Advantest debuts a potentially new life saving technology to assist in the fight against deadly viruses like Covid-19. Join us, as Noriyuki Masuda, Senior Director of Life Sciences at Advantest provides a stimulating overview of the NanoScouter, an innovative approach combining nano technology with AI and Machine Learning for rapid detection of Covid-19 and other viruses.
KEITH SCHAUB: I’m Keith Schaub, vice president of Strategy and Technology at Advantest and you’re listening to Advantest Talks Semi. The COVID-19 pandemic will undoubtedly be remembered as a world changing event. It has fundamentally altered how we work, how we live and how we interact as a society. COVID-19 has also given us a preview of just how quickly a pandemic can spread across the globe and the devastation it leaves in its wake. As we look forward to a post COVID-19 world an important question on everyone's mind is how can we be better prepared and what can we do to minimize future COVID type outbreaks? This may seem an unlikely topic for Advantest, a leading global semiconductor test company. However, we're about to discover how technology not only transcends borders but impacts and influences methodologies in seemingly unrelated applications. Advantest technology continuously evolves to benefit societies in a variety of ways owing to significant annual investment in R&D. Advantest has taken on new non-semiconductor initiatives such as the nanoSCOUTER™ being developed by Advantest Life Sciences in Japan. So, what is Advantest Life Sciences, what is the nanoSCOUTER™ and how does this relate to a post COVID-19 world? To help us answer these and other related questions I'm joined by Noriyuki Masuda, senior director of Advantest Life Sciences. Which is one of the areas of innovation highlighted in Advantest grand design, long term plan to capture adjacent businesses centered on test solutions. The topic was also the subject of a recent interview of Advantest President, Yoshiaki Yoshida, during the Nikkei CNBC's ask the top program. Masuda-san, konichiwa, welcome to Advantest Talks Semi.
NORIYUKI MASUDA: Thank you Keith, happy to be here.
KEITH SCHAUB: To kick things off Masuda-san can you tell us a bit about Advantest Life Sciences, what’s the mission and what’s the vision?
NORIYUKI MASUDA: Yes, Keith, as you mentioned life sciences is a new area of business for Advantest. Life science is the study of life, in this particular instance – microorganisms which COVID and other viruses are. Advantest Life Sciences develops technology that analyzes the human body and microorganisms through measurements. Our vision is to contribute to society with leading edge measurement technologies that address major healthcare challenges. Our ultimate goal is to work toward preventing, diagnosing, monitoring and treating diseases early. Enabling leading edge technologies is Advantest corporate mission and the company will strive to further develop technology that contributes to solving these vital issues. The nanoSCOUTER™ you mentioned at the beginning is one of the fine particle measurement instruments which is one of our newest Life Sciences products recently introduced into the market. It is actually capable of scouting for, detecting and identifying viruses such as COVID-19 using AI analysis software. It does this by making fine particle measurements at the tiny nanometer scale. Thus the name nanoSCOUTER™.
KEITH SCHAUB: I see. So nanoSCOUTER™ “scouts and detects viruses at the tiny nanoscale.” Could you remind our listeners what nano means in terms of size and can you tell us a little bit about how it works.
NORIYUKI MASUDA: It's very difficult to imagine what a nanometer is because you need a very powerful microscope to see something that small. A virus is tiny, about 100 nanometers. The diameter of DNA molecule is even smaller at two nanometers. Those in the semiconductor industry of course are familiar with fabs operating at single digit nanometer nodes like five and seven nanometers. The nanoSCOUTER™ is a lightweight, desktop sized, fine particle measurement instrument that utilizes a precise nano-pore sensor module made using semiconductor manufacturing processes and Advantest’s microcurrent measurement technology. It measures virus sized particles of about 100 nm with great speed and accuracy.
KEITH SCHAUB: Great and what’s the status of the project?
NORIYUKI MASUDA: We are still in the early commercialization stages but the product has already gone through successful clinical trials in a national project and has demonstrated efficacy in the identification of COVID-19 viruses.
