Chronic breathing problems affect millions worldwide, and cost our healthcare systems billions of dollars every year. According to the Global Asthma Report, about 334 million people suffer from asthma. The World Health Organization estimates that 251 million have chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). The key to maximizing outcomes (and minimizing costs) is to make sure that each individual patient gets the most appropriate treatment available.

To that end, the global pharma company AstraZeneca is turning to precision medicine. The company has a signed a service agreement with Owlstone Medical to develop diagnostic tools based on breath samples. The two companies will collaborate on identifying unique biomarkers in a patient’s breath that can be used to differentiate between different variations of asthma and COPD. The breathalyzer technology is non-invasive, fast, and convenient. The goal is to develop a system that will rapidly diagnose and monitor patients so that they can receive the right dose of the right medication at the right stage of their condition.

This is just one more example of how Big Data and personalized medical treatment may transform how healthcare is delivered to patients. Lower costs and better outcomes are likely to be the big dividends of such efforts.