IT + CE
NCKU and CGU join forces with the industry to enable futuristic smart epidemic prevention
Sandy Du, Taipei; Rodney Chan, DIGITIMES

Bio Asia-Taiwan 2020, which opens on July 22, 2020, will be held in an unprecedented "Online + Live" format. The event will be the first global biotechnology conference taking place in Asia amid the COVID-19 pandemic. Global Research & Industry Alliance National Cheng Kung University (GLORIA NCKU) and Chang Gung University (CGU) from the International Intelligent Biotech and Medical Alliance have made leaping advances in epidemic prevention research. Their front-running research achievements in body temperature monitoring, surgical masks and virus testing stand a good chance of being marketed worldwide and tapping the multi-billion-dollar virus prevention market.

NCKU's HEARThermo smart wristband featured in international journal

GLORIA NCKU will showcase its achievements in three theme areas including COVID-19 prevention, in vitro diagnostic (IVD) devices and remote healthcare at Bio Asia-Taiwan 2020. Its exhibits encompass multiple applications and products which are the results of industry-academia collaborations, demonstrating Taiwan's potential in medical biotechnology research for the world to see.

According to professor Woei-Jer Chuang, associate vice president of NCKU and director NCKU's Transfer and Business Incubation Center, the university established its Center of Infectious Disease and Signaling Research in 2011, the first of such research institutes in Taiwan. Dedicated to the study of viruses including enterovirus 71 and Dengue virus, the center has accumulated years of research experiences and resources on infectious disease research. NCKU's Department of Biomedical Engineering will be among the university team hosting exhibits at Bio Asia-Taiwan 2020 to showcase its portable platform for rapid infectious disease testing, which can quickly identify highly infective patients of Dengue fever.

Since its establishment under the support of the Ministry of Science and Technology (MOST) in 2017, GLORIA NCKU has stayed focused on three main areas: healthcare and biotechnology; smart devices; and green energy and materials. Amid the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020, NCKU's team comprising healthcare, engineering and ICT specialists introduced a smart continuous real-time body temperature monitoring system, which combines the HEARThermo wristband for constant body temperature monitoring and AI algorithms for abnormally high temperature detection. The device has been worn by more than 460 frontline and supporting healthcare workers as well as patients since the onset of the COVID-19 outbreak. The report on the use of the system in COVID-19 control and prevention has been published in the renowned Journal of Microbiology, Immunology and Infection. GLORIA NCKU has also received online inquiries from a New York hospital, and from Irish and British firms about the system. The team has also founded a startup NightingaleAI with a focus on CareAI services to continuingly develop high-tech epidemic prevention solutions. Multiple ICT device manufacturers looking to expand into smart healthcare have expressed interest in investment deals.

As part of its plan to expand into the healthcare sector, Qisda approached NCKU for industry-academia research collaboration. Its subsidiary BenQ Medical Technology engages in a partnership project with NCKU-supported startup Meet Tec to manufacture coating production equipment based on Meet Tec's patented technology, which can apply coating materials onto surfaces of different characteristics. The technology can be used to help manufacturers of wide-ranging products, such as high-end surgical masks, air filters, baby diapers, feminine hygiene products, protective clothing and electronic devices, enabling anti-bacterial and anti-virus properties for their products. These products are also marketed through BenQ Medical Technology's sales network. The partnership project is a perfect example of an industry-academia collaboration result going to market.

More startup firms will present their solutions at Bio Asia-Taiwan 2020, including MediVisionTech's upper gastrointestinal (UGI) bleeding monitoring system. A tiny endoscope with a camera is placed in the stomach via the nasal tunnel. It is connected to a wearable host with image transmission capability. The system constantly monitors images of the stomach for precise and real-time detection of early and post-operative bleeding. Yutech will also exhibit its home care solution, which is a continuously operating heart rate monitor based on a low-power consumption ECG signal sensing module coupled with Bluetooth 5.0 transmission to send data to a remote device.

