Berkeley Public Health welcomes second cohort of Taiwanese startup executives

In late February, six representatives from four Taiwanese startups traveled to Berkeley as the second cohort of the Taiwan-Berkeley Innovation Accelerator program. The participants will spend three months in intense networking and training sessions with health professionals, pharmaceutical executives, life science investors, and experts in health regulation and reimbursement strategies to promote cutting edge inventions in health technology.

The initiative—a partnership between Berkeley Public Health, UC Berkeley–based business accelerator program SkyDeck, Taiwan’s Ministry of Science and Technology, and the National Development Council of Taiwan—was launched by Dean Michael C. Lu last year xas a way to offer Taiwanese medical technology startups access to the innovative healthcare opportunities in the Bay Area.

While in Berkeley, the group will not only take advantage of mentorship by Berkeley Public Health faculty and access to Sky Deck’s facilities, but also proximity to Silicon Valley’s technology investment capital, helping the entrepreneurs scale up from research and small-scale ventures to extensive projects with lasting impact.

Il-Lin Tsai and Yi-Hsi (Ben) Huang are the founders of Astron Med-tech Co. Ltd, which markets minimally invasive devices that mend muscle tissue torn in sports injuries with the aim to combat over-dependence on antibiotics and addiction to pain medication in the U.S. After just two weeks in Berkeley, Tsai and Huang are already setting the groundwork for connections with prime sports medicine investors.

“We’re looking forward to exploring the markets and building relationships with surgeons and consultants, and the faculty at Berkeley Public Health, so the next time we are here in the Bay Area, we already have foundations,” said Huang. “People are looking here to the Bay Area for the latest innovations. We can go back to Taiwan and take these relationships with us.”

Tsai is seeking to learn more about the health reimbursement system in the United States. “It’s difficult to see how the relationships between surgeons, investors, and insurance companies works, but here in-person, we can actually approach the surgeons to have those conversations, and set up meetings directly with investors,” he said.

Isaac Tseng, medical advisor for AcroViz Technology is coming to Berkeley with more than 20 years of experience in radiology. AcroViz uses neural fiber imaging to predict how the brain ages, and detecting early brain changes that may signify a risk for dementia, Parkinson’s, or Alzheimer’s, and even if the brain has suffered traumatic injuries.

Tseng hopes to use his time with the SkyDeck team to learn a new business model that will interest U.S. investors. The new model would align with lifestyles that patients can adopt to decrease their risks of brain aging.

“This program is like a bridge so that we can take advantage of the connections to many people in the United States so that our business will grow and prevail here. I’m excited that we were selected and funded to come here to engage in these opportunities,” Tseng said.

Cancer Free Biotech, a project by founders Yi Hsuan Chen and Kevin Chao, offers a highly-personalized, less invasive product that determines the type of chemotherapy, targeted therapy and hormone therapy drugs that are best-suited to a particular patient’s type of cancer based on blood tests. In clinical trials, tests have yielded positive outcomes for patients with pancreatic cancer, meaning that the drugs suggested by the tests were able to either shrink or get rid of tumors entirely. The team plans to use their product on rare forms of cancer such as pancreatic cancer, brain tumors, and sarcomas.

Chen and Chao are returning to Berkeley Public Health after attending the accelerator last year. They hope to reconnect in person with doctors and investors they met online last year, and they want to continue honing their knowledge of business practices in the U.S. to interest even more investors and hospitals in their product.

“We’re excited to meet everyone in person,” said Chao.

The final startup in the current cohort is Well Gen Medical Co.. Founded by Eason Lin, the startup is working on an automated microscope for more accurate smear scans.

“We are excited to be hosting these startup teams, who are working on some amazing health innovations, from developing AI-assisted algorithms for prediction and early detection of dementia, to improving treatment precision for pancreatic and other cancers, to innovating minimally-invasive orthopedic soft-tissue repair, to enhancing the accuracy of TB screening,” said Dean Lu. “The program also provides an extraordinary opportunity for our students, faculty, and researchers to meet and potentially collaborate with global innovators and entrepreneurs who are working on health innovations for social good.”

Interested students, faculty, or researchers can contact the teams by emailing Dominique Kim at dominique.kim@berkeley.edu or Estefani Barba at estefani.barba@berkeley.edu.

 

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