020 by Professor Sterghios A. Moschos, a molecular biologist with over 20 years’ experience who achieved international reknown as leader of the team that developed a point-of-need test for Ebola virus disease in 2015 during the outbreak in West Africa. He is backed by a team of experts including Professor Sir Peter J. Barnes FRS, a world authority on airways disease, and Dr Huw Edwards, the founding CEO of the British In Vitro Diagnostics Association.

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