Infineon delivers new biochip system

A biochip system designed to accelerate the development of new drugs is available now from German chip-maker Infineon Technologies AG, the company announced Wednesday.

The system features the Flow-Thru Chip, a semiconductor with a surface size of only 1cm that can simultaneously analyze the reaction of up to 400 known genes to a specific substance, Infineon said in a statement. The system also includes a hybridization unit and measuring apparatus with an integrated high-sensitivity camera.

The biochip can be used to study inflammations, various types of cancer and neurological diseases such as Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s and multiple sclerosis. Researchers can also customize the chips to meet their scientific needs, according to the statement.

Typically, pharmaceutical companies invest on average 12 to 15 years developing and testing a new drug, Infineon said. Using new, chip-based analysis methods, the pharmaceutical industry expects times savings of one to two years in drug development, the German chip-maker said.

The Flow-Thru Chip is made of silicon. Infineon has developed a process to etch about one million pores with a diameter of one-tenth of a human hair on the chip’s tiny surface. Known sections of genes, such as genetic material that can alter breast cancer activity, are placed in the pores. The genes fix themselves to the walls of the micro-pores. The samples are treated with a potentially active agent and repeatedly pumped back and forth through the pores in a process known as Flow-Thru.

In the process, only the matching genes of the sample will bind to the gene sections on the pore wall, according to Infineon. A luminescent dye, added in a subsequent step, binds to the matched genes and emits detectable light that is captured by a camera and forwarded to a computer.

Once a chip is prepared with genetic material, the test to determine whether a substance is effective is fast and easy, Infineon said. It compares the light pattern of the healthy sample with the pattern of the treated pattern. If they match, the active agent is judged effective.

The Flow-Thru Chip system costs approximately US$63,936, according to the statement. Infineon will sell the product in Europe, while MetriGenix Inc. will market it in the U.S., the company said.