Putting the AI in Taiwan: A Peek inside the Use of Intelligent Technology in Taiwan’s Life Science Ecosystem

30 Jul

Cheng-Yu Chen

An interview with Cheng-Yu Chen, VP of Taipei Medical University
By Jessica Yang, Investor Research Analyst, LSN

Jessica Yang

In recent years, Taiwan has rapidly been catching up to the global Artificial Intelligence (AI) wave, as the government, leading industries, and academic institutions have proactively worked together to make Taiwan an AI talent hub in Asia. The well-known information and communications technology (ICT) and semiconductor industry in Taiwan have established a great foundation for intelligent technology development.

I had the opportunity to speak with Cheng-Yu Chen, VP of Taipei Medical University (TMU). Dr. Chen is also the Director of the Research Center for Artificial Intelligence in Medicine at TMU. Taipei Medical University has worked with Life Science Nation (LSN) and brought its spin-off companies to attend the Redefining Early Stage Investments (RESI) conferences for multiple years. TMU is also one of the most active academic institutions in Taiwan and has built its own AI in Medicine ecosystem. This includes the Technology Commercialization Center (TMU-TCC), the Smart Hospital Simulation Lab (SHSL), an incubator/accelerator, and hospitals, which not only support AI professionals, but also help with early-stage AI companies’ fundraising and business development.

Dr. Chen shared a comprehensive perspective of Taiwan’s AI in life science developments, and how Taipei Medical University has become an AI innovation hub in Taiwan.

Jessica Yang (JY): How do you see AI in life science developments and opportunities in Taiwan?

Cheng-Yu Chen (CC): Taiwan has been seeking to develop world-leading AI infrastructure and to become an important player in the global AI value chain. Especially within the life sciences area, I think Taiwan can leverage the following advantages that make it an essential hub to develop and promote AI technology:

(1) An industry leadership position in the manufacturing of ICT & semiconductor hardware

(2) The Taiwan government’s strong support and commitment to improving the AI R&D environment

(3) A no.1 ranking in the Global Open Data Index and a high level of transparency of data-sharing

When all these data combine with our ICT industries, it provides a friendly environment for testing the application of AI. In addition, the Taiwan government’s ongoing AI action plan, which includes the intent to introduce new laws and regulations to promote AI development, also helps professionals gain access to over 20 years of data from the National Health Insurance Administration while maintaining patients’ privacy. Overall, I see lots of promising opportunities in Taiwan to incorporate AI in life sciences.

JY: What are Taipei Medical University’s current efforts and accomplishments in AI in life science development?

CC: Here at Taipei Medical University (TMU), we understand that “No data, no AI,” thus TMU established the first Graduate Institute of Biomedical Informatics in Taiwan in 1998, which cultivated a sufficient talent pool to catch up the current global AI trend. Then we followed the government’s AI action plan to build more professional programs in AI in Medicine in recent years. These programs are aimed to increase the number of medical doctors, medical technologists, and clinic professionals with a working knowledge and skills in AI.

Furthermore, we also have the Research Center for AI in Medicine, the Smart Hospital Simulation Lab (SHSL), the Technology Commercialization Center (TMU-TCC), incubators, and hospitals, all designed to advance AI technologies. A professor who has a great idea can start a company through the commercialization center, the incubator programs can help find resources, and our research centers and labs can provide systems to complete proof-of-concept. As an example, we have already curated three AI-related companies in the past two years:

(1) DermAI: AI solutions to detect Malignant Melanoma (MM) and the risk of acnes

(2) AESOP Technology: AI-based prescription error prevention solution to maximize patient safety

(3) Redica Health: Ted-ICU AI solution to help with smart hospital construction

We plan to start two more companies next year.

JY: Both DermAI and AESOP have attended RESI before! Speaking of this, does TMU have any international collaborations in AI in life science development?

