Taiwan’s New Innovations Emerging on the International Stage of Biomedicine and FinTech

Article By : TAcc+ and EE Times Taiwan

CancerFree and Crypto Arsenal rank among the top 10 highest-quality teams in their respective fields at the "2022 Select USA Tech American Investment Summit" battlefield.

The globalization trend has now made internationalization an important goal of all startup teams. Meanwhile, assisting startups to present themselves on the international stage is also a crucial task of TAcc+ (Taiwan Accelerator Plus), the latest international startup accelerator in Taiwan. For example, competing in major overseas startup competitions has always been one of the most effective ways for startup teams to make themselves known. For this year, the TAcc+ supported teams have achieved great things in Select USA, the key competition event in the world of startups.

As an event organized by the United States Department of Commerce to promote foreign investment in the United States, this year’s Select USA is the largest in history, with a total of more than 3,600 people participating, including 2,000 overseas visitors from 70 countries of which 267 people were from Taiwan. The startup competition primarily focuses on fields including FinTech, e-commerce, medical technology, cyber security, clean technology, and software, among others. Of the top ten winners of the major theme competitions, Taiwan’s startup teams have won 14 seats.

With the assistance of TAcc+, two of these startups have joined the “2022 Select USA Tech American Investment Summit” battlefield and ranked among the top ten highest-quality teams in their respective fields: CancerFree Biotech Ltd. (Cancerfree), which focuses on “avatar medicine” technology; and Crypto Arsenal, which is building a one-stop platform for cryptocurrency quantitative trading.

Helping Fight Cancer With Cancerfree’s Internationally Renowned ‘Avatar Medicine’ Technology

In the field of medical technology, Cancerfree is upper echelon — despite its youth; it was established in 2018. Using the Circulating Tumor Cell (CTC) Amplification Technology adopted from the Taipei Medical University Hospital as its core, Cancerfree has created an anti-cancer tumor clone drug test called EVA Select, which has already served thousands of global cancer patients. Chaney Ho, former president of Advantech Co. Ltd. and the team’s mentor; Chun-Chuan Chien, chairman of Bio-Check Laboratories; and other well-known industry figures are all investors — proving that its future success was well-recognized and even expected.

Figure 1: Cancerfree team members conducting cancer cell observations.

A small amount of blood (about 20cc) is drawn from cancer patients, and then the cancer cells in the blood are separated for in vitro expansion culture and drug testing to analyze the effectiveness of existing clinical drugs. With unique theoretical assumptions of application and technology, Cancerfree’s cancer cell culture can achieve a success rate of up to 90%. Above all, Cancerfree refers to its novel technique as “avatar medicine” since it is specifically designed to preserve the heterogeneity of cancer cells closer to the patient’s actual tumor form.

“Heterogeneity is the biggest difference between us and other competitors,” said Po Chen, founder, CEO, Cancerfree. To simulate the in vivo effect of drugs in vitro, it is vital that heterogeneity is preserved. Cancerfree’s technology platform can cultivate tumor organoids, which are not only a single population of cancer cells but also rare brain cancers such as glioblastoma multiforme. A brain tumor surgeon from Zhengzhou University once shared with the Cancerfree team that, in practice, they may not even be able to successfully cultivate 1 out of 10 tumors at the university.

As heterogeneity is preserved and each blood sample is allowed to retain its uniqueness, it looks as if a substitute is testing the effect of drugs in vitro, so that more accurate prescriptions can be achieved.

Chen said, “Everyone is a unique individual, and it is difficult for you to determine how it will work on you.” Prior to the development of Cancerfree’s technology, the majority of patients had no choice but to test drugs on their own bodies. Using Cancerfree’s technology to test drugs in vitro, patients are able to understand not only the effect of the medicine itself but also the different effects it may have on themselves and others taking the same medicine.

Figure 2: Group photo of Cancerfree team members.

The CTC amplification technology originated from Taipei Medical University, and Cancerfree has grown it into an executable technology. What’s even more unique is that Cancerfree has combined software and hardware technology to automate the processes of detection and analysis, greatly improving detection efficiency. For instance, the labor-intensive and time-consuming jobs, such as staining cells have been replaced by manipulators to allow more effective use of manpower. Computer-vision programs are also utilized to identify the number of cancer cells in the stained cells. Under the premise of the same computer performance, the results have greatly improved, from running one sample in a half-hour to running a minimum of eight in five minutes.

