Alumnus Chen TianLan (Class of 2017, PhD in Electrical and Computer Engineering)
Founder and General Manager of the Zhuhai Digifluidic Biotech Ltd.; His team won the Championship of the 3rd “Parafuturo de Macao” Innovation and Entrepreneurship Competition, the Championship of the “2019 Bank of China Trophy One Million Dollar Macao Regional Entrepreneurship Competition”, and the Championship of Creating Customer Groups of the 2019 “Creating Customers in Guangdong” Zhuhai SME Innovation Competition.
It is not easy for scientific research to be successfully produced in a laboratory; it also requires a long process to import scientific research outcomes from a laboratory to the consumer market. Starting from a student research team to becoming one of the founders of Digifluidic Biotech Ltd., from the development stages of digital microfluidic chips to the process of launching the portable pathogen test kit “Virus Hunter”, Alumnus Chen and his research team have already spent a decade in a laboratory. Taking the research pathways that lead to entrepreneurship, no matter which path he walks on, Oscar always upholds the spirit and belief of dedication and professionalism to lead his team forward on the road to success.
Commitment and Dedication to Professionalism
Oscar majored in electronic engineering in his undergraduate studies. Following the advice given by a friend, who was also a senior fellow student at UM, Oscar started to acquire a better understanding of UM’s strengths in electrical engineering, its highly qualified teaching staff, and scientific research atmosphere. In view of this, after obtaining a bachelor’s degree in 2010, Oscar chose to pursue his master’s degree in the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering at UM. He continued to pursue his studies in UM after he graduated from his master’s programme and obtained his PhD degree in 2017. Throughout those seven years, he completely devoted himself to the development of digital microfluidic technology. As he recalled, “The origin of this technology was when Prof. Rui Martins discussed the possibility of using a biological application platform for conducting interdisciplinary research studies with other professors in an academic seminar; this technology was introduced to UM soon afterwards. I was very interested in this topic and thus had chosen it as my research direction. UM was the pioneer who carried out the earliest research on this technology and everything started from scratch.” Without any previous experiences to learn from, Oscar determined to stay focused on this research field during his research process. In order to embody professionalism, he believed that staying focused could help him to fully engage himself at work and complete the tasks with high standards.
Beacon of Life
Apart from staying focused, embarking on the road of scientific research also requires the guidance and encouragement from mentors to achieve scientific breakthroughs. Oscar had been fortunate to have many wonderful mentors in his life to help him all the way, “They had encouraged and provided us the flexibility to make attempts in many aspects of scientific research. As a student, I was not broad-minded to look at the big picture as my professor does and thus may have head in the wrong directions during the research process; the clear guidance and advice provided by mentors were very useful for me to get things done correctly. My master thesis supervisor, Prof. Vai Mang I, my doctoral thesis supervisor, Prof. Elvis Mak Pui In, and the Director of the State Key Laboratory of Analog and Mixed-Signal VLSI (AMS-VLSI Lab), Prof. Rui Martins, had given me a lot of inspiration and help; and I benefited a lot from them. The person who influenced me the most was Prof. Elvis Mak Pui In, who was my doctoral thesis supervisor and the one who inspired me to shepherd my doctoral research out of the laboratory to start up my own business.” Oscar expressed his heartfelt gratitude to the delicate nurturing from his alma mater.
Opportunity Comes to Those Who Dare to Begin
We often say that opportunity favors the prepared mind. In fact, opportunity comes to those who dare to begin; and Oscar is a good example of this. As he recalled, “At that time, the research and development process of the project had already started. Under the encouragement of Prof. Mak, I had decided to give it a try and started the incubation process through UM-TEC to bring the research outcomes to the market and set up my own business.” In 2017, Oscar and his classmate Dong Cheng set foot on the UM Science and Technology Research Institute located in the Macao-Hengqin Youth Entrepreneurship Valley (Inno Valley HQ) to kick-off the process of transforming scientific and technological achievements and established “Digifluidic Biotech Ltd.” (DigiBio) in 2018. DigiBio was the first company founded by UM alumni and supported by patented technology from UM. After winning the championship in the “Bank of China Trophy One Million Dollar Macao Regional Entrepreneurship Competition” last year, his team won the championship of the 3rd “Parafuturo de Macao” Innovation and Entrepreneurship Competition this year. Oscar said, “By participating in this type of entrepreneurship competition, we can better recognize our business model and focus of work; the competition also provided us opportunities to have face-to-face communications with the jury and people in the profession. These awards had undoubtedly given recognition to our team. We hope to be a role model for the rest and continue to lead DigiBio with dedication and professionalism to win honor for our alma mater.”
Unleashing their True Potential after a Decade of Knowledge Accumulation
The success of Oscar’s scientific research, the process of transforming scientific and technological achievements to the market and the establishment of DigiBio all benefited from the entrepreneurship environment and innovative culture of UM, and from the supportive policies launched by Macao and the Hengqin New Area; these supportive factors were also the prerequisites to Oscar’s successful entrepreneurship. He advised UM alumni who have plans to set up their own business in the Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macao Greater Bay Area (GBA), “You must be brave to go outside to look for more opportunities. In the Inno Valley HQ, you can meet many successful entrepreneurs; you can share your business ideas via this platform and learn from each other, which will inspire you to come up with more innovative business ideas.”
At present, the co-founders of DigiBio are all UM graduates, and each has their own responsibilities. Oscar is in charge of the company’s overall operations; Dong Cheng (Class of 2017, PhD in Electrical and Computer Engineering) focuses on technology research and development, while Tang Xiang (Class of 2017, Master of Electrical and Computer Engineering) is responsible for production and product accreditation. The mission of their company is to achieve the goal of improving the well-being of society with technology. For DigiBio, the Covid-19 pandemic, albeit having severe impacts on societies and the global economy, accelerated the company’s pace of high-tech industrialization. Oscar said, “We have shifted our research focus from detecting diseases on animals to pandemic detection. As the same technology and research base can be applied to both of those research areas, we were able to develop the rapid test kit “Virus Hunter” quickly and the test result can be known within 30 minutes, which can help to increase detection efficiency. Currently, we have obtained CE international recognition for the rapid test kit and are applying the NMPA and other international accreditations for the kit.” Oscar’s initial scientific research interest had gradually been developed as a sense of mission, and he wishes to use his technological knowledge to give back to the society. Poised to reap rewards from a decade of knowledge accumulation, the development path of DigiBio has only just begun.