University Development |
HKUST School of Science signed a MoU with Sinovation Ventures to establish a Computer Perception and Intelligent Control Lab, propelling AI research and application

The Hong Kong University of Science and Technology (HKUST) School of Science signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with Sinovation Ventures (Sinovation) to set up a new Computer Perception and Intelligent Control Lab. Prof. Tong ZHANG from Department of Mathematics will lead the research effort of the new laboratory which covers the theories and algorithms of machine learning, as well as Artificial Intelligence (AI) technologies that can be leveraged by autonomous systems.

The collaboration serves to bridge together academia and the industry, bringing the robustness and impact of AI research to new heights. The new lab aims to identify issues worth investigating among real-life situations and explore opportunities to translate research outputs to applications in the industry.

The signing ceremony was held on 20 March 2019. In the presence of Dr. Kai-Fu LEE, Chairman & CEO of Sinovation, Mr. Yonggang WANG, Vice-President of AI Institute, Sinovation Ventures, Prof. Wei SHYY, President of HKUST, Prof. Yang WANG, Dean of Science of HKUST, Prof. Tong ZHANG as well as other senior executives, the two parties signed the MoU and exchanged views and visions on AI development.

 

Research and Innovation |
HKUST Researchers Discover More Than 7,000 New Microbial Species Enhancing Our Understanding of Ocean Biodiversity

A group of marine scientists at The Hong Kong University of Science and Technology (HKUST) recently discovered over 7,000 new microbial species in the Oceans, including Acidobacteria – a natural medicinal phylum with the CRISPR gene editing system discovered at sea for the first time, shedding new light on human’s understanding of microbial biodiversity in the oceans and bringing hope to the development of new drugs.

Led by Prof. QIAN Peiyuan, Acting Head of Department of Ocean Science and David von Hansemann Chair Professor of Science at HKUST, the University’s research team collaborated with peers from the King Abdullah University of Science and Technology in Saudi Arabia, University of Georgia in the US and University of Queensland in Australia on sourcing water samples across Pacific, Atlantic and Indian Oceans.  Over a span of eight years, the team developed biofilms with the water samples on different materials, eventually discovering more than 7,000 new biofilm-forming species and 10 new bacterial phyla – breaking the existing belief that the world has only 35,000 marine microbial species and 80 bacterial phyla[1]. The finding greatly enhanced human’s knowledge in microbial biodiversity of the oceans.

Acidobacteria – one of the new marine phyla identified in this research known only exist in terrestrial soils previously, has been used for developing novel antibiotics and anti-tumor drugs due to its high level of biosynthetic gene clusters.  This newly-discovered marine phylum not only shares functions of its terrestrial counterpart, but is also the first ocean species found to contain the CRISPR gene-editing system. The finding was published in the scientific journal Nature Communications.

“The discovery of new marine microbial species has not only improved our understanding of ocean biodiversity, but more importantly, these species have big potential, both in terms of facilitating our understanding of lives and offering new clues to our search of new treatments for diseases,” said Prof. Qian.

CRISPR is a family of DNA sequences found within the genomes of bacterial organisms like Escherichia coli (E-coli); it confers resistance to foreign plasmids or phages and contains gene-editing capabilities.  The CRISPR technology is now widely used in agro-industrial and pharmaceutical genetic engineering, for example, to improve yield for soybeans, corn and rice through the creation of more pollution and natural disaster-resistant crops.

Dr. ZHANG Weipeng, a researcher of the team, said the CRISPR system now available in the terrestrial acidobacteria has accuracy issues as it strays from editing target at times. He hoped the new strain could help overcome such shortcomings and bring about more accurate gene editing technology.  He added, “Acidobacteria is just one of the many newly-discovered microbial species in this project. With further in-depth study, I am sure there will be more exciting findings to come.”

Prof. Qian is an expert in biofilms. He was awarded the second prize of State Natural Science Award 2016 by The State Council for his important discoveries on how biofilms affect the habitat search of marine benthic animals.

