Biomedical& ICT, Taiwan Aims to Lead the Digital Healthcare Market

Can the convergence of Taiwan’s Biomedical and ICT Industry help Taiwan grow into a leader in the digital health market?

Taiwan is a world-renowned leader in the global information communication technology (ICT) supply chain, and 23.7% of the world’s smartphone is produced by Taiwanese companies and their affiliates.1 However, the IT hardware industry has reached maturity, and the Taiwanese network communications industry’s production value is estimated to decline by 1% in 2019.  Therefore, the ICT companies are now turning their sights toward the country’s biomedical industry for the next stage of growth. In this year’s MEDTEX Summit Asia, leaders from two juggernauts of ICT companies, Foxconn and Quanta computer come together to discuss their strategy for expansion into the healthcare industry. 

Hon Hai Precision Industry Co., Ltd (better known as the electronics manufacturer Foxconn), the world’s largest provider of electronics manufacturing services, was represented by the company’s new president Young Liu. President Liu pointed out “The entire healthcare sector can be sub-divided into biopharma, devices, life sciences, and digital health. Although the entire healthcare sector is growing at approximately 5% a year, the digital health sector outshines other sectors by growing at 29.6% a year. The digital health sector represents a very good opportunity for Taiwanese Tech companies, and Hong Hai has made extensive investments in the entire health sector via several  subsidiary companies (Table 1).” 

 

Table 1. Hong Hai Healthcare Related Products
Product Company MedTex Notes
ZAP-X®

 

Zap Surgical ZAP-X® is the world’s first non-invasive robotic radiosurgery platform. Clinical use has been adopted in Barrow Neurological Institute, the world’s largest neurosurgical center.
Visi-mobile Sotera Wireless The first US FDA approved wireless vital sign monitoring system for continuous non-invasive blood pressure. The device has been adopted in > 50 hospitals in the US.
H2U Health ATM

 

Foxconn H2U Health ATM is a smart physical checkup facility installed at > 100 7-Eleven convenient stores in Taiwan. H2U provides free measurement of blood pressure, body temperature, heart rate, and body weight. In addition, users can store the data on their smartphones or download apps to store them on the cloud.
aQdrop Sharp Life Science Most advanced next-generation sequencing technology that is adopted by the world’s leading 3rd generation gene sequencing company.
8K Display Sharp Corporation The world’s leading manufacturer in high-resolution imaging and displays and have ready applications for medical imaging devices such as endoscopes

 

Although not discussed at MEDTEX, Hong Hai’s step into health care is actually spearheaded by Hon Hai’s founder, Terry Gou’s fight against cancer. Terry Gou lost his first wife and brother through cancer, and pledged 20 billion NT donations towards the establishment of the National Taiwan University Hospital Cancer Center. The 500-bed National Taiwan University Hospital Cancer Center is Taiwan’s largest cancer center, and is equipped with the latest health care technology. President Liu also said that Hong Hai will work with National Taiwan University Hospital to let it become the best cancer center in Southeast Asia in the next 5 years. There is actually a blurred line between Hong Hai’s business pursuits and its charitable relationship with National Taiwan University Hospital Cancer Center. According to a 2015 interview in Taiwan’s CommonWealth magazine, Gou reveals the biomedical business model for Hon Hai’s: Procuring top equipment from the United States and Japan, among others, and then upgrading it with input from Hon Hai’s design expertise and [National Taiwan University Hospital] technology to create a new competitive advantage for Taiwanese industry.”2  Currently, it is still unclear exactly how Hon Hai has benefited from the partnership with National Taiwan University Hospital, but President Liu gave an example of how Hon Hai has already ventured into medical device manufacturing. President Liu said “Hon Hai helped Zap Surgical System, a US-based company, manufactured the latest radiosurgical instrument in Taiwan’s Hsinchu City, the same factory for ICT manufacture. However, manufacturing medical-grade product is actually more sophisticated than consumer-grade product. The Zap Radiosurgery platform has already obtained US FDA approval for clinical use, and began clinical use in Barrow Neurological Institute in Phoenix. I am proud to share that Taiwan helped manufactured Zap, the world’s first non-invasive radiosurgery device for treatment of head and neck cancer.” President Liu concluded by staying hopeful that the newly developed ICT technology (Table 1) can help to fulfill the Chinese traditional doctor’s goal of preventative medicine. 