CC: Yes. There are many aspects on which we work with international corporations and institutes. For example, we partnered with AstraZeneca on incubator programs and clinical trial collaboration. We have also cooperated with the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) to organize Hackathons on Health IoT programs. We also worked with Stanford University, University of Pennsylvania, and the University of California, and sent our talents to learn AI imaging and surgical planning, etc. at these institutions. For the spin-off companies I just mentioned, AESOP Technology partnered with Harvard Innovation Labs and Brigham and Women’s Hospital to complete prescription screening tests. We expect to have more collaborations worldwide in the next few years.

JY: As we know, Taiwan did a great job in in preventing COVID-19 spread – do you think AI helps with this successful response?

CC: Yes. Our government, hospitals, and research institutes all took rapid actions that made Taiwan able to develop a nationwide mask sitemap using AI in real-time, as well as an AI-applied alert system incorporated in hospitals to decrease the risk of COVID-19 spread and local transmission.

In addition, the Ministry of Science and Technology (MOST) is gathering principal investigators’ ideas to further develop preventive strategies for such a pandemic, and many are AI-related. I think that as long as Taiwan keeps an innovative mindset and grasps the advantages of AI development, we will be able to build a successful and leading ecosystem in AI in the life science arena.

As AI is playing a significant role in the healthcare arena worldwide, LSN plans to launch the inaugural 4D Meets AI partnering conference September 17 – 18, 2020. This new 4D Meets AI conference is set to provide a new platform for all companies developing Drugs, Devices, Diagnostics, and Digital Health (the 4 Ds), with an Artificial Intelligence (AI) vertical, to meet and connect with investors and strategic partners. Visit http://4dmeetsai.com/ to learn more and register.

The Innovation Challenge for Digital RESI September is Accepting Applications!

30 Jul

By Claire Jeong, Vice President of Investor Research, Asia BD, LSN


One of the biggest challenges facing fundraising CEOs working to bridge the gap between potential and partnership is the ability to stand out among a sea of promising tech and connect with the right investors for their work. Life Science Nation (LSN) wants to make the choices clearer for investors, which is why we’ve developed the Innovation Challenge for early-stage companies.  The Innovation Challenge is designed to highlight the best of the best so deserving companies can showcase their work to strategic partners.

The Innovation Challenge for the 3-Day Digital Redefining Early Stage Investments (RESI) Conference in September is now accepting applications for two weeks only, due August 12!

For fundraising life science companies, participating in the Innovation Challenge is a great way to increase visibility. All participating companies will have a dedicated landing page featuring materials (example screenshot below) that the companies can use to promote and direct traffic, just like they would do at an in-person RESI.

In addition, they will be featured on the Next Phase blog and newsletter, as well as LSN’s social networking platforms. Finalists also are indicated with a special badge within our partnering system indicating their Innovation Challenge Finalist status.

Attendees are also encouraged to vote for their favorite, most innovative companies and the Top 3 Winners who receive the most votes can receive free tickets for up to 3 future RESI Conferences of their choice.

The Innovation Challenge review team has compiled a list of guidelines to help companies with their application process:

What makes a high-score company?

The evaluation process is based not only on scientific merit, but also on how ready the company is to present to an investor (“investor-readiness”). A perfectly scored company would have a transformational technology that can achievably address a high unmet need using a differentiable novel approach or target. Alongside high innovation, differentiation, unmet need, and market fit, a high-scoring company would have a broad IP position, an experienced management team and CEO with top-tier advisors, and strategic alliances with manufacturing and clinical partners. The company will also receive high marks for having what we call “investor-ready” marketing material (executive summary, pitch deck, website).

Clearly describe your technology.

Like any marketing material, you need to be clear. Be sure you understand and answer the questions fully. The team has seen unclear responses as to what a company’s technology is and its significance in improvement.

Be honest with your answers.

The team frequently reviews applications that state they have no competitors in the space, when most likely, they do. Novel products do have competitors before them, for established technology does exist in the indication your product targets. Be honest with whom your competitors are, and then address what the key differentiators are to your product. Even if your product is an incremental improvement, be honest and highlight this and it can still be attractive!