For details, please click here: https://youtu.be/wmDZPXe_RuU

[1] Phylum is one of the units of microorganisms, larger than species with 100 known phyla. The Tara Oceans Project, which is recognized as the most authoritative global ocean microbiome research, found there are 35,000 microbial species in the Oceans.

About The Hong Kong University of Science and Technology
The Hong Kong University of Science and Technology (HKUST) (www.ust.hk) is a world-class research university that focuses on science, technology and business as well as humanities and social science.  HKUST offers an international campus, and a holistic and interdisciplinary pedagogy to nurture well-rounded graduates with global vision, a strong entrepreneurial spirit and innovative thinking.  HKUST attained the highest proportion of internationally excellent research work in the Research Assessment Exercise 2014 of Hong Kong’s University Grants Committee, and is ranked as the world’s best young university in Times Higher Education’s Young University Rankings 2018.  Its graduates were ranked 16th worldwide and top in Greater China in Global University Employability Survey 2018.

 

For media enquiries, please contact:    

Anita Lam
Tel: 2358 6313
Email: anitalam@ust.hk

Sam Li
Tel: 2358 6317
Email: liyongning@ust.hk

Announcements |
A New Multi-Disciplinary Program - MSc in FinTech

The innovations and rationalizations made possible by digital technology continue to transform the financial services industry. To help prepare skilled professionals and entrepreneurs who will shape a tech-driven future, three HKUST schools have combined their strengths to create a new master’s degree in Financial Technology (MSc in FinTech) Program.

 

For Hong Kong to maintain its position as one of the world’s financial centers, both its well- established and its emerging businesses will need to keep pace with developments in the field of FinTech. However, this will be impossible without talent possessing the new skill sets required (which frequently straddle more than one academic discipline). In the light of this, HKUST Schools of Business and Management (Business School), Engineering, and Science, have come together to launch their new program starting from the 2019-20 academic year.
 
The Deans of the three schools engaged in this exciting new joint collaboration are all enthusiastic about the opportunities that will be available to graduates.
 
“This program combines statistics and data analytics knowledge from the School of Science, expertise in AI and machine learning from the School of Engineering and finance and management knowledge from the School of Business and Management, to equip students with inter-disciplinary skills for the new digital economy,” says Professor WANG Yang, Dean of Science.
 
Professor Tim CHENG, Dean of Engineering, concurs. “The market is looking for talent with business knowledge, programming and data analytical skills, as well as engineering know how, such as in the form of AI skills,” he notes. “This is exactly what we aim to equip our students with in the MSc in FinTech Program.”
 
“Given the pace of technological change and the application of new developments in innovative products and services, the Program will closely track what’s happening in the real world”, Professor TAM Kar-yan, Dean of Business and Management, adds.
 
“We will incorporate cases and group work in students’ assignments and exams, so they can put into practice what they have learned,” he says. “We will also host talks from industry professionals so they can share their experience in the field and keep our students informed of the latest developments.”
 
 
A career launchpad
 
With new technology and innovations competing with the traditional ways of doing business, many companies in the finance sector are now looking for skilled FinTech talent to help them deliver new categories of products and services - or existing ones in a more user friendly and cheaper fashion.
 
Many of the most significant professional bodies are also looking to incorporate FinTech-related areas of expertise into their curricula, with, for example, the Chartered Financial Analyst Institute adding the topics of big data and data analysis to its 2019 exam curriculum.
 
To cater to these needs, the MSc in FinTech curriculum includes a range of core and elective courses run by the three HKUST Schools. The core courses cover essential areas of knowledge including: Corporate Finance, Investment Analysis, FinTech Regulation and Compliance, AI for FinTech, Blockchain, Data Analysis, Financial Data Mining and the Foundations of FinTech.
 
The list of electives offered will be announced at the start of each academic year, but examples include Cryptocurrency, Blockchain, and their business applications; FinTech: Algorithmic Trading; Optimization in FinTech and Statistical Machine Learning.
 
