GlaxoSmithKline taps breath data analyzer to improve COPD patient selection

GSK building
GSK will use Owlstone's Breath Biopsy platform in phase 2 trials of COPD candidate danirixin.

GlaxoSmithKline is once again getting techy with its clinical trial improvement efforts.

The company will incorporate Owlstone Medical’s Breath Biopsy platform, which analyzes biomarkers from breath to generate data that can improve outcomes and cut costs, into its phase 2 trial of COPD candidate danirixin, Owlstone said Monday.

The British drugmaker will use the platform both to assess the effects of danirixin on COPD and to see if it can help with tapping the right patient for the right treatment. With Breath Biopsy, it’ll collect breath samples that “relate directly to disease activity” and ship them off to Owlstone’s lab for analysis.

“We hope that exploration of volatile compounds in breath will provide a tool to identify COPD patients who could benefit most from our medicines,” Ruth Tal-Singer, GSK VP and respiratory R&D senior fellow, said in a statement.

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It’s not Glaxo’s first time using tech to go beyond the pill in respiratory clinical trials. It’s used Propeller Health’s smart inhaler in COPD studies, and in August, the companies agreed to jointly take Propeller’s clip-on sensor and software platform—which goes hand-in-hand with GSK’s Ellipta inhaler—to market.

And the pharma giant isn’t alone in those efforts. Last year, competitor Boehringer Ingelheim inked two separate smart inhaler pacts, with Propeller and Qualcomm, while Novartis joined hands with Qualcomm Life to develop a next-gen version of its Breezhaler inhaler that would improve adherence by wirelessly sending usage data to patients and doctors.

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All three drugmakers are looking for ways to get ahead in a respiratory environment that’s fiercely competitive and majorly pressured by payers.

“Continued margin pressure in the U.S.” is “just the environment we live in,” GSK’s SVP of primary care, Cheryl MacDiarmid, said in a recent interview. “Nothing new, no surprises,” she added. “It will continue, full stop.”