Reading diagnostic biomarkers

Innovative real-time, in-situ analysis of volatile organic compounds is saving lives

Personalised therapy and health and safety screening both require rapid, point-of-care, non-invasive measurements.

Effective analysis relies on the optimisation of the interface between the sample and the analysing machine.

Working with a range of commercial partners – including Advion, Owlstone Medical and IMSPEX – we have developed technologies that improve this crucial interface.

Our impact

Advion’s vAPCI

  • The system allows microbiologists to identify biomarkers for wound infection, enabling the design of “smart” dressings.
  • It has also facilitated the detection of potential toxicants on the International Space Station.

Owlstone Medical’s ReCIVA

  • This award-winning breath-biopsy technology has enhanced clinical researchers’ ability to conduct diagnostic breath-testing.

IMSPEX’s BreathSpec

BBC video featuring IMSPEX’s BreathSpec

The research

The Centre for Analytical Science – founded in 2008 – combines expertise in mass spectrometry; ion mobility spectrometry; breath analysis; and direct analysis, using ambient ionisation methods.

We rapidly developed new, more rapid ways to analyse breath samples capable of identifying disease and drug biomarkers.

This success led to a request, in 2015, from Owlstone Medical to collaborate on the Breathfree project which led to the development of the ReCIVA breath sampler.

Having demonstrated that our technique can support COPD diagnosis at the point of care, in 2015, we began work with IMSPEX Diagnostics to adapt their Breathspec instrument for use in the H2020 mass casualty project TOXI-triage where it proved it capabilities. It now being successfully deployed worldwide for COVID-19 testing.

In parallel, we identified Advion’s mass spectrometers as suitable for in-situ analysis and developed a bespoke method for direct breath into the device. This collaborative project led to the 2015 launch of Advion’s vAPCI – now sold globally.

All three products are deployed by diverse institutions worldwide – enhancing early disease diagnoses, improving the speed of contaminant and environmental testing, and supporting the development of a range of other innovative healthcare procedures and products.

Research funders

  • Advion
  • Loughborough University
  • European Commission Horizon 2020

Development partners

  • Advion
  • IMSPEX Diagnostics
  • Owlstone Medical


Our research underpins Advion’s vAPCI Volatile APCI Analysis technology as well as Owlstone Medical’s ReCIVA and IMSPEX’s BreathSpec devices – all of which are already enjoying global sales.

Meet the experts

Photograph of James Reynolds

Dr James Reynolds

Senior Lecturer in Analytical Chemistry

Photograph of Paul Thomas

Professor Paul Thomas

Emeritus Professor of Analytical Science

Photograph of Colin Creaser

Professor Colin Creaser

Emeritus Professor of Analytical Chemistry

Photograph of Matthew Turner

Dr Matthew Turner

Lecturer in Analytical Science