The Program will also offer practical support to students who will soon be in-demand graduates: “We’ll have a professional career service team for our MSc in FinTech students, offering, among other things, workshops on interview skills, career coaching and a placement service. We’ll also lineup internship opportunities, where appropriate,” says Professor Tam.
 
What’s more, he adds, other skills taught in the program are intended to help students stay abreast of developments in FinTech long after they’ve completed their studies.
 
“Universities need to equip students with the latest knowledge possible, while, at the same time, equipping them with the soft skills required for lifelong learning, as they will need to continue to adapt and acquire new knowledge in this fast paced and dynamic industry,” he explains.
 
 
Getting on board
 
The program will offer one-year full-time and two-year part-time study-mode options. A global recruitment drive for the program has begun, with a target of 40 students for the first cohort. These numbers are expected to gradually increase across subsequent intakes.
 
The program fees total HK$300,000, but scholarships will be provided on a case-by-case basis to well-rounded candidates with outstanding academic performances.
 
The profiles of successful applicants for the full-time and part-time programs differ, but all applicants should have gained a bachelor's degree, in any discipline, from a recognized institution, or an approved equivalent qualification. A background in programming and mathematics would be an advantage.
 
Typically, students on the full-time program will be fresh graduates, or those with little work experience, while those studying part-time are likely to be working professionals with at least one year of postgraduate work experience.

To know more about the program at:
http://www.mscfintech.ust.hk/

 

Internationalization & Partnership |
Joining Hand with Pangu BioPharma for New Lung Disease Therapy

Researchers from The Hong Kong University of Science and Technology (HKUST) credited with important translational science and early discovery work

Significant opportunity to replicate collaborative model to develop pipeline of extracellular tRNA synthetase therapeutics

SAN DIEGO AND HONG KONG – January 17, 2019 – aTyr Pharma, Inc. (Nasdaq: LIFE), a biotherapeutics company engaged in the discovery and development of innovative medicines based on novel immunological pathways, today recognized the collaboration between its Hong Kong subsidiary, Pangu BioPharma (Pangu), and The Hong Kong University of Science and Technology (HKUST) for contributions leading to the discovery of aTyr’s lead clinical candidate, ATYR1923, which is currently being evaluated in a Phase 1b/2a study in patients with pulmonary sarcoidosis. In a joint press conference, aTyr leadership, together with HKUST, recognized researchers from both organizations for their seminal basic and translational research leading to the discovery of extracellular signaling functions of tRNA synthetases.

HKUST researchers with support from Pangu were instrumental in discovering a splice variant of histidyl-tRNA synthetase (HARS) that liberates the smaller, active immuno-modulatory (iMod) domain from the full-length tRNA synthetase and has been shown to modulate the immune system.  ATYR1923 is a fusion protein comprised of the iMod domain fused to the FC region of a human antibody.  To date, researchers at HKUST have discovered over 200 novel compositions that are covered in issued patents and have published six articles detailing their research in peer-reviewed scientific journals.

Dr. Sanjay SHUKLA, President, Chief Executive Officer and Director of aTyr, said, “We are advancing our lead candidate ATYR1923 through clinical development in patients suffering from pulmonary sarcoidosis, a rare form of fibrotic lung disease with no known cure and of growing importance worldwide, including China.  We are grateful to HKUST researchers for essential collaborative efforts that made this important milestone possible.”

Prof. ZHANG Mingjie, Chair Professor of the Division of Life Science and Kerry Holdings Professor of Science at HKUST and project coordinator of the Pangu collaboration, commented, “The important discoveries that continue to emerge from this collaboration between Pangu and HKUST serve as an excellent example of the potential role that Hong Kong’s translational science and early discovery capabilities can play in the development of potentially life-changing therapies for patients worldwide.”

