SensUs interviews: Pekka Hildén

HyTest is a biotechnology company that sponsored the biomaterials used in SensUs 2017. We spoke with Pekka Hildén, business development manager of HyTest, about innovations in biosensing, developments in healthcare, and about his experiences with SensUs.


Can you tell something about yourself? Who are you and what is your role in HyTest?

I am Pekka Hildén and I work as a business development manager. As the title hints, my tasks are very much related in finding new business opportunities for HyTest in different areas. The different areas can be anything, from new biomarkers and technologies to new business contacts. In addition, one of my main tasks is to supervise our operations in China where we have a wholly owned subsidiary. I am also participating in our new product development process.


How is your company involved in the field of diagnostics and biosensing?

We provide antibodies, antigens and other raw materials mainly for the In Vitro Diagnostics industry (IVD).  As a diagnostics raw material provider we deal with very different companies of which some use quite basic technologies while others might use high-end biosensors. We have been in this business more than 20 years and this has offered us an excellent opportunity to see the evolution of IVD-industry.


How do you see the future for biosensing? Which innovations are needed and which long-term developments do you foresee?

Near patient testing, or point-of-care testing (PoC), is the future of diagnostics. For quite a few years, PoC was like an unkept promise as it was very much discussed and its advantages were promoted, but most of the companies could not meet the requirements. PoC has largely been based on low-technology lateral flow devices which, in most cases, do not deliver the needed sensitivity and accuracy. Now the scene is changing as more robust and sensitive sensors are brought to the market and with these new devices healthcare providers can obtain laboratory quality results in field settings. This is an important driver as the current paradigm of healthcare is still very much dependent on centralized testing and care and there is a need for change. Global healthcare challenges, like obesity and diabetes are rising healthcare costs in almost all countries and aging is becoming another major hurdle. Because of these, healthcare providers need to think of new ways to provide their services and the need for prevention and home-testing is getting a bigger role. This is the main area where miniaturized biosensors are going to have a major role but what is needed is quality of results, ease of use and most importantly rethinking of the current paradigm of healthcare.


Your company has strongly contributed to SensUs 2017. What has been your motivation for becoming a partner of SensUs?

For the 2017 SensUs contest, HyTest provided antibodies for the target molecule that was NT-proBNP. In addition, our R&D people helped the competitors to understand how the target molecule should be measured and how to select correct antibodies. In addition, we provided the antigen that was measured and also the plasma so that the samples mimicked patient samples as well as possible. We wanted to be the partner for SensUs 2017 as HyTest has been in frontline of cardiac diseases’ diagnostics for over 20 years and NT-proBNP is very much one of our core areas, so it was quite natural for us.


What is your opinion about SensUs?

I think that the best part of SensUs is that it brings together young talented students with very different backgrounds and skills to think how to meet the challenge. To me, this is more important than the quality of the results – of course the quality of results is important – but even more important is how the results were obtained. I hope this drives young people to think differently and bring them to this industry that has been quite conservative quite a few years. “Thinking out of the box” is very much what this industry and healthcare needs and hopefully it is the younger generation that can bring on the change.


The theme of SensUs 2018 is “Measuring antibiotics for better healthcare”. Do you have an advice for the teams and for SensUs in general?

Do not start thinking from the technology perspective. Think about the challenge and customer’s needs and only after you have defined that, think about what would be the best tools to provide that solution. If you start from technology, you will lock yourself in that “box”. This is also what I would like to see from SensUs in long term: tight combination of technology, business and more general problem solving skills.