Chengdu 23Mofang Bio-tech Company, a startup in Chengdu Tianfu Software Park, has recently published an academic paper on genome-wide association study of photic sneeze reflex in the Chinese population in the Scientific Reports journal under Nature.
23Mofang: Research method innovation
Genetic testing, a rising life science technology in recent years, has become a hot track of innovation and entrepreneurship. Chengdu 23Mofang Bio-tech Company is one of the top runners on the track. Due to the unremitting pursuit of the “Moore’s law” in genetic testing field that the price of direct-to-customer (DTC) genetic testing will be halved at intervals as a result of technology upgrade, more than 300,000 genetic samples of Chinese people have been brought to 23Mofang, making it top the list of Chinese DTC genetic testing companies with such a large database.
Genetic testing is closely related to biotechnology. 23Mofang has built a biological laboratory itself, which can conduct genetic testing for 400,000 people every year. It is also building a genetic testing laboratory ranking second largest in the world and first in Asia with an annual capacity of 4 million people. Furthermore, 23Mofang also works with some professional medical institutions to carry out research. The first academic paper of the company published in the Scientific Reports journal under Nature was a result of the collaboration with Mengqiao Wang, PhD, Assistant Professor at Sichuan University West China School of Public Health on photic sneeze reflex.
Photic sneeze reflex (PSR) is a phenotype that refers to sneezing in response to exposure to bright light. Through the genome-wide association study (GWAS) of a large number of samples from Chinese population, 23Mofang has for the first time proved the association between PSR and heredity, and verified that PSR is affected by multiple genes and it is not exclusive to certain races but is heritable in many different races.
With professional guidance from Dr. Wang on statistical modeling and data visualization and with application of scientific achievements, 23Mofang harnessed its advantages in data collection and analysis. Both sides worked together to overcome challenges, resulting in original scientific discoveries and paper publishing.
Dr. Wang said, “The U.S. DTC genetic companies such 23andMe have published many academic papers on genetics, physiology, and phenotypes, while Chinese DTC genetic testing companies are at the nascent stage, but with a bright future.”
Besides Sichuan University, 23Mofang reportedly cooperates with universities and research institutions such as Fudan University; Kunming Institute of Zoology, CAS; Army Medical University; Beijing Institute of Genomics, CAS; and University of Electronic Science and Technology of China, to mainly study the possible effects of genetics on physiology, economics, and social behaviors of the Chinese people.
According to the overall situation of the Chinese scientific papers in 2017 reported by the Institute of Scientific and Technical Information of China, the 100 international papers with high influence in China in 2017 were published by 69 institutions, wherein, 80 were from colleges and universities, 14 were from research institutes, 5 were from hospitals affiliated to colleges and universities and other hospitals, and 1 was from a company. The inclusion of the company paper into the 100 papers with high influence shows that the influence of papers published in the name of companies in China is gaining influence. According to the statistics of Angang Technology, enterprises seldom published scientific papers in China 30 years ago, and the handful that published such papers were mostly state-owned heavy industry enterprises of some scale. Now, with new economy, private enterprises represented by 23Mofang are scrambling to publish international papers, the 3-decade shift from state-owned enterprises to private enterprises, from heavy industry to new economy, and from China to the world is truly remarkable.
The phenomenon of publishing papers in the name of enterprises is relatively rare. However, the research vitality of private enterprises in Chengdu is far more active than it seems, because enterprises are more inclined to apply for patents after obtaining some scientific achievements than publish papers. According to incomplete statistics, enterprises in Tianfu Software Park, one of the most active parks in terms of intellectual property activities, have applied for 22,000 patents (including PCTs) and possessed over 19,500 software copyrights, wherein, enterprises that possess more patents include TD Tech, DFINE, XGimi Technology, CK Science and Technology, Idealsee, Pinguo Technology, SKSpruce, and China Mobile IoT, etc., and enterprises with more copyrights include SuperMap Software, Jiaoda Guangmang, TD Tech, Aostar, ChinaWiserv Technologies, and Daqsoft, etc. And the above does not include holders of prolific patents and copyrights that have set up their R&D centers in Tianfu Software Park, such as IBM, Philips, Siemens, Ericsson, Dell, TCL, Alibaba, and Tencent.
The world-renowned R&D achievements of enterprises from Tianfu Software Park don’t come by accident. Adhering to a professional, platform-based and international development concept, Tianfu Software Park has been focusing on the frontier technology, combining new economy and traditional industries, and giving priority to the Belt and Road Initiative in recent years, and by serving as a platform and link, it has further integrated industrial resources to build the industrial ecology and promote industry innovation. Well-known domestic and overseas enterprises such as IBM, SAP, Alibaba, and Tencent have settled in the park. The “5Cs” Cultivation Program for entrepreneurship in Tianfu Software Park covers capital, talents, circles, markets, and entrepreneurship coaching, making it a successful incubator for some leading enterprises and brands such as Medlinker, XGimi, and Codoon.
The complete industry ecosystem furnishes sci-tech talents with a favorable environment to grow. Talents, whether junior level talents to mid to senior level talents, can all find a robust career development path in Tianfu Software Park, which creates a strong talent aggregation effect. A growing number of domestic enterprises are willing to set their national or even global R&D headquarters there; and in turn, more talents will be attracted to gather there, thus forming a virtuous circle. Industrial clusters in spheres of software product R&D, communication technology, IC design, mobile interconnection, digital entertainment, techfin, and shared service center, etc. have generally taken shape in the park, covering cloud computing, big data, artificial intelligence, Internet of Things, blockchain, and VR/AR, etc. The park, as a nationally-known innovation landmark, has now become an important destination for well-known domestic and foreign software and information service providers in their strategic layouts. Tianfu Software Park is becoming a globally oriented technology R&D and research innovation center.