Prof. Paul SCHIMMEL, Co-founder and Director of aTyr Pharma and Senior Visiting Fellow at HKUST’s Institute for Advanced Study (IAS), commented, “Our understanding of tRNA synthetase biology was greatly enhanced by the joint efforts of the research teams at aTyr and Pangu/HKUST. We see the potential to replicate this model with many of the novel forms of tRNA synthetases covered in our expansive and largely untapped intellectual property portfolio that includes more than 300 issued or pending patents covering both biologically active variants and engineered forms of human tRNA synthetases.  Each of these protein compositions offers opportunities for potential development of therapeutics to treat a wide array of conditions.”

About ATYR1923
aTyr is developing ATYR1923 as a potential therapeutic for patients with interstitial lung diseases. ATYR1923, a fusion protein comprised of the immuno-modulatory domain of histidyl tRNA synthetase (HARS) fused to the FC region of a human antibody, is a selective modulator of Neuropilin-2 that downregulates the innate and adaptive immune response in inflammatory disease states.  aTyr initiated a proof-of-concept Phase 1b/2a trial evaluating ATYR1923 in patients with pulmonary sarcoidosis in the fourth quarter of 2018.  This Phase 1b/2a study is a multiple-ascending dose, placebo-controlled, first-in-patient study of ATYR1923 that has been designed to evaluate the safety, tolerability, steroid sparing effect, immunogenicity and pharmacokinetics (PK) profile of multiple doses of ATYR1923.  For the Phase 1b/2a trial, aTyr is collaborating with the Foundation for Sarcoidosis Research (FSR), the nation’s leading nonprofit organization dedicated to finding a cure for sarcoidosis and improving care for sarcoidosis patients. Under the terms of the collaboration, FSR will assist with clinical trial site initiation and patient enrollment.

About Pulmonary Sarcoidosis
Sarcoidosis is an inflammatory disease characterized by the formation of granulomas, clumps of inflammatory cells, in one or more organs in the body.  Sarcoidosis affects people of all ages, but typically presents before the age of 50 years, with the incidence peaking at 20 to 39 years.  The disorder usually begins in the lungs, skin or lymph nodes, but can affect almost any organ.  Sarcoidosis in the lungs is called pulmonary sarcoidosis and 90% or more of patients with sarcoidosis have lung involvement.  Pulmonary sarcoidosis is a major form of interstitial lung disease (ILD) a group of immune-mediated disorders which cause progressive fibrosis of lung tissue.  Estimates of prevalence vary; however, aTyr believes that approximately 200,000 Americans live with pulmonary sarcoidosis.  The prognosis for patients with pulmonary sarcoidosis ranges from benign and self-limiting to chronic, debilitating disease with mortality.

About The Hong Kong University of Science and Technology
The Hong Kong University of Science and Technology (HKUST) (www.ust.hk) is a world-class research university that focuses on science, technology and business as well as humanities and social science.  HKUST offers an international campus, and a holistic and interdisciplinary pedagogy to nurture well-rounded graduates with global vision, a strong entrepreneurial spirit and innovative thinking.  HKUST attained the highest proportion of internationally excellent research work in the Research Assessment Exercise 2014 of Hong Kong’s University Grants Committee, and is ranked as the world’s best young university in Times Higher Education’s Young University Rankings 2018.  Its graduates were ranked 16th worldwide and top in Greater China in Global Employability University Survey 2018.

About aTyr
aTyr is a biotherapeutics company engaged in the discovery and development of innovative medicines based on novel immunological pathways.  aTyr’s research and development efforts are concentrated on a newly discovered area of biology, the extracellular functionality of tRNA synthetases. aTyr has built a global intellectual property estate directed to a potential pipeline of protein compositions derived from 20 tRNA synthetase genes.  aTyr is focused on the therapeutic translation of the Resokine pathway, comprised of extracellular proteins derived from the histidyl tRNA synthetase gene family. ATYR1923 is a clinical-stage product candidate which binds to the neuropilin-2 receptor and is designed to down-regulate immune engagement in interstitial lung diseases and other immune-mediated diseases.  For more information, please visit http://www.atyrpharma.com.