Having collected Taiwan's most comprehensive virus database, CGU makes contribution to global public health

For its proximity to the Taoyuan International Airport, Chang Gung University (CGU) is selected as a designated coronavirus testing center to help guard Taiwan's borders against COVID-19. CGU's Research Center for Emerging Viral Infections, in charge of coronavirus testing, joined the International Intelligent Biotech and Medical Alliance in 2019. The center will present its platform technology for detecting antiviral efficacy at Bio Asia-Taiwan 2020. Having collected more than half of Taiwan's virus strains, the center holds a valuable virus database, which has attracted the attention of biotechnology firms and venture capitalists.

Antiviral efficacy detection uses cells to test and analyze a product's ability to suppress multiple types of viruses. It provides a way for quantification of virus activity, such as plaque reduction assay, to evaluate a product's ability to kill or suppress virus. Take COVID-19 for example. The center has completed DNA sequencing for 32 COVID-19 strains and isolated antibodies from infected patients for 25 strains. The center has three research papers on COVID-19 published respectively in Journal of Clinical Microbiology, Emerging Microbes and Infections and Nature Structure and Molecular Biology.

Furthermore, the center has long engaged in the study of viruses that are likely to mutate and cause a widespread outbreak, such as enterovirus, influenza virus and avian influenza virus. It has built animal models of enterovirus 71 and influenza virus infection, so it can help assess vaccine and drug efficacy on animals, provide comprehensive virus detection in cells or animals and support later stage development with lab data.

Comprising a group of 50 researchers, the Research Center for Emerging Viral Infections has been in operation for more than a decade since its establishment in 2008. It has engaged in 14 academic exchange and research programs with foreign educational institutions as well as industry-academia collaboration projects with dozens of biotechnology firms every year, including Panion & BF Biotech, Seeing Bioscience, Formosa Biomedical Technology, Far East Bio-Tec, Trentron, Green & Safe and Orange House. Multiple products for influenza virus testing, enterovirus testing and hand soap antiviral efficacy assessment are being marketed as a result of these collaborations. The center even expanded internationally by signing a technology transfer agreement to license its enterovirus viral gene expression plasmid to Singapore-based vaccine company Sun Biotech.

The International Intelligent Biotech and Medical Alliance will further invigorate the center's industry-academia collaboration energy by helping the team led by the center's director Shin-Ru Shih tap more forward-looking international resources and make advances in antiviral efficacy assessment services, test kits, vaccine development services and broad-spectrum antiviral drug research. As part of its initiative to foster startups, the alliance has introduced the center to multiple domestic and international medical testing solution providers and pharmaceutical firms which have expressed interest and actively engaged in talks.

As a member of the Chang Gung Memorial Hospital Group, CGU has access to clinical trial platforms and healthcare technologies. Its International Intelligent Biotech and Medical Alliance was approved and established in August 2019 with an aim to focus on vertically-integrated, high-quality laboratory animal services, DNA sequencing, translational biomedical engineering, testing bio-chips, long-term care, smart healthcare and unique virus strain testing for vaccine production. More than 20 domestic and international enterprises including Infineon and Medigen Vaccine Biologics have signed up to become members of the alliance.

CGU will make its debut at Bio Asia-Taiwan 2020 under the banner of its International Intelligent Biotech and Medical Alliance with 16 teams presenting their research achievements. Kuang-Hung Hsu, vice president, CGU and Wen-Piao Lin, director of Office of Technology Development and Industry Liaison, CGU will join the CGU teams at the event. Aside from the platform technology for detecting antiviral efficacy developed by Shih's team, Chang Gung Hospital will host three exhibits alongside four showcases co-presented with CGU-incubated firms: an indoor space sterilization and disinfection system with Bio-cando, a YSTC precision high voltage DC power supply with You-Shang, a hypochlorous acid generator with Abes and a fecal occult blood test kit with Sigknow Biomedical. Visitors will see actual products on display and have a chance to communicate with the CGU teams to explore potential partnership opportunities.

Field of application has always been the key factor driving rapid commercialization of industry-academia collaboration results. According to NCKU, thanks to MOST's GLORIA project, technology transfer from academic research to commercialization has growth 50% in dollar amount over a three-year period. With Taiwan making outstanding progress in COVID-19 control and prevention, the two universities are committed to continuing their efforts toward developing innovative biomedical technologies, with an aim to help the Taiwan biotech sector expand internationally.

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CGU's platform for detecting antiviral efficacy
Phto: CGU

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NightingaleAI with a focus on CareAI services
Photo: Company

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