CARDEA AND THE “TECH+BIO” VISION (Part I)

"I am an unusual member of the graphene community. I am not a scientist, I’m a historian turned entrepreneur. For as long as we have recorded history, we have had problems related to biology challenging human society. Malnutrition, substance abuse, food quality control, food security, and environmental stability are problems that are still with us. Disease is an ever-present problem with the COVID-19 pandemic being the most obvious but simply the latest iteration. "
The 21st century should be about humanity finally getting control of these problems, and control starts with insight.

This was part of the founding vision of the nanotechnology community around the turn of the millennium, and that grand vision led me to join the nanotechnology community. Over this article and a few others, I will show you how Cardea has achieved this vision. We successfully combine electronics with biology, ushering in a new era of biological understanding. We have done this by building the infrastructure and internal discipline required for widespread, practical use of graphene biosensors and Biology-gated Transistors.

Biology is made up of a multitude of highly complex systems within systems that work together to determine our reality; our health, our diet, our physical traits, our disease, but also other aspects we may not think about such as cosmetics, the health of our pets, or when we do bioproduction.

And yet the more we learn about biology, the more it becomes apparent just how little we truly understand. The challenge to gaining understanding is that our digital networks and the networks of biology simply cannot interface with each other, so historically life science has been forced to put humans in the middle; isolating biology, biochemically modifying it with labels, looking at snapshots of dynamic processes with optical systems, and then recording and synthesizing the data into something relevant to the initial system.

Graphene enables the solution to this challenge. Graphene is unique as a material in that it is highly conductive, biocompatible, and has the potential for scaled manufacturing. That’s why graphene is the core part of our Biology-gated Transistors, or Cardean Transistors™.

While these transistors enable many scientific and technical advancements, technical proof of concept alone is not nearly enough. No innovation in history had any impact on the world unless it was paired with accessibility. Specifically, our new nanomaterial enabled devices will never be used outside our own labs unless we deliver something that is easy to use and low cost. Moreover, these terms “easy to use” and “low cost” are in comparison to existing commercial biochemical tools and techniques. This seems like a high bar, but it is the normal expectation for any new disruptive technology. Cardean Transistors have the potential for both “ease of use” and “low cost” via its design that respects biology’s complexity and the years of hard work that our team has put in to fit graphene into the commercial electronics fabrication industry.

Cardea helps other companies deliver sensing solutions to their markets where better insight can add real value. There are terms in that statement that are real and important: “solutions” and “real value.”

Our partners come to us and expect not just our Cardean Transistor technology; rather they will find an entire infrastructure of software modules, hardware components, assay development, automation, protocol design tools, IP and patent rights, access to relevant developer communities and a supply and logistics chain that manages quality control, vendors, and delivery to customers.  In this we enable innovators to bring new solutions to the world’s problems.

CARDEA AND COVID-19

COVID-19 can serve as an example of what Cardean Transistors enable. The current testing paradigm has serious limits. There are multiple types of tests such as PCR, antibody tests and antigen tests. All of these look at different dimensions of the disease, but all have serious limitations. PCR can only tell you about the presence of viral RNA, which often implies you are sick but can still show positive if fragments of RNA continue to linger when your body has defeated the disease. While some point-of-care systems exist, the bulk of the testing must be run in a lab and at high expense, limiting this method’s utility in population screening on a regular and ongoing basis. Antibody tests are becoming available and can be made cheaply and point-of-care, but the relevance of antibody tests is still unclear. Antigen tests work much like antibody tests and potentially directly detect the organism, but there are many variables to antigen systems. Results often take days to get reported, making epidemiology very difficult and governmental policy decisions are made with imperfect information.

Each of these tell different things about the virus, but none tell us the answer to the most important question: am I sick today, meaning 1) is my life in danger and 2) will I put others in danger? This is the exact situation Cardea was built to solve.

Cardean Transistors are unique in that they can be tuned to look for any type of biochemistry, with multiple biochemistries on the same chip at the same time. The data generated is real-time and complex, meaning that machine learning and cloud uploads can be used to get the most about each type of test, analyzing and re-analyzing in real time to provide a better insight to disease spread. Coupled with much simpler assays and the manufacturability of Cardea’s chips, a solution is now possible that enables for on-site screening in workplaces and events, as well as in the home, regularly and affordably. This kind of monitoring and screening capability provides strong insight into the pandemic to enable better policy decisions.

