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TMU-KMU medical tech business matchmaking event spurs industry-academia communication
Sandy Du, DIGITIMES, Taipei

Taiwan maintains a leading edge in medical technologies with a myriad of academic research teams working on projects producing valuable achievements. However, these achievements have remained hidden inside universities. To help promote the development of premium-quality medical supplies and technologies and drive commercialization of academic research results, Taipei Medical University (TMU) and Kaohsiung Medical University (KMU) co-hosted the "TMU x KMU Joint Medical Technology Business Matchmaking" event on September 29, 2020. Bringing together Taiwan's entrepreneurs and startup teams, the event built a bridge for industry-academia communication.

Six teams with development potential presented their products and technology strength and discussed with the guests with respect to the feasibility of marketing their research results.

In his speech, TMU vice president Chieh-Hsi Wu noted matchmaking events are of great significance to both TMU and KMU. Faculty members at the two medical universities have long been committed to advanced medical technology research and have built up a solid foundation. However, they lack the industry connections to help bring their research achievements to commercialization. This is exactly the purpose of the matchmaking event - turning the research energy that has been accumulated over the years into viable business models.

In agreement with Wu, KMU vice president Wen-Chun Hung stated that the two medical universities respectively located in Taipei and Kaohsiung possess complementing technologies and are both surrounded by well-developed industry clusters. TMU is in close proximity to the National Biotechnology Research Park in Nangang, the Taiwan Tech Arena (TTA) and the Startup Terrace in Linkou. KMU is in the vicinity of the Southern Taiwan Science Park (STSP) and its Luzhu and Qiaotou campuses. Already situated in a premium industry-academia environment, if the two universities can strengthen their external connections, their medical research projects will be able to create massive commercial value.

Jane Tseng, director of the Ministry of Science and Technology's SPARK Taiwan program, which set off Taiwan's efforts toward fostering medical startups, commended the technological strength of Taiwan's medical universities at the event. Founded eight years ago, SPARK Taiwan has successfully helped a large number of academic research teams transform into startup firms, said Tseng. During the process, she witnessed the technological potential of Taiwan's medical universities. The matchmaking event was aimed at realizing their potential, allowing their achievements to go to market. Tseng also hoped the event would mark the start of the flourishing development of Taiwan's academic research power.

First to present its product, Gar Den Bio introduced its "antibiotic resistance testing service platform for drug-resistant bacteria." The platform is developed with an aim to help medical institutions address the challenges in the fight against antimicrobial resistance. Based on three core technologies - an exclusive database of antibiotic resistant organisms, diverse methods of animal experimentation and bacterial genome editing, the team has developed a small molecular compound for treatment against carbapenem-resistant bacteria, which breaks down and even hollows out the bacteria within one hour and kills 99.9% of them within two to four hours. Gar Den has filed a provisional application with the US Patent and Trademark Office. Going forward, it will complete preclinical study and file an Investigational new drug application and upon approval, transfer the technology to a pharmaceutical firm.

Precisely Printed Medical developed "3D additive manufacturing of bioceramics as bone graft substitute." The team uses refined 3D printing technology to produce porous structures of diverse shapes which can be used to make bioceramic bone products. This improves the problem of poor pore connectivity with traditional bioceramics manufacturing. The innovative bone products cater to the needs of both doctors and patients by enabling personalized customization based on where bone reconstruction is needed. The bioceramic substitute is precisely made without requiring cutting during surgery, so not only can the new technology shorten the time it takes to perform a surgery by 30% but it can also reduce anesthesia and infection risks while resolving the shortage of porous bone grafts for clinical use and the problem of insufficient strength of surgical cutting equipment.

Yin-Chih Fu from Kaohsiung Medical University Chung-Ho Memorial Hospital, presented his team's "extracorporeal optical equipment of precise screw positioning." Targeting lower limb fractures that are the most commonly encountered in orthopedic practice, Fu's research enables orthopedic surgeons to conduct precise, safe and fast screw positioning. His team created an image guided surgery navigation system using electro-optical engineering, which reduces radiation exposure for both surgeons and patients by shortening the time surgeons have to spend on surgeries and under radiation exposure while lowering the chance of screw misplacement and increasing the odds of a successful surgical outcome. The system is easy to use and compatible with bone nails and plates of different brands.

Endometrial cancer is one of the most common type of cancer in women, which used to be the second most common, following cervical cancer. Guzip Biomarkers (Guzip), a TMU-supported startup, developed the MPap DNA methylation detection kit, which makes use of DNA methylation applied to cervical specimens for rapid screening of endometrial cancer. The test can be completed in six minutes with a 90% accuracy. It can be used by doctors to first assess the likelihood of cancer and then decide on whether to perform invasive procedures such as biopsies. It serves as a very valuable reference helping doctors diagnose endometrial cancer.

Chien-Hua Tseng from Shuang-Ho Hospital and his team presented their portable pulmonary rehabilitation device, designed for patients with airway diseases who need breathing exercises to keep their airways open and clear and help expectorate sputum, thereby improving air exchange and patient vitality. Focusing on the way that pressure is generated, the team's portable breathing trainer addresses the shortcomings such as insufficient pressure and pressure changes with air flow. Furthermore, the device is designed with features including visual feedback, vibration expectoration and a simple respirometer. The upgraded version also comes with a flow detector that keeps track of the patient's expiratory flow, performs AI-based calculation on the ideal opening size and issues an alert when detecting signs of patient deterioration. It serves as an ideal remote care device for patients with respiratory diseases.

Shih-Ching Chen from TMU Hospital and his team developed a novel transcranial electrostimulation system to treat disability resulting from a stroke, which causes great stress to patients and their family. The team has built a prototype transcranial electrostimulation system that can output a high-precision and high-efficacy waveform. The electrode cap can be custom-made to fit the patient's head and deliver high-precision electrostimulation with one anode corresponding to four cathodes, passing an electrical current to the cerebral cortex. At the same time of delivering electrostimulation, the system also measures the blood oxygen level at the area using near-infrared spectroscopy and adjusts the strength of electrostimulation based on physiological feedback.

After the presentations by the six promising startup teams, event guests visited exhibits showcasing the research results of the other TMU and KMU teams and engaged in enthusiastic communication. The teams of researchers and all the guests from the industry agree that the matchmaking event has bridged industry-academia communication and created a win-win situation, which will enable Taiwan's strong medical industry to further build up its competitive edge.

TMU-KMU matchmaking event

Participants at the "TMU x KMU Joint Medical Technology Business Matchmaking" event
Photo: Digitimes, September 2020

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