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A gift to advance the search for cancer cures

The generosity of a major Taiwanese philanthropist has facilitated a leading centre for cancer research.

Dr. Pan-Chyr Yang (right) and Terry Gou at the inauguration of YongLin Institute of Health. Its mission is to create a leading platform for cancer research.Credit: Yonglin Healthcare Foundation

In 2007, after the loss of two family members from cancer, the founder and chairman of Foxconn, Terry Gou, committed to funding oncology at National Taiwan University (NTU) by establishing YongLin Healthcare Foundation. An ambitious blueprint was launched to create a world-leading platform for anti-cancer research, teaching and treatment.

With the transformation of YongLin Biomedical Engineering Center to YongLin Institute of Health (YIH) at NTU, this comprehensive medical base has expanded to include NTU Cancer Center, Tai Cheng Cell Therapy Center, and Radiation Science and Proton Therapy Center. These state-of-the-art facilities, staffed by top talent, have since contributed to many significant discoveries.

Pioneering biomedical facilities for all

In December 2018, Gou opened the NTU Cancer Center after 10 years of preparation. With 500 in-patient beds and 15 floors, it is the first comprehensive cancer hospital in Taiwan. Research at the centre will go beyond cancers common across the world to focus on cancers prevalent on the island.

NTU Cancer Center promotes biomedical innovations for cancer treatment by combining pioneering clinical strategies and dedicated Chinese cohort studies.Credit: Yonglin Healthcare Foundation

Notably, a research team led by Dr. Pan-Chyr Yang, the dean of YIH and former president of NTU, has completed comprehensive surveys on genomic differences between Caucasian and Chinese cohorts. They found correlation between subtle differences in gene mutation and varying cancer probabilities. Substantial effort was also devoted to initiating a comprehensive cancer gene bank, a cornerstone for the research of cancer-causing genes in Chinese patients. Ultimately these should lead to tailored, more effective treatment, and also screening for susceptibility.

In addition to its new, state-of-the-art hospital, YIH’s successful projects also include the NTU Radiation Science and Proton Therapy Center, which last year began using proton beam technology to treat tumours, for greater accuracy and fewer side-effects.

Tai Cheng Cell Therapy Center, meanwhile, marked its 10th anniversary in 2019. To date, it has performed more than 600 stem cell transplants and worked with 200-plus patients every year. More diverse and advanced cell therapies, including CAR-T therapy, are expected in the near future.

A mission for a cancer-free future

YIH’s goal to engage technology advancement and new business development is supported by its four missions. It wants to be a platform for cooperation between academia and the biotech and medical industries by integrating the resources of its 11 centres to promote synergies between the two sides. Building on this cooperation, it also expects to create a foundation for biomedical-focussed business start-ups. YIH is seeking to facilitate research and development by promoting interdisciplinary exchange and experimenting on new business models. Its fourth mission is to strengthen overseas links, forging international partnerships to keep up with global trends in the biomedical industry.

NTU’s top-ranking teaching resources and faculties have facilitated interdisciplinary collaborations between YIH researchers and scientists from diverse fields ranging from basic sciences to information engineering. By providing visiting professorships and research scholarships, YIH welcomes and nurtures worldwide talent. Beyond better treatment, it wishes to serve Taiwan and beyond with early detection and prevention, promising a brighter future.