For example, competitors for your disease-modifying therapeutic may be symptom-treating therapeutics in the same indication that are either commercialized or being developed. You should identify these symptom-treating therapeutics and highlight your novel target approach that makes your product disease-modifying.

Explain your current standings in detail.

Outline everything you have in terms of your current standing, while also providing your outlook of where you hope to go. Avoid ambiguous statements such as, “CEO is an experienced entrepreneur”. Instead, provide details that highlight the CEO’s experience – years as an entrepreneur, number and names of companies exited, background expertise, etc.

Provide short-range and long-term horizons.

If you do not have certain criteria, such as a strategic alliance or IP, that’s perfectly fine. State your current standing and provide what steps you are currently taking to reach that milestone. For Alliances and Collaborations, state your verbal relationships; for IP status, state how many you have filed or are planning to file. Providing your strategy is better than a simple yes or no.

Put in a balanced effort.

You should not spend 5 minutes on this application, and neither should you spend 5 hours. Your answers should be brief, as well as detailed – the team has received hasty, effortless applications that are quickly discarded with a low score. On the other hand, you also shouldn’t spend an excessive amount of time on the application, as these are all straight-forward questions that you should be comfortable answering. Remember, as your executive summary should answer all these questions alone, this application is the backbone of the evaluation process and essentially your executive summary.

Send us your marketing material.

If you have marketing material, send it. This includes your slide deck, executive summary, website, videos – any supplemental material that can boost understanding of your technology and whether your company is investor-ready. The application provides limited space – while this forces you to get straight to the point, supplemental material explains what an application cannot (i.e. figures, graphs, pipeline, non-confidential data, etc.)

Companies can submit their applications for the Digital RESI September Innovation Challenge by August 12 at here. Learn more about Digital RESI September at resiconference.com.

Panel Spotlight: AI in Drug Discovery and Development

30 Jul

By Rory McCann, Marketing Manager & Conference Producer, LSN

Life Science Nation (LSN) has been busy this summer recruiting panelists for its Inaugural 4D Meets AI partnering conference, exploring the impact of Artificial Intelligence (AI) on Drugs, Devices, Diagnostics, and Digital Health (the 4 Ds), while facilitating conversations between early-stage companies and strategic partners.

We are pleased to introduce the AI in Drug Discovery and Development panel, discussing repurposing existing drugs and identifying, optimizing, and validating new drug candidates. This panel features five leaders in this area coming together to lead a discussion on their work in the field, predictions moving forward, and best practices to bring AI-driven therapeutics to the patients who need it most. Get to know them, and then register to join the conversation September 17-18.

Andrew Satz, MS, Co-Founder & CEO, EVQLV (Moderator)

Andrew Satz is the CEO and Co-Founder of EVQLV, a technology company leveraging AI to accelerate the speed and lower the failure rates of biologics discovery and development. He co-developed EVQLV’s biologics discovery engine, which uses a wide range of machine learning and software engineering techniques to design and screen novel biologics. A data scientist by training, Satz is a seasoned entrepreneur and technologist having founded multiple startups and holding leadership roles in companies ranging from insurance to biotech. Satz holds a BA in Economics and MS in Data Science, both from Columbia University.

Gini Deshpande, PhD, Founder & CEO, NuMedii

Gini Deshpande, PhD, is the founder and CEO of NuMedii, a data-driven drug discovery company that pioneered the use of artificial intelligence and advanced data sciences to rapidly discover new precision therapeutics. Having raised the company’s financing and overseen successful partnerships with several large pharma companies, she is now spearheading the company’s efforts in the development of its own pipeline in fibrosis and orphan oncology indications. Previously, she helped Affymetrix and other companies with market development strategies for their innovative technologies. She led intrapreneurial efforts at Children’s Hospital Boston for the creation of new devices for the tiniest of patients and vaccines for the developing world. Gini has also helped commercialize early-stage life science technologies in research tools, diagnostics & therapeutics and has closed licensing deals worth several million. Gini received her PhD in Biological Sciences from Purdue University and did post-doctoral work at Massachusetts General Hospital.