KEITH SCHAUB: Masuda-san you talk a little bit about combining and integrating Advantest existing measurement technology plus new machine learning methods into your work and how combining these technologies in creative and innovative ways is the key to staying ahead of it.
NORIYUKI MASUDA: Sure Keith-san. The nanoSCOUTER™ utilizes electrical measurement technology cultivated over decades since Advantest founding over 50 years ago. Fundamentally it uses the Coulter measurement principle, which measures the changing electric current caused by a particle through a small pore. You can imagine we need accurate microcurrent measurement technology since the current and the current change amounts are very small and we also need high speed measurement technology for fast detection. We need both, accuracy and speed. Advantest already has a lot of nano level semiconductor processing technology which is used by the fabs. Things like electron beam lithography technology and 3-D, C. D. Sim critical dimension scanning electron microscope technology. These same technologies are important and needed for the nanoSCOUTER™. For these reasons the nanoSCOUTER™ is a good fit into Advantest technology portfolio.
KEITH SCHAUB: I see, so basically a lot of different technologies have to come together and must be integrated in order to measure not only very small currents but also quickly, accurately and repeatedly. And as you mentioned, Advantest has the specialty technologies and the expertise.
NORIYUKI MASUDA: Yes exactly.
KEITH SCHAUB: Great. And what are some of the major applications that you envision for this type of technology? How can it be used? Could we have one in every place of business or at airports or could we have this type of technology in homes even.
NORIYUKI MASUDA: That's a great question. For example, in the case of virus detection this technology is well suited for areas with large and high concentrations of people. Something like an airport or convention center or large arena. We'll likely see this technology strategically applied to those types of areas which will dramatically enhance not only our ability for earlier detection but also provide a fast and reliable safety check. Take airports for example, millions of people pass through it each day requiring millions of measurements. There are two key components to that environment. High volume and high accuracy. This is where Advantest greatly excels. Advantest has a long successful history and is the market leader of fast accurate measurements in a high-volume production environment. In particular, Advantest semiconductor test equipment which is our core business, measures millions of chips each and every day to screen for faults and errors. Just as our semiconductor test technology is used to accurately detect nano sized faults in chips, the nanoSCOUTER™ detects nano sized viruses in high volume environment which is of key importance.
KEITH SCHAUB: How do you see Life Science business proceeding in the future?
NORIYUKI MASUDA: Our fine particle measurement technology has a wide range of applications. Virus detection is just the beginning and other empirical research is underway. But as evident by the pandemic there is a big need for these types of products in the medical industry. These products are currently used as non-medical grade but they are a natural fit and should eventually be used by the medical field. That's obviously an important goal that Advantest is working towards. Advantest Life Sciences will contribute to enabling a healthier future for society with new technologies based on semiconductor test technology.
KEITH SCHAUB: Masuda-san thank you it has been a pleasure to have you on today. It's truly amazing to see the new innovations from Advantest Life Sciences and how it could positively impact millions of people all around the globe.
NORIYUKI MASUDA: Initially we are targeting specialized markets and commercialization efforts will continue and as we move forward you will see more communications like this one to better educate the public and industry about the technology and its benefits.
KEITH SCHAUB: That sound means it’s time for some important news from Hira. Hira?
HIRA HASSAN: Thanks, Keith. Our listeners can catch up with Advantest at SEMICON West, which will take place December 7-9. And while at SEMICON West, be sure to check out the Test Vision Symposium, where Advantest’s test experts will be sharing their visions on the future of semiconductor and system test. Coming up, we are also looking forward to the Taiwan International Semi Executive Summit which will take place in Taipei, Taiwan from December 6-7 and SEMICON Japan taking place December 15-17.And, as always, be sure to connect with Advantest on Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn for all the news and much more. Keith that’s the latest. Back to you.
KEITH SCHAUB: Thank you Hira. That does it for another episode of Advantest Talks Semi, see you next time.