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2023-10-11| Asia-Pacific

Nucleate Taiwan Launched: Pivot of International Bioindustry

by GeneOnline
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On Thursday, October 5th, Nucleate’s Taiwan chapter held its long-anticipated launch event in Taipei, gathering over 100 attendees from eight top academic institutions. Founded at Harvard and MIT in 2018, Nucleate has quickly grown to be the world’s leading bio-entrepreneurship community empowering students to become the next generation of biotech leaders. Backed by the likes of Genentech, Ely Lilly, Alnylam and Schmidt Futures, Nucleate chapters across 26 cities in 11 countries, providing free educational programming, career development, and networking for students and trainees in the life sciences. 

“Unleashing Your Potential in Biotech” was the theme of the night: catalyzed by trailblazing speakers spanning the spectrum of careers in biotech, conversations guided by this theme gave local students and trainees the rare opportunity to chat with Taiwan’s leading stakeholders in biotech and pharma. 

This Launch event marks only the beginning of an expedition on which Nucleate’s newest Asian chapter is embarking. The team aims to bring together local students, trainees, and alumni in the life sciences sphere in a way not seen before in Taiwan, connecting budding biotech leaders across the richly diverse cities harboring academic hubs—from Taipei to Kaohsiung, and beyond. In this way, Nucleate Taiwan will democratize biotech innovation, removing structural barriers and helping students make the most of their top-notch academic training.

Headlining the event were five speakers: Thomas F. Huang (Founder and CEO, GeneOnline), Liyam Chitayat Levi (PhD Student, Massachusetts Institute of Technology), Kelvin Sun (Principal, WI Harper Group), James Tsai (COO, CellTech Innovation), and Steven Lin (Research Fellow, Academia Sinica, Taiwan).

Related article: A New Paradigm in Biotech Innovation and Investment

Experienced Experts Sharing Their Valuable Experiences in Learning and Working

To kick off the chapter’s Launch, Liyam Chitayat Levi (current EVP of Global Strategy at Nucleate) spoke on the need for bio-entrepreneurship community formation in Taiwan and beyond. At a young age Liyam excelled through her undergraduate studies—and after completing her military service in the Israeli Defense Forces—commenced her PhD in Computational Biology at MIT this Fall 2023. A natural-born leader, Liyam has already started companies and has been leading teams of 30+ for as long as she can remember, and now works with over 800+ leaders within Nucleate globally.

Keynote Speech by GeneOnline CEO and Founder Thomas Huang

Building upon the need for a bio-entrepreneurship community in Taiwan, GeneOnline CEO Thomas Huang delivered an all-encompassing overview of Taiwan’s burgeoning biotech ecosystem as it stands, highlighting the development of activity clusters—namely, the Nangang Biotechnology Research Park, Hsinchu Biomedical Science Park, and the newly-established Taipei Bioinnovation Park. These complement Taiwan’s longstanding prowess in the bio-CDMO and biologic spaces, which informed the founding of GeneOnline. As the most mature and professional media platform covering all things biotech and pharma in Asia, GeneOnline fosters professional development and science communication for students seeking to enter the industry.

Panel Discussion Speaker James Tsai, Kelvin Sun, Steven Lin.

Transitioning into the panel, Kelvin Sun from the WI Harper Group credited his rigorous background as a software engineer as the basis for his seamless entry into venture capital for all things tech and (more recently) MedTech. When asked how he got his “foot in the door” in VC, he advised participants to actively adopt a growth mindset: be willing to learn new things on the fly while simultaneously maintaining and growing a broad professional network. And to hold steadfastly to this mindset, Kelvin urged the audience to not only pursue their true passions, but to seek out the leaders in their respective fields, applauding Nucleate as the leading platform for facilitating these global connections.

Following, James Tsai of CellTech Innovation dove deep into his professional journey, recounting his years of experience conducting biomedical research with top professors at the Academia Sinica and at Harvard Medical School. Harkening a calling in mentorship during his postdoctoral tenure, during which he mentored many young students passing through the lab, he saw promise in Taiwan’s landscape for stem cell therapeutics development. So, James returned to Taiwan—and after several early roadblocks battling uncertainty and imposter syndrome—went on to found numerous successful biotech startups. He currently flourishes in his work at the intersection of biomedical innovation and mentorship, guiding Taiwanese cellular therapeutics startups to clinical development. “Earnestness”, he says, is key at every step along this journey—with oneself and with collaborators. 

To round out the discussion, Steven Lin from Academia Sinica reflected upon his academic journey, starting from his undergraduate studies at the University of Columbia. After obtaining his PhD in Microbiology from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, he joined the laboratory of Nobel Laureate Jennifer Doudna as a postdoctoral researcher, contributing directly to the development of CRISPR/Cas9 gene editing technology. Expanding one’s horizons, he believes, is inextricably linked to breakthroughs in science—and indeed any other endeavor young people commit to. He challenged participants to look to the world and even go beyond Taiwan, commending Nucleate for actively facilitating global dialogue. Dr. Lin hopes that Nucleate Taiwan, in particular, will be the focal point for bridges between Taiwan’s top biotech talent and the world.

Bridging the Gap Between Industry and Academia and Creating a Communication Platform for Millennials

All in all, Nucleate Taiwan’s Launch event was truly one-of-a-kind, providing students and trainees access to not only Nucleate’s unparalleled resources for the first time, but also facilitating intentional, informal exchanges with the country’s industry leaders. Indeed, chapter co-founders Willie Xiang and Jack Liang note that the greatest advantage of joining Nucleate is the networking. A network is only as strong as the nodes that comprise it. By attracting top talent from within Taiwan—and from the far reaches of the globe—the next generation of biotech leaders are able to connect with each other early on through Nucleate to build lasting, impactful partnerships. 

Staffing Nucleate Taiwan’s leadership team are students Ivy Jui, Brian Chen, Odin Fang, Jimmy Hsu, and Daniel Lin. When asked about their motivation for building Nucleate Taiwan, they cited the lack of a go-to platform for networking in the life sciences. Students were often on their own to find internships, mentorship, and professional development opportunities. There was a stark lack of connectedness within this student community, so they jumped on the opportunity to integrate Nucleate within the Taiwanese ecosystem. Currently, in the depths of planning for subsequent education and community-building events, they collectively hope that Nucleate Taiwan will serve as a platform and beacon connecting Taiwan from North to South, West to East—from an island to the world.

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