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With a rapidly growing number of high-tech firms and startups scrambling into research and development combining healthcare and artificial intelligence (AI), targeting the new "AIoH" blue ocean market, National Yang Ming University (NYMU) and Taipei Medical University (TMU) are endeavoring to incorporate advanced technologies including big data analytics, cloud computing and ICT innovations, and engage additional academia-industry collaborations to accelerate the creation of Taiwan's smart healthcare industry chain and a whole new healthcare ecosystem for the realization of home care, remote care, personalized medicine and precision medicine.

NYMU achieves outstanding results with its efforts toward AI-based brain science research

Through coordination and connection across the industry, government, academia and medical profession, NYMU GLORIA will be showcasing its research results in "AI for Medical" at Bio Asia-Taiwan 2020. Aside from co-exhibiting with eight NYMU-incubated firms and leading food manufacturing firm Laurel, NYMU will have professor Jin Wu Tsai and professor Albert C Yang from its Institute of Brain Science present AI applications in healthcare including screening tests that identify neurodevelopmental disorder-associated genes and a diagnostic system for assessing psychiatric disorders.

In a report published by information service company Clarivate in April 2020, NYMU is listed as the most active institute in neuroscience research in Taiwan. In view of dementia as an age-related neurodegenerative disorder, Tsai carries his industry experience further and works with his team to build dementia cell and mouse models for testing. Moreover, Tsai's team is the first in the academic circle to use transposon-mediated somatic mutagenesis to identify 30 genes that are potentially involved in brain malformations. They have also developed two-photon microscopy, which is an advanced technique to visualize microscopic structures in the deep tissue and detect neuronal activities in live animals as well as an algorithm to analyze the 3D structure of cerebral cortex synapses and identify areas of neuron synapse degeneration. They have had 27 papers published in international journals including Neuron, Nature Communications and Developmental Cell in just eight years.

Seeing that mental health disorders are generally determined based on doctors' subjective assessment, as a psychiatrist and researcher, Yang aims to improve the lack of objective standards in psychiatric diagnosis. He led a team of researchers to develop a structural brain imaging system for psychiatric disorders diagnosis. Using algorithms and deep learning networks to analyze brain MRI images of potential patients and healthy adults, the AI-based system can help with psychiatric diagnosis. Leveraging data analytics, the system currently achieves a more than 90% accuracy, providing clinical reference value for the diagnosis of mental health disorders such as schizophrenia.

NYMU Business Center of Industry-Academia Liaison (BCIAL) and NYMU GLORIA CEO Monica Bey noted that NYMU is committed to bringing the university's biotechnology research achievements to commercialization and integrating BCIAL and GLORIA resources to enhance collaboration across the industry, government, academia, and medical profession to create branding effects. As part of MOST's GLORIA program, NYMU works with Laurel to develop dietary supplement "Delicious and Powerlifting Soup" for older adults. The program also facilitated the licensing of the patented therapy for treating head and neck cancers developed by Muh-Hwa Yang, vice president of NYMU and faculty member of Institute of Clinical Medicine, NYMU, to Asclepiumm Taiwan, a novel peptide drug developer. The deal arrived at an amount of tens of millions of NT dollars.

In March 2020, CEO Monica Bey invited Marco Lin to come aboard as industrial liaison manager, aiming to leverage his experience in scientific research, business corporations and institutional investors to help conduct an inventory check on NYMU's research achievements using Technology Readiness Level (TRL), a standard commonly adopted in the technology sector. Based on this, NYMU will have scientific and quantifiable data about its research achievements in terms of technological maturity, market application and technology transfer risks when in talks with business corporations and institutional investors for partnership opportunities. In May 2020, NYMU further joined forces with leading ICT manufacturer Asustek Computer to establish an "AI for Medical" program for academia-industry collaboration driving cross-sector R&D, talent incubation and industry connection and thereby turn a new page for Taiwan's biomedical technology development.

TMU's innovations accelerate hospital transformation

TMU plans to organize seven themed exhibits at Bio Asia-Taiwan 2020, featuring TMU SPARK unique technologies, the university's own patented researches, TMU GLORIA, TMU-incubated startups, TMU Biomed Accelerator, TMU biomed business group, and intramural service center.

