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Incubator helps scholarly research serve those in need

R&D Staff of Gene Target were inspecting Toona Sinensis (Juss.) Roem.
Dr. Vivian Chen,CEO of Gene Target Technology Co.,LTD

R&D Staff of Gene Target were inspecting Toona Sinensis (Juss.) Roem.

Dr. Vivian Chen,CEO of Gene Target Technology Co.,LTD

In the movie "Lorenzo's oil"(1992), it tells a truthful story of a four-year-old boy, Lorenzo Odone, suffering from the disease "ALD" (Adrenoleukodystrophy) and how both of his parents, who were originally bankers, devoted themselves to a relentless research for a cure for their son's unrelenting illness.
Of course, we are amazed at Odone couple' steadfast determination and surprised at the successful result of the countless experiments. We may even like to extend our appreciation to Odone couple for the invention of the drug, especially three young ALD patients from a Taiwanese family were once treated by the oil.
Every time we hear a story like this, we may think by luck," Thank God, it's not me." Or suffer from the pall of flashes of anxiety zipping across our mind, "What should I do if it happens to me?" However, as TV news reporting more and more rare diseases, as well as the continually rising cancer patients, we couldn't start to wonder "Am I next?"
We all know that medical science is advancing with each passing day, just as the fast developing information technology. Yet, it's always hard for us to picture the whole strange field due to our lack of relevant knowledge background.
We like to believe that "someone" is applying the abstruse medical techniques in our real life, but never have a concrete image associated with it. Now, in addition to the wealthy researchers, or any other movie characters that have a fortune invested in a scientific project and trying to develop a new cure, a company with a staff of only 8 members can virtually create a new technique that benefits everyone, rather than the special treatment needed patients.
With only 4 c.c. blood from your body, via a medical test of "Gene Detection", you may know your prevalence rate of chronic diseases, according to Gene Target Technology Company, one of the incubated companies at Biomed Innovation Incubation Center (BIIC) in Kaohsiung Medical University.
An incubated company, as its literal meaning, is a freshly growing small enterprise at an incubator, or an incubation center. The incubator, as a real one, provides members technical guidance and support, one-on-one consulting, management advice and collection of funds.
The biomedical industry, as with the example of Lorenzo's oil, drains time and money. A biomed start-up may find its way to success extremely tough when competing against the big enterprises with wealthy resources. Luckily for these rookies, hospitals or medical schools now can be served as the role of an incubator, taking the responsibility of fostering the potential small enterprises.
Kaohsiung Medical University(KMU), also a teaching hospital named "Chung Ho Memorial Hospital", is like any other medical schools we know that enjoys abundant and the latest medical resources. But for long time, these "precious" were merely saved as research results at the laboratories.
Following the government's policy of industry-academy cooperation, the Biomed Innovation Incubation Center was set up a few years ago to bridge the gap between medical research and practical applications. Yet, not until the last year has the Center truly performed its functions. If KMU is the expert having the techniques for the invention of Lorenzo's oil, the Incubation Center will be the one to assist developing the cure, or the product, and further promote it at market.
Translate the hardcore into
"Industry-academy cooperation is the global trend now. Taiwan's National Science Council therefore values the achievement of a translational research as much as a thesis. The scholars are then encouraged to continue developing the scientific discoveries they already have," said Dr. Lin Shiu-ru(林綉茹), the Director of BIIC.
The US National Institutes of Health defines a translational research as following:
"To improve human health, scientific discoveries must be translated into practical applications. Such discoveries typically begin at "the bench" with basic research - in which scientists study disease at a molecular or cellular level - then progress to the clinical level, or the patient's "bedside."
The normal biomedical companies can't usually afford the costly experimental infrastructure, which can be priced up to millions of NT dollars. It is also difficult to catch up with the fast advancing medical industry if a company lacks a direct contact with the professionals. Working with a professional medical school is an equivalent of the access to both facilities and the latest techniques and information. The BIIC's 11 incubated companies are satisfied with professionals from six colleges, a total of 31 departments, building up a close relationship with the KMU.
"Unlike those virtually stationed companies at some schools, these incubators actually set up their research and development center at this school. I see these members everyday and always try my best to meet their needs," said Dr. Lin. Thanks for the strong support of the KMU, each incubated company now has school professor as their consultants. Especially, I, being a professor as well, have more knowledge and capabilities to assist these incubators developing new products."
The BIIC first invited companies to the presentation of the professors' discoveries. When some of these companies showed interests in developing some of the discoveries, they were then invited by BIIC to station in for further cooperation. Each incubator would then enjoy support from a particular expert group upon its new research project.
The research projects covers Chinese and Western medicine discoveries, bio-chips, bio-informatics, health food, medical instruments, and cosmeceutical. The BIIC aims to merchandise the new techniques in these projects and upgrade the startup. Ultimately, BIIC hopes to build up a biomed industrial cluster and foster an international biomed enterprise.
Long way to success
Even though Taiwan's government wishes to evaluate the domestic biotech industry as the second rising star after the IT industry, there seems to be obstacles on related regulations.
"The advance instruments shorten the period of experiments. Within 3~5 days, we can now get the result from an experiment that used to take up to a period of 2~3 months. Yet the related regulations are falling way behind the current technology," said Dr. Lin. "We want to apply the experiment discoveries on clinical research, but we can't find a regulation to tell us how to register these new techniques." The complexity of the regulations is another problem that delays the coming of a new technique.
"Another obstacle is the limit of incubating term. The law regulates three years as an incubating term, which is applied on all incubation centers despite the differences in different industries. The authority wants more enterprises to join incubation centers, but a biomed start-up is not like an IT one that takes only a few years to be well-developed," added Dr. Lin. "Usually, it takes 8~10 years to develop a new medicine. Some incubated companies here may have reached a certain level of research achievement before graduation. But then, they were forced to leave the incubators and some barriers thus appeared."
The aforementioned Gene Target Technology Company is on its second year at the incubator. Although the Director, Dr. Vivian Chen, has successfully translated two techniques from the KMU professors into her research group, she still revealed her worries when talking about the future of her company. "We want to stay, of course. The KMU has such a good environment to offer us supports on hardware and software. Even if we may keep the access to these after we graduate, we do realize the limit and problem that might show," said Dr. Chen.
"Luckily, our station-to-invest proposal to the Pingtung Agricultural Biotechnology Park is just committed. We can then continue developing our research," added Dr. Chen.

Updated : 2021-05-07 18:12 GMT+08:00