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Working with a Nobel laureate: NYCU and CiRA Foundation at Kyoto University signed a Japan–Taiwan collaborative research agreement that aims to automate various processes in iPS cell manufacturing

Source: National Yang Ming Chiao Tung University

Two years ago, NYCU signed a memorandum of understanding with the Center for iPS Cell Research Application (CiRA), which was founded by Prof. Shinya Yamanaka of Kyoto University, a Nobel laureate in Medicine. Since then, great strides have been made in stem cell processing under the collaboration of both parties. The CiRA Foundation of Kyoto University has made plans to send researchers to join the NYCU team this year to step up the development of automated stem cell processing technology and to enhance the capacity for stem cell production to PIC/S GMP standards. Through this, both parties will be committed jointly to the development of next-generation automated 3D stem cell processing.

Through cellular differentiation, stem cells can turn into various cell types and become instrumental in the restoration of body tissues. The success of Dr. Yamanaka in producing induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSC) from somatic cells opened up infinite possibilities for regenerative medicine and won him a Nobel Prize in 2012. Although the potential of stem cells has been widely acknowledged in the field of biomedicine, how advanced processes can be applied for the automated mass production of high-quality stem cells remains a challenge.

Following the memorandum of understanding in 2020, NYCU signed a collaborative research agreement with Dr. Yamanaka and the CiRA Foundation a few days ago. Through this agreement, the CiRA Foundation will collaborate with NYCU in the development of next-generation automated 3D stem cell processing technology and introduce to Taiwan stem cell production standards in line with the international PIC/S GMP standards. This agreement symbolizes the joint effort of NYCU and Kyoto University, and it will enhance Taiwan’s capacity for stem cell production through the contract development and manufacturing organization (CDMO) approach.

This cooperation with a Nobel laureate and the agency he founded has facilitated the coming of numerous Japanese researchers, who will arrive in the first half of this year, and the fielding of a biomedical chip developed by Vice President Chen-Yi Lee, which will be implemented in the monitoring of stem cell quality in production. This biomedical chip, which adopts the standard semiconductor fabrication process in Taiwan for its design, production, and platform establishment, features microfluidic computing (for cutting, mixing, and moving samples of various sizes), 2D/3D capacitive sensing, and temperature control to meet the operational requirements of biology laboratories and perform automated cell testing in accordance with the Bio-Protocol.

Tzu-Hao Cheng, Vice President of NYCU, indicated that the collaboration aims to develop an iPSC processing method that is ideal for biomedical applications in a clinical setting and ensures steady cell quality. NYCU will rely on its expertise in biomedicine and information and communication technology, particularly biomedical imaging technology and biomedical chips, to develop a quality control method for clinical-grade iPSCs. “We expect to apply cutting-edge semiconductor fabrication processes to the automation of stem cell processing and establish processing standards in line with international guidelines. Ultimately, we expect to effectively mass produce stem cells, allowing regenerative medicine to benefit more people,” said Vice President Cheng.

“We have been deepening our relationship with NYCU since 2020 and are honored to have signed this joint research agreement.” said by Prof. Shinya Yamanaka. He also noted “as a researcher and the Representative Director of the CiRA Foundation, I have strongly felt that close cooperation across countries and fields is essential for the practical application of a single research result, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic. In the future, we hope to work even more closely with NYCU to develop technologies that can be implemented internationally.”

Chi-Hung Lin, President of NYCU, said “As a scientist and the President of NYCU, I look forward to strengthening our relationships and collaborations with CiRA foundation, especially in the field of cross disciplinary researches. In 2022, efforts will be focused on using semiconductor technologies for next generation biomedical applications in a variety of disciplines, especially in cell therapies.”

This collaboration was realized through the enthusiastic support of Frank Chang, former President of NCTU; Steve Kuo, former President of NYMU; Stan Shih, Co-founder and Honorary Chairman of Acer Inc.; and Jeff Chen, Visiting Professor of Kyoto University. By applying semiconductor and information and communication technology in regenerative medicine, this collaboration epitomizes NYCU’s ambition in regenerative medicine and will certainly lay the foundation for big health industry in Taiwan.

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