Cardea will not do this alone; we are built to be a partner. There are several prospective partners we are working with to enable this type of solution. Cardea is built to understand how to build this technology and work with the biology to build a system that adds utility. An important step in this was learning how to work with graphene and integrate it into a mass manufactured product. While graphene is a key part of this, it is only the beginning.

GRAPHENE IS ONLY THE FIRST STEP

Cardea was founded under its original name, Nanomedical Diagnostics, by myself and Dr. Brett Goldsmith (not another historian, but a nanotechnologist). When we started the company, Brett had already been developing biosensors based on graphene and carbon nanotubes for years. He had been fighting for the recognition of the technology by the biotech community with little success. Even he was somewhat disillusioned with the technology failing to make an impact and was ready to consider that the typical way of doing business in nanotechnology may not be the best way to move forward. Together we decided to give it a try. The first and biggest decision we made was to take responsibility for everything.

Notable in this is our chip design. Most designs of biosensors force the biological assay to fit within the sensor’s design constraints; to operate in a way that a biologist would find counter to good biochemical practices. Our patented Cardean Transistor design utilizes real-time liquid gating.

This is an extraordinarily difficult transistor to manufacture and read out analytically, but its strength is that it allows for much simpler bioassays and allows the biochemistry to work the way it works in nature, providing for a much more relevant response. We had this chip design, background publications, and this philosophy in place six years ago, when the first thing we did as a company was file our foundational patent. Then the hard work began.

COVID-19 can serve as an example of what Cardean Transistors enable. The current testing paradigm has serious limits. There are multiple types of tests such as PCR, antibody tests and antigen tests. All of these look at different dimensions of the disease, but all have serious limitations. PCR can only tell you about the presence of viral RNA, which often implies you are sick but can still show positive if fragments of RNA continue to linger when your body has defeated the disease. While some point-of-care systems exist, the bulk of the testing must be run in a lab and at high expense, limiting this method’s utility in population screening on a regular and ongoing basis. Antibody tests are becoming available and can be made cheaply and point-of-care, but the relevance of antibody tests is still unclear. Antigen tests work much like antibody tests and potentially directly detect the organism, but there are many variables to antigen systems.

Results often take days to get reported, making epidemiology very difficult and governmental policy decisions are made with imperfect information.

Each of these tell different things about the virus, but none tell us the most important question: am I sick today, meaning

1) is my life in danger and

2) will I put others in danger?

Cardea Chip

This is the exact situation Cardea was built to solve. Cardean Transistors are unique in that they can be tuned to look for any type of biochemistry, with multiple biochemistries on the same chip at the same time. The data generated is real-time, and complex, meaning that machine learning and cloud uploads can be used to get the most about each type of test, analyzing and re-analyzing in real time to provide a better insight to disease spread. Coupled with much simpler assays and the manufacturability of Cardea’s chips, a solution is now possible that enables for on-site screening in workplaces and events, as well as in the home, regularly and affordably. This kind of monitoring and screening capability provides strong insight into the pandemic to enable better policy decisions.

Cardea will not do this alone; we are built to be a partner. There are several prospective partners we are working with to enable this type of solution.

Cardea is built to understand how to build this technology and work with the biology to build a system that adds utility.

An important step in this was learning how to work with graphene and integrate it into a mass manufactured product. While graphene is a key part of this, it is only the beginning.

Cardea was founded under its original name, Nanomedical Diagnostics, by myself and Dr. Brett Goldsmith (not another historian, but a nanotechnologist). When we started the company, Brett had already been developing biosensors based on graphene and carbon nanotubes for years. He had been fighting for the recognition of the technology by the biotech community with little success. Even he was somewhat disillusioned with the technology failing to make an impact and was ready to consider that the typical way of doing business in nanotechnology may not be the best way to move forward. Together we decided to give it a try. The first and biggest decision we made was to take responsibility for everything.

Notable in this is our chip design. Most designs of biosensors force the biological assay to fit within the sensor’s design constraints; to operate in a way that a biologist would find counter to good biochemical practices. Our patented Cardean Transistor design utilizes real-time liquid gating. This is an extraordinarily difficult transistor to manufacture and read out analytically, but its strength is that it allows for much simpler bioassays and allows the biochemistry to work the way it works in nature, providing for a much more relevant response. We had this chip design, background publications, and this philosophy in place six years ago, when the first thing we did as a company was file our foundational patent. Then the hard work began.

Date Published:

September 15, 2020

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