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Chinese Startup HeliTec Launches Large Liquid Biopsy Study

NEW YORK (GenomeWeb) – A Shenzhen, China-based precision cancer sequencing startup called HeliTec announced this week that it is teaming up with the Zhongshan People's Cancer Institute (ZPHCI) to launch a large scale, early cancer detection study based on a liquid biopsy and next-generation sequencing method.

The team plans to tap ZPHCI's large collection of blood samples, collected since 2010 from individuals in a high-risk population in China's Guandong region. The set reportedly includes longitudinal blood samples taken every six months from more than 60,000 adults, as well as detailed patient health records containing information on physical exams, treatments, and follow-up that was done over the years.

Using HeliTec's parallel amplification numerically optimized sequencing (PANO-Seq) platform, the investigators will search for SNPs, small insertions and deletions, copy number alterations, gene fusions, and transcripts present in the blood that may have ties to cancers diagnosed in these individuals over the past seven years or in the future.

In a statement, ZPHCI Director Mingfang Ji said the approach is "like taking a snapshot" every six months, "so that when something is wrong we can go back to the past and find out exactly what has changed."

Along with clues from circulating tumor DNA in the blood, the approach is expected to provide insights into other "rich information hidden in the blood" from tumor RNAs to circulating T-cell receptors repertoires related to tumor neoantigens, according to HeliTec Chief Technology Officer Li Chen.

HeliTec was founded last spring by researchers specialized in cancer and/or next-generation sequencing fields.