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Scott Walker: Foxconn technology could change how medical procedures are conducted

Scott Walker: Foxconn technology could change how medical procedures are conducted

From the Foxconn in Wisconsin series
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Ultra-high-definition display screens that Taiwanese manufacturer Foxconn says it wants to make in Wisconsin could transform the state’s health care industry, offering better imaging tools to conduct medical procedures, Gov. Scott Walker said Tuesday.

Walker said the liquid-crystal display panels Foxconn says it wants to make in Wisconsin could be used to improve how surgeries and other procedures are conducted. His remarks came at UW Hospital on Tuesday, backed by UW Health CEO Alan Kaplan and UW-Madison Chancellor Rebecca Blank.

“We think there’s incredible application when it comes to the health care here in the state of Wisconsin, particularly to have someone manufacturing that right here in our own state,” Walker said.

Foxconn says it wants to make a $10 billion investment to build its first North American manufacturing campus at an as-yet-unannounced site in southeastern Wisconsin. State lawmakers are debating a $3 billion incentive package to help cement the deal.

The Wisconsin State Journal reported earlier this month that Foxconn is considering a secondary site, apart from the southeast Wisconsin campus, in Dane County. One source said the development could involve a medical device or a research and development facility.

Whether or not Foxconn locates a facility in the Madison area, the company could partner with UW-Madison researchers or companies here, said Lisa Johnson, CEO of BioForward, which supports the state’s biotech industry.

“They’re looking at Wisconsin because of our medical technology,” Johnson said. “There are opportunities for collaboration with their medical division.”

A representative of Foxconn’s medical group will be a keynote speaker at BioFoward’s Wisconsin Biohealth Summit in Madison Oct. 10.

Foxconn leaders have met with Dr. Howard Bailey, director of UW-Madison’s Carbone Cancer Center. Foxconn founder and CEO Terry Gou, whose first wife and younger brother died of cancer, has supported cancer research in Asia.

Cancer, along with medical imaging and stem cells and regenerative medicine, are fields in which the Madison area is strong and Foxconn’s technology could apply, said Tom Still, president of the Wisconsin Technology Council.

“It could be all three,” Still said.

Dr. Perry Pickhardt, a radiologist who is director of cancer imaging at UW Hospital, said Foxconn’s 8K screen technology could greatly improve cameras used in colonoscopies and surgeries.

“Compared to what we call high-definition now, it’s four times as many pixels in each dimension, vertical and horizontal,” Pickhardt said. “We’ve made great strides with higher-resolution endoscopes, but I’m sure this would blow it away.”

With Foxconn in Wisconsin, he said UW-Madison doctors might be able to test the company’s new imaging devices.

“The potential would be there for UW to be the first to get their hands on these things,” Pickhardt said.

Walter Block, UW-Madison professor of biomedical engineering, medical physics and radiology, was among those who met with executives of Foxconn’s medical group when they came to Madison several weeks ago.

Block’s research is focused on image-guided brain surgery. Block also is co-founder of a startup company, TherVoyant, that is working on a way to provide real-time images for a surgical team with more precise surgical targets and the ability to track drugs that are infused during treatment.

Using next-generation screens would let each member of a surgical team monitor different aspects of complex brain operations, Block said.

“A company like mine would partner with them and provide surgical friendly interfaces,” Block said. If such a joint venture were successful, a major medical company — such as GE Healthcare, which has extensive manufacturing operations in Waukesha and a plant in Madison — might eventually be interested in acquiring the technology, providing more jobs in Wisconsin, as a result, he said.

Gou, speaking at the White House press conference announcing the company’s Wisconsin plans, said the U.S. currently “does not have a single LCD factory to produce a complete 8K system.” The term refers to the latest high-resolution display technology.

“We are going to change that,” Gou said.

Kaplan told reporters that the 8K panels are “fascinating technology.” Having them built in Wisconsin could benefit the health care industry in many ways, he added.

“I think we’ll also benefit from the economic boom — just bringing that in so we can attract great scientists, researchers, clinicians who are interested in technology,” Kaplan said.

State Journal reporter Judy Newman contributed to this report.


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