Strong engineering programmes and extensive industry connections make National Cheng Kung University (NCKU) stand out among its peers in Taiwan. This comprehensive, top-tier, research-orientated university is now leveraging its traditional strengths to explore interdisciplinary programmes, combining engineering with medicine and life sciences, and inspiring transformation via industry-academia partnerships.
Whether for biotechnology and biomedicine, genetic plant science, or shrimp aquaculture, global impacts and social responsibilities are integral to NCKU’s three new research areas under its long-term development plan.
A new biomedical ecosystem addressing population ageing
Population ageing is a significant issue in Taiwan, and across the world. As degenerative diseases, including dementia, Parkinson’s, musculoskeletal diseases, and cancer are rising in incidence, and the age demographic shift reduces the number of people to act as carers, innovative medical devices are becoming particularly important to ensure care for the elderly.
Committed to addressing this issue, NCKU has obtained a grant from the Taiwanese government to construct a new ‘smart hospital’ for aged patients. Artificial intelligence (AI) is employed to perform roles in eight main clinical sections of the hospital. An example is the use of e-Dashboard, which is designed to allow easy display of clinical procedures in a flowchart, managing emergency room patients smoothly, safely, and efficiently.
On the clinical front, NCKU researchers have pioneered stem cell therapies to fight degenerative diseases. They have shown evidence of efficacy in animal models, and have treated around 500 blood cancer patients using stem cells isolated from bone marrows. Now, a cell therapy centre is being built for treating patients with cancer, severe burns, skin and neurodegenerative diseases. Aiming for personalised care, NCKU hospital is also harnessing AI to develop precision genomic medicine for patients with various cancers, and cardiovascular diseases.
Based on more than 30 years clinical success and a well-established research infrastructure, including a tissue bank, NCKU is to collaborate with a wider range of health institutions including outpatient clinics, biopharmaceutical companies, research institutes, and international universities to establish a new ecosystem of biomedicine in NCKU. This will deliver better outcomes for patients, especially the elderly, and boost the industrial chain of biomedicine in Taiwan, according to Yan-Shen Shan, dean of the NCKU College of Medicine. “We want to become a centre of bio-technology in Taiwan.”
Unveiling orchid evolution via genome sequence
Orchid is the largest family of flowering plants, whose 30,000 species grow in almost every habitat, except the north and south poles, and extremely hot deserts. Since Darwin’s time, scientists have been trying to understand why there is such diversity in the orchid family, and now a collaborative study by NCKU researchers has unravelled some answers about orchid evolution.