The next MEDTEX speaker is Barry Lam, Quanta Computer’s founder and chairman. Quanta Computer, is known for being the world’s largest laptop ODM manufacturer, and the world’s leading cloud server manufacturer. However, Quanta has also been repurposing itself as the creator of both artificial intelligence (AI) software and hardware for the last 10 years (Table 2).3 

 

Table 2. Qunata AI Related Ventures
Product/venture Notes
Tensor processing unit (TPU)

 

A TPU is an artificial intelligence (AI) accelerator hardware. Quanta developed its first TPU on 2016, in the same year where Google announced the use of TPU in their data center. 
Taiwania 2 A cooperation with Taiwan’s Ministry of Science and Technology in the creation of a supercomputer ranked among the world’s top 20.
Quanta MIT Research A USD $200 million dollar research collaboration project with MIT Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory  to develop the next generation uses of AI. Current projects include, use of AI to improve care of patients with cardiovascular diseases, use of AI to predict breast cancer outcome, and the use of AI to attack infectious diseases.  

 

In the summit, chairman Lam shared his company’s plan to venture into medical AI. Chairman Lam said, “There is actually a very high entry barrier for ICT companies to enter healthcare. The healthcare industry is concerned with saving lives, and is full of medical jargon. I have spent two years trying to understand the medical jargon, and I am still feeling like an outsider to the healthcare industry. Several different skill sets are required for the use of AI in healthcare and Quanta actually has four subsidiaries from A-D to help implement AI in healthcare (Table 3). In addition, Quanta also set up a medical technology foundation to integrate medical sciences/data sciences/IT engineering and to provide precision health solution for AI hospital in Taiwan. The Quanta Medical Technology Foundation aims to provide a platform for local medical centers and international partners to proceed with research and development together.” Finally, chairman Lam wind up by saying “ The ICT industry needs a lot of work and patience to become a contender in the healthcare industry. Besides the technical hurdle on manufacturing more sophisticated devices at a smaller scale, time is also needed for doctors and hospitals to adopt new technologies.”

 

Table 3. Quanta AI Medical Plan from A to D
Algorithm Quanta AI Lab is developing the latest algorithm for deep learning. 
Big Data

 

Quanta Research Institute is responsible for collecting high quality medical big data.
Cloud Quanta Cloud Technology is responsible for sharing the  medical big data on the cloud and subsequent data analysis on the cloud.
Device Quanta medical product group is responsible for the design and manufacture of medical devices. For example, QOCA® spt (smart patient terminal) is a smart bedside care device that is developed to allow patients to communicate with medical staff instantaneously and assists hospitals in integrating medical data to optimize the quality of medical services. It is Quanta plan to enhance its platforms’ capabilities by integrating AI systems.4

 

To conclude, Taiwan is home to the leading electronics manufacturers, and one of the world’s best health insurance system. Therefore, ICT companies such as Hong Hai and Quanta sees Taiwan has some competitive edge and started their venture into the healthcare for almost a decade ago. While it took 20-30 years for Hong Hai and Quanta to become global leaders in the ICT industry, Taiwan awaits whether another 10-20 years is required for it to become a leader in the digital healthcare industry. 

 

Article/ Dr. Gabriel Lee

 

References:

  1. https://www.businesswire.com/news/home/20191018005137/en/Taiwanese-ICT-Industry-Outlook-2019—ResearchAndMarkets.com
  2. https://english.cw.com.tw/article/article.action?id=236
  3. https://www.taiwan-healthcare.org/hot-topic-list?cpsHottopicInFoSysid=CpsHottopicInfo20171222151227211182081

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