Irwin Gelman, MPh, PhD, Founder, Veronomics, Inc.

Veronomics, Inc. is a Delaware C Corporation (registered in New York State) headquartered in the University at Buffalo New York State Center of Excellence in Bioinformatics and Life Sciences. The company was founded by Irwin H. Gelman, PhD, who is a Distinguished Professor of Oncology and Director of Research Integration in the Roswell Park Comprehensive Cancer Center, and Track Chair of the UB-Roswell Park academic program in Cancer Genetics, Genomics and Development. Dr. Gelman received his BA in Biochemistry at Wesleyan University, MA, MPh and PhD degrees from Columbia University, and was an American Cancer Society Postdoctoral Associate in the lab of Prof. Hidesaburo Hanafusa at The Rockefeller University. Dr. Gelman has been involved with two biotech startups currently traded on the NASDAQ, Antigenics LLC (now Agenus) and Kinex Pharmaceuticals (now Athenex), where he helped develop the Src-family kinase inhibitors, KX2-391 and KX2-361, now in Phase II and III clinical trials for several cancers.

Rafael Rosengarten, PhD, Co-Founder & CEO, Genialis, Inc.

Rafael leads Genialis’ effort to integrate and mine vast and diverse sources of biomedical knowledge to realize the promise of precision medicine and therapeutic discovery. He spent nearly 20 years in biomedical research prior to Genialis, publishing on the evolution of innate immune systems, bioengineering of microbes, and genetics of development. Rafael co-invented the j5 DNA assembly design automation software for high-throughput molecular design and analyses (since commercialized by TeselaGen). Rafael earned his doctorate at Yale University, and conducted postdoctoral research at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory’s Joint BioEnergy Institute (JBEI) and Baylor College of Medicine. In his free time, Rafael enjoys cooking and rock-climbing, and raising heirloom tomatoes and two precocious children.

Nabiha Saklayen, PhD, Co-Founder & CEO, Cellino Biotech, Inc.

Nabiha Saklayen is a bio-inspired physicist and entrepreneur. Nabiha launched Cellino to converge physics, biology, and machine learning to enable paradigm shifts in regenerative medicine. Cellino is building the next generation of cell and tissue therapies with a proprietary platform technology that makes stem cell-derived therapies scalable for the first time. Nabiha was recognized as a Pioneer in MIT Tech Review’s 35 Innovators under 35 list for her inventions in laser-based delivery methods and is on the 2019 Forbes under 30 List for Healthcare. She received her PhD in Physics from Harvard University as an HHMI International Fellow. She made significant scientific contributions to the field of pulsed-laser delivery to cells, with several peer-reviewed papers published, patents pending, and grants awarded. Nabiha grew up in Saudi Arabia, Bangladesh, Germany, and Sri Lanka.

Hot Investor Mandate: VC Firm with USA & Asia Offices Seeks to Invest In Medical Devices, Diagnostics, and Digital Health

30 Jul

A venture capital firm with offices in USA and Asia manages over $750 million in committed capital across 8 funds. The most recent fund closed in 2016. The firm focuses on early stage companies in Technology and Healthcare sectors with an initial investment size ranging from $500k to $5M.The firm primarily looks to invest in companies based in China and US.

The firm is currently looking for new investment opportunities in Diagnostics, Medical Devices, Healthcare IT and Advanced Materials sectors. The firm is very opportunistic in terms of subsectors and indications, and is open to all classes of devices. The firm prefers to invest companies in pre-clinical and clinical stage, but it is open to consider companies with products on the market. Historically, the firm was active in companies developing diagnostic services and instrumentation, fetal monitoring and ultrasound systems, a stem cell bank, numerous health IT and vascular closure devices.

The firm invests in both private and public companies with a strong management team. The firm doesn’t have specific requirements for companies’ revenue or EBITDA. The firm looks to take a Board seat post investment.