The combination of automation and biology stems from Chen’s distinctive background. Not educated in traditional medicine or biomedical sciences, he studied Information technology at Carnegie Mellon University. After graduation, he joined Morgan Stanley, a well-known financial services provider in the states, working his way from data engineer to vice president of the enterprise computing department. With an educational background in science and engineering, Chen noticed the limitations of the traditional testing process while discussing it with doctors. This led him to the conclusion that he should use technology to further his cause.

“Initially, I felt that the traditional biotechnology approach has limitations in output value and labor efficiency. Perhaps it can become more efficient in combination with other methods,” Chen said. He added that, after speaking with doctors, he felt the process was too challenging for him, and a lack of funds at the inception of his company also forced him to consider a different means of operation — automation was one of the solutions he came up with.

“Taipei Medical University has matured the CTC technology,” he said. “Since we did not get support from investors in the traditional biotechnology industry, it was difficult for us to surpass the competition in the equipment war and R&D war. As a result, I made the decision to opt for automation right away.”

The introduction of automation has become one of Cancerfree’s main strengths, making use of a smaller scale of capital to gradually create a loud voice in the domestic and foreign markets. A smiling Chen said, ” Many of our competitors have much more funds than us, but we were able to get the most out of what we have” He added that he has not only collaborated with equipment makers to automate the process of blood processing — from taking cells from blood to sending them into incubators — but has also worked with external partners to introduce artificial intelligence (AI) and big data to further improve drug selection accuracy.

Technologies like AI, big data, CTC, derived organoids, and E.V.A. Select are what make up the growth engine that drives Cancerfree. Partner Soft-Landing Program (PSP) will be implemented in Japan and mainland China to collaborate with local partners and develop new equipment to demonstrate the technology on the client’s side. He also plans to raise $2 million to establish a laboratory in the U.S and begin to work with pharmaceutical companies in the hope of helping them conduct more efficient research and development.

Having taken care of his father who was suffering from three types of cancer, Chen has a strong motivation to assist cancer patients. Hoping that Cancerfree’s technology can help someone succeed in fighting cancer encourages him to keep persevering with enthusiasm and confidence in facing the severe cross-domain and fundraising challenges.

“Death is the only competitor in biotechnology,” he said. He hopes that Cancerfree’s technology can offer every patient the opportunity to test and then obtain the appropriate medicine, and he will continue to strengthen automation to optimize costs so that more people can benefit from this technology.

Crypto Arsenal Creates a Unique “Bilateral Cloud Platform” to Penetrate the Global Cryptocurrency Market

Cryptocurrency has been undoubtedly a hot market topic in recent years. It is not just a new technology term. In fact, it has already generated the so-called FinTech products, and its related technologies have been continuously evolving. All in all, it will gradually change the public’s perception of investment and trading activities and upend the entire traditional financial world. Founded in 2019 and guided by the Industrial Technology Research Institute (ITRI) TAcc+ accelerator, the Crypto Arsenal has not only seen the huge development potential of the cryptocurrency market but is fully aware of the pain points of investors (traders) and strategy developers (quants) who are currently investing in cryptocurrency quantitative trading. Thus, Crypto Arsenal has decided to conquer the world with a bilateral cloud quantitative trading platform that demands high ease of use and transparency.

Standing out from thousands of teams around the world, Crypto Arsenal was the first blockchain-related startup company from Taiwan to join the 14th echelon of the world-renowned Silicon Valley, USA Berkeley SkyDeck accelerator. Moreover, it also received a warm response from the investment circle due to its excellent performance on the Demo Day held by SkyDeck at the end of September.

Now, Crypto Arsenal has prepared for its seed round of fundraising. Full of confidence, Richard Lee, founder and CEO of Crypto Arsenal, said he will continue to keep close contact with the cryptocurrency investment communities in Taiwan and the world. In addition, he will keep on strengthening the functionality and ease of use of his platform.

To promote his own technology, he will also cooperate with universities and colleges including Taiwan’s National Taiwan University and National Tsing Hua University as well as University of California, Berkeley. He said he will eye on those professors and departments offering fintech and cryptocurrency-related courses, persuading them to hold quantitative trading strategy competitions by using his tool platform free of charge.

Figure 3: Richard Lee shared his platform at the Demo Day of Berkeley SkyDeck, a well-known accelerator in Silicon Valley, USA.

