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Medical Research

IONICON – partner in medical research projects

IONICON is a respected partner in several medical research projects. Years of expertise have brought us valuable expertise, which is reflected in our product development. 

Our Mission in Medical Research

IONICON has actively conducted medical research for many years. Until 2013 IONICON’s medical research division operated under the IONIMED brand and has become fully incorporated since. Actively participating in research gives us valuable insight in the problems our customers are facing. The close interaction with our project partners provides a first hand experience and a deep understanding of the issues. The gathered expertise enables us to consult our customers and to direct our product development efforts to meet the needs of researchers in the medical field. In the following, we give an overview over various research projects we have conducted over the past years. 


Lung cancer is one of the leading causes of death in the western world. Diagnosis of cancer often happens late in the course of the disease since available diagnostic methods are not sufficiently sensitive and specific. An early diagnosis could save thousands of lives each year. There is strong evidence that particulate cancers can be detected by analyzing the volatile organic compounds (VOCs) present in exhaled breath. Breath gas analysis represents a new non-invasive diagnostic, which can provide information beyond conventional analysis of blood and urine. The EU project BAMOD focuses on the diagnosis of minimal disease and early stages of lung cancer. This international project brings together researchers from both academia and industry with extensive knowledge in the field of basic and clinical research as well as technical development.

Our part in BAMOD

IONIMED was an industrial partner in BAMOD. Our contribution to the project was to provide an expert solution for quality controlled and artefact-free collection of human breath samples, and to supply our know-how of the PTR-MS technique for breath gas analysis, with a focus on exact quantification. 


  • Beauchamp, J., et al., On the use of Tedlar bags for breath-gas sampling and analysis", Journal of Breath Research, vol. 2, no. 4, pp. 046001 (19pp), 2008. LINK
  • Beauchamp, J., et al., On the performance of proton-transfer-reaction mass spectrometry for breath-relevant gas matrices, Measurement Science and Technology, accepted for publication, 2013. 

Project Details

Acronym Breath-gas analysis for molecular-oriented detection of minimal diseases
Type of funding EU Project, 6th Framework Program (FP6)
Duration 2004 - 2009
Project Website


Analysis of the molecular components in breath for disease diagnosis and therapeutic monitoring will potentially become routine in the near future. Breath sampling is non-invasive and most patients, even children, the elderly and those on breathing apparatus, are able to provide a breath sample.

Our Projects in CEMIT 

IONIMED actively conducted research within the KMT, Competence Center of Medicine in Tyrol, from 2004 to June 2009 (renamed CEMIT, Center of Excellence in Medicine and IT). Using PTR-MS, IONIMED performed two major clinical studies, where the breath of kidney failure patients undergoing kidney transplantation ("transplant study") and the breath of lung cancer ("lung cancer study") patients before and during therapy were analyzed.

For the real-time analysis of breath, PTR-MS systems were installed in two hospitals in Austria. The PTR-MS system is a highly sensitive and quantitative analytical instrument for determining the concentration of volatile organic compounds (VOCs) in the exhaled breath in real time. Due to its short response-time and high sensitivity a large number of volatiles can be analyzed without the need for sample preparation. Breath samples are analyzed while the patient exhales through the breath sampler.

Our goal was to identify potential biomarkers for certain diseases and to relate breath concentrations of certain volatile metabolites to their blood concentrations. Exact knowledge of these relationships for patients undergoing a medical procedure, e.g. dialysis, surgery or certain types of drug therapy, is needed to utilize the advantages of a non-invasive, real-time monitoring system such as our PTR-MS instrument. 


IONIMED conducted these clinical research in cooperation with medical doctors at local hospitals, i.e. the Bezirkskrankenhaus Kufstein and the Medical University Innsbruck. Our collaborator Olaf Tietje from Systaim, an ETH Zürich spin-off company, successfully uses the "Interrelation Miner Methodology" to evaluate the quality and significance of predictions using breath gas data.

UMIT (Private University for health sciences, medical informatics and technology) was our partner for the development of new bio-informatics tools for the knowledge discovery process and database handling. We have built an instrument-independent database of breath gas data from the clinical studies in order to make statistical analyses of correlations between breath gas data and pathological processes in the body. 