For media enquiries, please contact:

aTyr Pharma, Inc.
Joyce Allaire
Managing Director, LifeSci Advisors, LLC
Email: jallaire@lifesciadvisors.com

The Hong Kong University of Science and Technology
Johnny Tam
Manager (PR & Media)
Email: johnnytam@ust.hk

Internationalization & Partnership |
Fighting Neurodegenerative Diseases

The Hong Kong University of Science and Technology (HKUST) signed a landmark Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) together with Boston Children’s Hospital – a Harvard Medical School Teaching Hospital (Harvard), the Paul F. Glenn Center for the Biology of Aging at Stanford University School of Medicine (Stanford), and University College London (UCL) today, signifying a partnership to engage in advanced translational neuroscience research.

The momentous occasion was witnessed by The Hon Mrs. Carrie LAM Cheng Yuet-Ngor, Chief Executive of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (HKSAR); Mr. Andrew LIAO Cheung-Sing, Council Chairman of HKUST; Prof. Wei SHYY, President of HKUST; Mr. Nicholas W YANG, Secretary for Innovation and Technology; and diplomatic representatives including Mr. Andrew HEYN, British Consul General in Hong Kong.

The MoU represents an exciting first step towards a significant strategic partnership among the four renowned institutions to undertake innovative and pioneering translational neuroscience research. They intend to establish the Center for Neurodegenerative Diseases and apply to join the Health@InnoHK research cluster program. The Center will provide a synergistic platform for scientists from HKUST, Harvard, Stanford and UCL to consolidate their strengths and expertise, build knowledge and understanding across multiple disciplines through concerted effort, and engage in research with significant societal impact.

Chief Executive of HKSAR Mrs. Carrie Lam said, “This milestone occasion brings together four of the world’s leading universities for – and from three continents – pioneering medical research here in Hong Kong. I am hopeful that the combined excellence and collective commitment and expertise of four of the world’s leading institutions, and their scientists and researchers, can lead to significant advances in the diagnosis and treatment of neurodegenerative diseases.”

HKUST Council Chairman Mr. Andrew Liao expressed his gratitude for the government’s determination in promoting science and research in the city, “The government has committed both funding and efforts to building an environment for Hong Kong’s development in science and innovation.  As a world-class research university, it is our pleasure and responsibility to contribute to the city’s health sector by creating a platform for these top-notch researchers.  I look forward to significant breakthroughs being made by the Center in the near future.”

Addressing the audience, President Prof. Wei Shyy said, “Our partnership with these universities will mark a major step forward in the understanding of neurodegenerative diseases and the development of new diagnostic tools and treatments, which are crucial amid problems posed by an aging population around the world.”

Foundational work at the Center will focus on Alzheimer’s disease (AD), the most prevalent neurodegenerative disease and one of the top 10 leading causes of death in the elderly. This incurable disease, which afflicts almost 47 million people worldwide, is rapidly increasing due to aging populations worldwide, and is projected to reach 131.5 million by 2050. While AD exacts a huge financial and emotional toll on patients and their families, the cost of care and loss of productivity from the disease incur massive economic burden to societies.  With one of the longest life expectancies in the world, Hong Kong faces an onslaught of AD cases, especially since 39% of the population will be over the age of 65 by 2050.

“Alzheimer’s disease is a major health crisis of our time but limited knowledge of the disease is hindering the development of urgently-needed diagnostics and therapeutics,” said Prof. Nancy IP, Vice-President for Research and Development at HKUST and the project lead. “The Health@InnoHK initiative provides the ideal platform to bring together leading minds in the field to accelerate progress in understanding this devastating disease. “

Three major inter-related research programs will be initiated with the goals of developing AD biomarkers for disease monitoring and therapeutic strategies, as well as identifying systemic factors and therapeutic targets for treating the disease. By establishing the most advanced technological pipelines, platforms, and models, the multi-institutional project team also aims to generate new insights on disease pathways to drive translational research efforts in developing improved treatments and tools for early diagnosis.

