The Silicon Review
“By interpreting the miRNA profile changes of cancer patients, we hope we can provide the most suitable treatment strategy for each patient and contribute to precision medicine.”
Helios Bioelectronics is a developer of a medical biosensor diagnostic platform, intended to research and address a variety of human diseases. The company’s platform leverages the semiconductor technology and mass production infrastructure to electronically detect the diseases without labeling and amplification using AI and cloud computing technology, thereby allowing hospitals to provide patients with accurate diagnosis and physicians on treatment options.
Helios was incorporated in 2016 and is headquartered in Taiwan.
The Silicon Review contacted Dr. Hardy Chan, co-founder and Chairman of Helios Bioelectronics, who spoke about how the company is making a difference in this segment and plans to stay at the forefront. Below is an excerpt.
Q. How does Helios Bioelectronics empower digital healthcare and patients in general?
Helios Bioelectronics’ technology platform, Helios BioFET, senses molecular interactions between important cellular elements such as proteins, nucleic acids, or cell growth. Different from conventional analog and optical-based diagnostic approaches. Helios’ detection principle is probing the electrical charge changes as picked up by the company’s semiconductor sensors (i.e., Field effect transistor, FET).
Q. What can you tell us about the BioFET platform? And how does it assist in establishing dynamic profiling of the molecular regulations?
Helios BioFET technology detects molecules by measuring the trace electric changes on the surface of the FET. By coating the FET with probe molecules, such as antibodies or nucleic acid probes, target molecules bind specifically to the BioFET induce changes in the electrical currents or potentials. The changes in electrical signals of the sensor arrays are quantized and digitalized with the aid of the circuits integrated into the device, which correspond to the charges on the biomarkers by either the biomarkers’ intrinsic electrical properties or through the manipulation of assay conditions.
As correlations could be established and characterized based on the semiconductor physics, i.e., the I-V curve, by mapping the measured changes, one could calculate the concentration or the number of target biomarkers in the patients’ samples, measure the intrinsic electrical properties of the target biomarkers and their interaction with the designed and controlled measurement environment we developed. Also, by changing the sensing conditions and with the engineered surface chemistries, Helios leverages the tunable dimension and structure of semiconductor devices for the detection of nucleic acids, proteins, viruses, bacteria, and cells.
Helios BioFET platform can detect any targets with net charges, including proteins, nucleic acids, bacterial cells, cell growth, etc. The BioFET chips are readily customizable by immobilizing target-specific probes onto the chip surface.
Q. What are your focus areas?
Helios Bioelectronics focuses on the detection of infectious disease, ACS (acute coronary syndrome) biomarkers, cancer biomarker differentiation, sepsis diagnosis, and miRNA profiling on liquid biopsies. Helios’ biochip detects Covid-19 antigens in serum with the high sensitivity sensor. We have successfully detected antibodies in patient serum samples. With this powerful detection sensor, we are also planning for a respiratory panel to confirm infectious diseases, Covid-19 strain identification as well as any concomitant cytokine storms. We are using the high sensitivity biochip to perform the ACS biomarker assay due to the requirement of exquisite sensitivity. The ability to monitor minute changes in biomarker concentration provides doctors with reliable data to render early ACS diagnosis. Helios Bioelectronics’ high-sensitivity Bio-FET chips have sub-pg/mL biomarker detection capabilities, and the detection reaction is rapid. Therefore, it’s suitable for in vitro diagnosis products used in emergency rooms or ambulances. BioFET can decrease the cost and detection time of miRNA concentration in a liquid biopsy sample to establish the miRNA profiling of individual patients. The current method to set up miRNA profile is through qPCR, which incurs high costs and requires long detection time. The multiplex sensors of Helios Bioelectronics allow miRNA profiles to be generated in a shorter time at a lower cost. By interpreting the miRNA profile change of cancer patients, we hope we can provide the most suitable treatment strategy for each patient and contribute to precision medicine.
Q. How skilled is the Helios team of experts? And how do they bring value to the company?
Helios Bioelectronics is composed of a cross-field elite team with work experience in pharmaceuticals, diagnostic medicine, and semiconductors. I have over 40 years of experience in the pharmaceutical and biotechnology fields with successful entrepreneurial experience. Our Chief Operating Officer, Dr. Yi-Shao Liu, has over 20 years of experience in the development of the semiconductor industry and BioFET related products. The international collaboration experiences and global vision support Dr. Liu to guide the diagnostic product development to fulfill the current unmet medical needs. Dr. Ching-Wei Tsai leads the research and development of analytical chemistry; he has at least 10 years of experience in IVD product development, including single molecular sequencing optical sensor integration and fast rtPCT development for infectious disease diagnosis. Helios Bioelectronics combines cross-field elites to develop more accurate medical diagnosis technology.
Q. What new endeavors is Helios currently undertaking?
Helios Bioelectronics is currently committed to commercializing the results of research and development, combining biosensing and molecular diagnostic technology. With Taiwan’s advanced semiconductor technology, Helios Bioelectronics has developed a high-stability BioFET chip to optimize the BioFET chip. Helios Bioelectronics continues to improve the chip manufacturing process and cooperates with two foundries to develop chips with different characteristics, which can be applied to different disease diagnoses. In addition, Helios cooperates with universities and hospitals to develop more Biomarker discrimination methods. It is hoped that it can be applied to clinical diagnosis in the future, as a basis for assisting doctors in diagnosis or for developing drugs.
Q. No doubt Helios is charting new territories in this segment. Given how frequently circumstances change, what plans for transformation are you pursuing to remain relevant now and in the future?
Helios Bioelectronics plays a role as the bridge for the gap between the biomedical and semiconductor industry. With the interdisciplinary team, we work closely with foundries to optimize the semiconductor manufacturing process to produce a device that is suitable for biomedical assay. For in vitro diagnosis applications, we work closely with big pharma and biological reagent companies to find out unmet needs. Helios Bioelectronics is a member of the JLab (Johnson & Johnson incubation center), and we keep updating the current trends and market needs by communicating with industry experts.
Q. Is there anything else you want us to highlight that we might have missed?
Helios Bioelectronics develops BioFET for biomarker detection, with the greater signal-to-noise ratio of the detection device (FET); the sensitivity is higher than the optical detection method. We are measuring the electric signal, so the measuring time is much shorter than optical detection. As the biochip is small in size, the instrument is compact and can be portable, which fulfills the requirement for a POCT (point of care test).
Dr. Hardy Chan | Co-Founder & Chairman
With over 45 years of experience in the biotechnology industry, Dr. Hardy Wai-Hong Chan enjoys translating pioneering scientific discoveries into compelling investment opportunities. He received a Ph.D. in Biochemistry from the University of Wisconsin-Madison, USA, and published over 70 scientific manuscripts in peer-reviewed journals. Dr. Chan co-founded ScinoPharm Taiwan Ltd. in 1997 and served as CSO, in charge of both research and business development. He then joined Tanvex Biologics, Inc. and served as the CEO. Both ScinoPharm and Tanvex are listed on the Taiwanese Stock Exchange. He was previously Vice President of Research at Syntex Corporation, now a part of Roche.
Dr. Chan has proven himself to be a great scientist as well as a successful entrepreneur. In recent years, he co-founded Helios Bioelectronics, Inc. in 2016. He has been committed to integrating domestic industry and academia resources, selecting technologies with profound and high-value academia.