Selected Results

  • Kohl, I., et al., "First observation of a potential non-invasive breath gas biomarker for kidney function.", J Breath Res, vol. 7, no. 1: Ionimed Analytik GmbH, Eduard Bodem Gasse 3, A-6020 Innsbruck, Austria., pp. 017110, Mar, 2013. LINK
  • Herbig, J.., et al., "Breath Analysis with PTR-MS: More breath markers for lung cancer", 5th International PTR-MS Conference on Proton Transfer Reaction Mass Spectrometry and Its Applications, pp. 31-33, 2011. LINK
  • Kohl, I., et al., "Online breath analysis of volatile organic compounds with PTR-MS: a guanidino breath marker for the status of uremia and kidney transplant rejection diagnosis.", 4th International PTR-MS Conference on Proton Transfer Reaction Mass Spectrometry and Its Applications, pp. 251, 2011. LINK
  • Herbig, J., et al., "Online breath sampling with PTR-MS - A setup for large screening studies", 4th International PTR-MS Conference on Proton Transfer Reaction Mass Spectrometry and Its Applications, pp. 46, 2009. LINK
  • Kohl, I., et al. "Proton-transfer-reaction mass spectrometry online analysis of volatile organic compounds in the exhaled breath: kidney transplant rejection diagnosis", CONFERENCE SERIES, pp. 251, 2009. LINK

The development of the IONICON BET breath sampling inlet, has been a major results of this project. 

  • Herbig, J., et al., "Buffered end-tidal (BET) sampling-a novel method for real-time breath-gas analysis.", J Breath Res, vol. 2, no. 3, pp. 037008, Sep, 2008. LINK
  • Patent, Sampling device for buffered respiratory gas analysis, PCT/EP2008/062844, 2007. LINK

Project Details

Name CEMIT (formerly KMT)
Acronym Center of Excellence in Medicine and IT
Type of funding Austrian, K-ind Program
Duration 2004 - 2011
Project Website


In the western countries breast cancer is the leading malign disease in women. It contributes to 25 % of all cancers in women. Statistic shows that survival depends strongly on the stage of the disease at the time of diagnosis. Mammography, as a screening method, has considerably contributed to the reduction of the mortality. New, non-invasive and sensitive methods for screening could reduce the burden on the patients.


In May 2009 IONIMED started a research project within Oncotyrol , the Center for personalized Cancer Medicine, to analyze breath samples of patients with breast cancer. One aim was to find biomarkers for breast cancer detectable in breath for a simple, low-cost and non-invasive, early screening technique. Furthermore, monitoring of patients during treatment, to investigate the sensitivity (resistance) to certain kinds of therapy, could open the door to a more efficient and personalized treatment.  
For this project, a highly sensitive and selective technique was employed for the analysis of exhaled breath, an IONICON PTR-TOF 8000. For the clinical study, novel methods for quality assurance and automated data evaluation had to be implemented to ensure comparable results over the full course of the project. 

Collaboration partners

IONIMED collaborated with Systaim and the Department of Gynecology and Obstetrics at the Medical University of Innsbruck, Prof. Christian Marth


Project Details

Acronym Center for Personalized Cancer Medicine
Type of funding Austrian, COMET Program


The focus of EU project LCAOS is the development of nano-sensors for medical breath analysis. IONICON provides PTR-MS technology to complement the sensor information and develops a novel calibration device for sensor characterization. The acronym LCAOS is derived from Lung Cancer detection with an Artificial Olfactory System. In this project novel types of sensors, based on chemically-sensitive field effect transistors (FETs), will be developed and employed for breath analysis. The goal is a cheap and hand-held device for the detection of volatile biomarkers for lung cancer in breath. The multi-national consortium is coordinated by Prof. Hossam Haick from the Technion in Israel


PTR-MS is used in the project to identify breath markers, with the aim to develop smaller, sensor based systems for these markers. We contribute our expertise in breath analysis and PTR-MS technology

IONICON also develops a system for the production of artificial breath for training nano-sensor systems. For this task, a new, highly versatile, gas calibration system has been developed, based on the efficient evaporation of liquid calibration solutions: The IONICON Liquid Calibration Unit (LCU)

IONICON Related Results

The IONICON Liquid Calibration Unit (LCU) has been developed in this project and can be used to calibrate sensor arrays as well as gas analytical instruments like PTR-MS and has become available as a product. 

Project Details

Acronym Lung Cancer Detection with an Artificial Olfactory System
Type of funding European Project – 7th Framework Program (FP 7)
Duration 2011 until 2015
Project Website