If you are interested in more information about this investor and other investors tracked by LSN, please email mandates@lifesciencenation.com.

Hot Investor Mandate: Joint Venture Investment Firm Makes Strategic Investments in Digital Health Technologies that Transform Pharmaceutical & Healthcare Industries

30 Jul

A joint venture investment company launched by two large corporations strives to catalyze the success of digital medicine products, services and business models by investing in early-stage companies and leveraging its extensive networks in Pharma, Mobile/IT, and investment community. The firm prefers to co-invest and makes equity investments of up to $5 million per deal. The firm is currently seeking opportunities in the US, EU, and Israel.

The firm is seeking entrepreneurs using digital technology to transform pharmaceutical products, sales and marketing, R&D, and enterprise operations. The firm also considers personalized medicine using -omics science. Examples may include enterprise software solutions that improves clinical care or mobile sensors for disease management in home care settings. The firm is less interested in consumer products. The firm is seeking products with some market traction or credible customers.

The firm works with strong founders who demonstrate full understanding of their market sector.

If you are interested in more information about this investor and other investors tracked by LSN, please email mandates@lifesciencenation.com.

Hot Investor Mandate: USA Investment Firm Seeks Early-Stage Therapeutics in All Disease Areas, Involved in Direct Investment & Company Co-Creation

30 Jul

A USA-based investment firm is currently investing in early stage biotechnology companies and company creation/spinout/licensing opportunities from dedicated capital. These investments are typically standalone and/or syndicated with a network of investors that have invested with the firm in the past. The firm founds 1-2 companies per year by creating a company around an asset that they acquired or in-licensed. The firm also considers investments in 0-2 existing companies per year, which are typically early in the company’s development and/or follow-on investments. The firm invests globally but requires the company or development programs have a North America component.

The firm is a flexible and opportunistic investor and will consider any therapeutics area, primarily in specialty areas of medicine with a focus on niche areas of medicine and smaller indications, including rare orphan diseases. The firm focuses on drug development and makes occasional investments in therapeutic devices. The firm focuses on clinical stage drug development opportunities, but may consider earlier stage products if the drug is a repositioning/reformulation opportunity or has some human safety data in another indication and/or territory. The firm will generally focus on single therapeutic assets and avoids diagnostics, platforms, and computational biology companies that lack any drug assets.

The firm is open to both lead and co-investing depending on the opportunity. However, typically the firm will not be a lead on a large raise. If the firm creates the company they will be a very active, hands-on investor. The firm is open to investing in very young companies.

If you are interested in more information about this investor and other investors tracked by LSN, please email mandates@lifesciencenation.com.

Hot Investor Mandate: VC Firm Dedicated to Investing in Therapeutics, Devices, Diagnostics, and Digital Health Technologies Related to Women’s Health

30 Jul

A venture capital firm based in the USA is focused on women’s health and is looking to invest in early-stage companies that develop related technologies. The firm seeks to engage in seed to series A financing rounds and the typical allocation size is up to 1 million USD. The firm is open to both leading and co-investing and is likely to seek a board seat. The firm will consider opportunities across the U.S and is looking to make up to 5 new investments in the next 12 months.

The firm will consider therapeutics, diagnostics, medical devices and digital health as long as the technologies are related to women’s health. The firm is focused on conditions that “affect only women, affect mostly women, and are worse in women”. Within the above categories, the firm will consider all subsectors and indications, including obstetrics and gynecology, cardiology, neurology, infectious diseases, and orphan drugs. The firm is flexible about the phase of development and will consider companies that are relatively early. In general, the firm will consider therapeutics companies that are pre-clinical stages with strong early data and device and diagnostics companies that are in early models of development.

The firm does not have specific requirement for company’s management team. The firm is likely to take a board seat in its portfolio companies and act as an active investor.

If you are interested in more information about this investor and other investors tracked by LSN, please email mandates@lifesciencenation.com.

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