Through the GLORIA, Academia-Industry Collaboration and SPARK programs, TMU has fostered 10 startups in digital health, AI and medical device fields. Among them, four will present their creations at Bio Asia-Taiwan 2020, including Guzip Biomarkers, Cytoarm, JunHong Biotechnology and tYDS Biotech. Guzip Biomarkers, founded in 2018, is dedicated to the study of Epigenetics. Its MPap test DNA Methylation Detection Kit is intended to verify the risk of endometrial cancer and is marketed in Taiwan by TSH Biopharm through an exclusive licensing agreement. MPap test is provided to patients at Shuang Ho Hospital as an optional item at the patient's own expense. Attempting to resolve the problem of conventional root canal filling material taking too long to harden and being too difficult to handle, tYDS Biotech has developed SavDen MTA, which is Taiwan's first locally produced root canal filling material, based on molecular engineering and biomedical material research. JunHong Biotechnology, co-founded by a TMU team and Lord Duke, markets a mangosteen supplemental drink, which is the first mangosteen product to receive the Food and Drug Administration health food approval to help maintain normal blood sugar levels. JunHong is able to extract, purify and volume produce α-mangostin, which is the main compound in mangosteen fruits to provide the health benefits and also a health ingredient JunHong produces. Focusing on precisely promoting health for all, JunHong endeavors to expand Taiwan's dietary supplement offerings. Cytoarm is a developer of novel drugs recently incorporated in 2020, dedicated to the research of highly targeted bispecific antibodies for cancer treatment.

TMU SPARK provides comprehensive services to help the university's research teams commercialize their achievements. The exhibits at Bio Asia-Taiwan 2020 organized by TMU SPARK will encompass EPICAn , a precision blood test for early detection of breast cancer developed by Professor Ruo-Kai Lin's team. The test is the world's first to utilize an automated process to perform epigenetics analysis on liquid biopsy for early detection of breast cancer. Also to be presented by TMU SPARK is ASAP, a system for risk assessment of radiation therapy on cerebral arteriovenous malformation (AVM) developed by Assistant Professor Syu-Jyun Peng's team in collaboration with Taipei Veterans General Hospital. Using automated medical image segmentation with fuzzy c-means clustering, the system can help reduce the risks of complications after stereotactic radiosurgery on AVM patients, including brain tissue necrosis, cerebral edema and epilepsy. According to TMU, there are potential partnership opportunities to work with leading radiation therapy instrument manufacturers such as US-based GE Healthcare, Siemens Healthcare, Japan-based Toshiba Medical Systems Corporation and Sweden-based Elekta to build risk assessment modules based on Professor Peng's research results.

Healthcare today has expanded beyond hospital care. The incorporation of smart healthcare and digital health will reshape hospital care. According to TMU, MOST's GLORIA program has increased TMU's visibility, attracting third party or industry attention and allowing TMU to start a positive cycle of academia-industry collaboration. TMU faculty members that used to concentrate on their own academic research now learn to integrate resources and connect TMU with AI, digital health, medical supply and pharmaceutical firms to create a complete biomedical industry ecosystem. For this purpose, TMU Biomed Accelerator will hold an opening ceremony and co-host TMU X BE Demo Day with BE Accelerator on July 23, 2020. Ten selected teams from digital health, AI and medical device fields will present their achievements resulting from six months of efforts combining clinical resources, match-making research and academic teams and guidance by biomedical experts and global mentors. Speakers from Internationally renowned programs including Japan Biodesign and Singapore Biodesign will also join the event and shed light on new biomedical knowledge and creations.

AI-enabled biomedical advances will redefine healthcare systems and services while spurring the next wave of biomedical industry growth. Riding the AIoH wave, NYMU with the neighboring Taipei Veterans General Hospital and TMU with three affiliated hospitals including Taipei Medical University Hospital, Wanfang Hospital and Shuang Ho Hospital are in a strong position to become ideal testing grounds for smart healthcare transformation. This advantage combined with MOST's GLORIA program to bridge the academia and industry and integrate resources will enable NYMU and TMU to dig deeper into their creativity and spark ideas that can turn into research achievements with global competitiveness. Their efforts will help Taiwan upgrade its smart healthcare industry and capture rising opportunities at the critical time of global transformation to play an influential role in Asia Pacific's biomedical technology scene.


Photo: NYMU


TMU assistant professor Syu-Jyun Peng