Lee majored in industrial design in college and double majored in information engineering and electrical engineering in the USC Institute. He once worked as a firmware engineer at Hsinchu Science Industrial Park and then senior executive of a foreign company. As he has a diverse professional background and a natural desire to try many things, he always has the idea of starting his own business. Later, he joined the ITRI to assist in the coaching of new startup teams, while he also tried to invest in several entrepreneurial projects, for which he encountered some bottlenecks and kept pivoting.

It was until 2017 when bitcoin took off with an astonishing price surge and skyrocketing trading volume that Lee and his team decided to ride on this craze to write their own programmed trading bots to automate cryptocurrency trading. In the beginning, they worked just for the fun and the engineer’s pursuit of automation and their belief in “Code is Law”. Never did they expect that the platform would really bring in so big a profit, thus inspiring Lee to start up his own firm.

“I thought at that time that if I could develop a platform that allows cryptocurrency traders to freely develop strategies and publish robots, while ordinary investors who do not know how to write programs can also use these robots on the platform, I would have a very useful topic for future development!” Since then, Lee has determined the direction to study the method in depth and build Crypto Arsenal’s unique weapon step by step.

As the cryptocurrency trading market operates 24 hours a day, making investors unable to trade and track the market at any time like buying and selling stocks, while most of investors in cryptocurrency trading are younger generation who know how to better use technological tools, he believes that a cloud-based digital platform that can combine strategic development and investment will inevitably have its demand and value. Moreover, he has contacted some high-profile Internet influencers involved in the cryptocurrency trading market during the product development process and they offered him lots of valuable suggestions for building platform features.

Lee said that he and his team are mostly engineers. After getting inspiration, they would simply want to quickly make such products to allow the platform to operate stably. In fact, the initial platform was not very functional and complete, nor did they have a business model and marketing concept. They simply knew that a two-way platform that can be used by both investors and traders is the most difficult to make.

During the stumbling development process, Lee met Alex, president of Alexander Quant Alliance, by chance on one occasion. Well-known as “Marshal A” at the so-called “currency circle”, Alex, who owns a great deal of investment experience in the cryptocurrency market and professional development of trading strategy programs, witnessed the powerful tool platform created by Crypto Arsenal. Alex said that when he first heard the mission and vision of the Crypto Arsenal platform, he felt that the platform really grasped the “hard” demand of cryptocurrency investors and strategy developers, so he was willing to have further exchanges and cooperation with the team so as to assist platform tool development and the launch of strategies.

Figure 4: Crypto Arsenal’s platform enables developers of cryptocurrency trading strategies to easily launch their bots.

In the cryptocurrency investment market, a set of “trading strategies” with good profitability and risk control plays a very important role. If investors can make good use of strategic tools, they can increase profit opportunities and reduce risks. Strategy developers refer to a group of professionals who are not only capable of programming and experienced in cryptocurrency investment but can also grasp market trends and changes to develop and obtain maximum investment benefits.

These strategy developers often form communities and exert influence through social medias. Of course, many of them are investors themselves, but there are also some strategy developers who use the robots developed by Crypto Arsenal as a business model.

Lee said, “The master warrior is in the private sector.” Alex is a master strategist hidden in the social network. His social media community now has tens of thousands of members, with followers ranging from 18 to 35 years old, and many of them make a profit of tens of million NT dollars every year. By communicating with Alex and his community members, Crypto Arsenal has not only made the development of platform products more smoothly but has also found a clear direction in business model and marketing strategy.

Lee said that for policy developers, Crypto Arsenal’s cloud platform tools that can ensure information security allow them to write, debug and publish policies in a free, flexible and efficient way. Meanwhile, through the “Bot-as-a-Service” model, investors can easily choose and use these trading strategy programs. In addition, the platform can also enable influential strategic developers to form an exclusive membership community similar to Patreon, establish a business model, and continue to expand the scale of the community.

So far, the Crypto Arsenal platform has gathered more than 4,000 users, developed more than 9,000 strategies, and reached the milestone of more than 800 paying customers and nearly 4 million monthly transactions in the past month. Lee emphasized that the goal of Crypto Arsenal is to create an ecosystem where investors and strategy developers can profit from it and prosper and grow, and his team can obtain a source of revenue and grow. Through such a “win-win” business model paradigm, Lee and his team also expect to contribute to the health and prosperity of the emerging cryptocurrency market, which is still in the chaotic development stage.

 

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