Metagenomics Expert Mengchu Wu, Ph.D., Shares Career Insights at UAMS Lecture

By Nathan Tidwell

Jia Liu, Ph.D., an associate professor in the UAMS College of Medicine Department of Microbiology and Immunology, welcomed the attendees and introduced Wu at the event held in the Sam Walton Auditorium in the UAMS Winthrop P. Rockefeller Cancer Institute.

Jia Liu

Jia Liu, Ph.D., an associate professor in the UAMS College of Medicine Department of Microbiology and Immunology, introduces Dr. Wu.Image by Nathan Tidwell

“Today is special. This is a great opportunity to learn about biomedical science. This talk should be an inspiration for our own work,” said Liu.

Wu is the co-founder, CEO and chair of Micronbrane Medical, based in Taiwan and Singapore. The company develops mNGS-enabling products, an advanced approach for identifying pathogens in the treatment of infectious diseases.

Prior to co-founding Micronbrane Medical in 2020, Wu was the chief technology officer and CEO of Health GeneTech in Taiwan. She earned her doctorate in biomedical sciences at the University of Massachusetts Chan Medical School, where she was mentored by Shuk-Mei Ho, Ph.D., a professor in the UAMS College of Medicine Department of Pharmacology and Toxicology and former vice chancellor for Research and Innovation.

Wu’s lecture, “Glocalization: A Different Journey to Achieving My Goal,” discussed her origins in Shanghai, her postgraduate education in the United States, and her career in biomedical science including co-founding her company.

“I don’t consider myself to be successful yet, neither personally nor in my company, but I feel privileged,” Wu said. “In Shanghai, women all have to work — staying home is not an option. Everyone got the same education; it was pretty equal.”

“I had the opportunity to come to the United States for graduate school at Tufts University in Massachusetts, and I moved to the University of Massachusetts with Dr. Ho,” she added.

Metagenomics simultaneously identifies all pathogens, including bacteria, fungi, parasites and viruses.

Yan Cheng, Shuk-Mei Ho

Former vice chancellor for Research and Innovation Shuk-Mei Ho, Ph.D., right, and Yan Cheng, Ph.D., observe the lecture.Image by Nathan Tidwell

“This process can help patients get faster and more precise treatment for infections,” said Wu. “Through mNGS innovations, we enable the collection of samples and the ability to take action on the results in less than 24 hours.”

Wu shared her thoughts on research and the way ahead.

“We have a culture where we value diverse, original thinking and ideas,” she said “We believe in the importance of continual learning. The world is constantly changing. Learning does not stop once you leave school.”

This was Wu’s first visit to UAMS.

“I’m very honored to be invited to speak here. I’m very impressed with the campus and the various programs UAMS has for students,” she said.

Wu Lecture Attendees

Dr. Wu’s lecture was an opportunity for UAMS’ summer program students to hear from an expert.Image by Nathan Tidwell

“We wanted to expose our students to the potential opportunities ahead of them. The technology is really exciting,” Liu added.

Thomas Kelly, Ph.D., associate director of the UAMS Cancer Research and Training Program and a professor in the College of Medicine Department of Pathology, relished the opportunity to hear Wu speak.

“Dr. Wu told her story of being trained as a scientist in China and in the U.S.,” he said. “She trained like most academic scientists but wound up as an entrepreneur, founder and CEO of a biotech company. An amazing story.”

Ho took pride in seeing her former student.

“After 20 years, having a graduate of mine coming to visit is wonderful,” she said.

“We have to have a global perspective in Arkansas with all of the companies we have here. Science and research are an important part of that.”