Chancellor speaks on COVID-19 research at Nanjing Tech Week 2020

Chancellor Rebecca Blank addressed the audience via a Zoom recording at a Nanjing Tech Week forum on tech transfer.

“Chinese scientists are currently leading several of the most promising research projects at UW-Madison related to COVID-19,” said UW-Madison Chancellor Rebecca Blank, as part of her recorded remarks at last week’s “Nanjing Tech Week 2020,” held in the city of Nanjing, capital of China’s Jiangsu Province.

Chancellor Blank’s comments concluded the morning session of “Innovative Entrepreneur Day” on June 23, at which representatives of the UW-Madison and WARF (the Wisconsin Alumni Research Foundation) participated via a Zoom video in a forum held at Nanjing University. The forum was hosted by Gao Xinfang, director of Nanjing University’s Technology Transfer, Innovation & Entrepreneurship Office.

Mr. Gao was in Madison in November to join a conference on university intellectual property, a follow-up to the May 2019 launch of a new strategic partnership with Nanjing University. Chancellor Blank referred to the partnership in her remarks for Nanjing Tech Week.

“I want to be clear that the University of Wisconsin remains committed to the strategic partnership agreement we signed with Nanjing University last spring,” she said.  “This agreement will form the foundation for many more years of research collaboration and student exchange.”

She stressed both the importance of international collaboration “to build a post-pandemic world,” and also the need for UW-Madison to be able to attract “highly skilled and creative people,” including Chinese researchers and students. For this reason, Chancellor Blank said she recently wrote to members of the U.S. Congress “to express my concern about proposals to restrict visas for Chinese researchers and students.”

“I emphasized that closing our doors to talented Chinese students would impede our ability to provide a full and rich education to all of our students,” she continued. “And I told them that restricting researchers would have a deep and lasting impact on advances in science and technology – and an immediate impact on our ability to solve some of the most complex and pressing issues we have ever faced.”

In her Nanjing Tech Week remarks, Chancellor Blank singled out Chinese scientists at UW-Madison leading projects related to COVID-19, including:

  • A geoscientist who was educated at Beijing Normal University and Peking University and is the principal investigator on a project that looks at how communication about the risk of infection impacts the spread of coronavirus.
  • A medical physics professor who is a graduate of Nanjing University and has just submitted a grant proposal to expand the use of medical imaging for COVID diagnosis and screening.

Chancellor Blank’s comments followed a morning session at which Michael Falk, Chief IP and Licensing Officer at WARF, discussed how technology transfer organizations like WARF are working together to address the global pandemic, including the sharing of proprietary libraries and the offering of free technologies for the purpose of fighting COVID-19.

Nanjing Tech Week 2020, now in its second year, was held June 22-26, at venues across Nanjing, including at Nanjing University. The week of events included innovation contests, presentations, forums, and also cultural activities celebrating the city of Nanjing. Most of this year’s activities occurred on-line due to the impact of COVID-19. The 2020 theme of the week was “Understanding Urban Innovation.”

In addition to Chancellor Blank and Mr. Falk, UW-Madison alum Kening Li, now the vice president of Genscript, a Nanjing-based biotech company, provided an overview of U.S. laws impacting cross-border technology transfer; while Professor Joel Rogers and Gavin Luter offered an overview of UniverCity Alliance, which encourages collaborations with local governments and UW-Madison students to solve community problems.

Mr. Falk, Mr. Luter and Professor Rogers, along with Nanjing’s Qixia District Director Sheng Yan, spoke at a session titled, “Collaboration between governments and universities in the post-pandemic period.” Dr. Li hosted the session and was also a speaker at the next session, “Strategies of technology transfer in the post-pandemic period,” which was followed by Chancellor Blank’s pre-recorded comments.