To further expand the breadth of expertise of this initiative, we also have the support of researchers from the University of Tokyo, and have collaborations with local clinicians at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital, the Prince of Wales Hospital, and the Haven of Hope Christian Service in engaging local patient groups, which is critical for the development of personalized medicine.

The Center’s activities will also create immense training opportunities for the next generation of scientists, and in the long run, establish a collaborative scientific hub for neurodegenerative disease research in Hong Kong.

About The Hong Kong University of Science and Technology
The Hong Kong University of Science and Technology (HKUST) (www.ust.hk) is a world-class research university that focuses on science, technology and business as well as humanities and social science.  HKUST offers an international campus, and a holistic and interdisciplinary pedagogy to nurture well-rounded graduates with global vision, a strong entrepreneurial spirit and innovative thinking.  HKUST attained the highest proportion of internationally excellent research work in the Research Assessment Exercise 2014 of Hong Kong’s University Grants Committee, and is ranked as the world’s best young university in Times Higher Education’s Young University Rankings 2018.  Its graduates were ranked 16th worldwide and top in Greater China in Global University Employability Survey 2018.

For media enquiries, please contact:

Anita Lam
Tel: 2358 6313
Email: anitalam@ust.hk

Jamie Wong
Tel: 3469 2512
Email: jamiewong@ust.hk

Research and Innovation |
HKUST Researchers Discover Mutation Route That Helps Find New Therapeutic Lead for Deadly Brain Cancer Patients

A research team consisting of scientists from the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology (HKUST) and Beijing Tiantan Hospital have uncovered the mutational mechanism of how a rare and deadly brain cancer –secondary glioblastoma (sGBM) – progresses from its less lethal type.  The groundbreaking finding has provided a therapeutic lead which may develop into a new kind of treatment for chemo-resistant patients.

Among the 200 new cases of aggressive brain tumor recorded in Hong Kong each year by the Hospital Authority, about a quarter are lower-grade glioma (LGG) tumors.  Starting off at nerve cells around the spine and brain, LGG is the early form of sGBM – one of the deadliest brain cancers known today.  While sGBM can be treated with surgery or an oral chemotherapy drug called temozolomide (TMZ) – most of these malign tumors would mutate and return again with mortality rate reaching almost 100 per cent.  Until now, the genomic features and evolution mechanism of the progression from LGG to sGBM remain elusive.

In their latest study, the team led by Prof. WANG Jiguang, Assistant Professor at HKUST’s Division of Life Scienceand Department of Chemical and Biological Engineering, identified METex14 mutations at MET oncogene as a major culprit behind this aggressive progression. The team analyzed and integrated the genomic data of 188 sGBM patients – including newly collected samples from Chinese and South Korean patients, with a specially designed computational model and found that about 14% of the sampled sGBM patients displayed mutations in this gene.

Taking reference from this discovery, HKUST’s collaborators – Prof. JIANG Tao and his team from Beijing Neurosurgical Institute and Beijing Tiantan Hospital, identified a drug molecule named PLB-1001 that is able to penetrate the blood-brain barrier – a physiological structure that sees separation of blood circulation and extracellular fluid in the central nervous system – and reach the tumors in the brain.  The molecule shows remarkable potency in selectively targeting sGBM tumors and those displaying further gene mutations.

The clinical trial of PLB-1001 on 18 recurrent patients at late cancer stage returned with a partial positive response in two patients.  After being prescribed a daily dosage ranging from 50 to 300 mg at Beijing Tiantan Hospital, the two patients experienced significant tumor shrinkage, with relieved symptoms and little side effects, lasting for more than 12 weeks.

“More studies on PLB-1001 are needed to see if it can be used in conjunction with other drugs in achieving more persistent results,” said Prof Wang from HKUST.  “But the outcome of this clinical trial is significant in a sense that it furthers the knowledge about sGBM treatment. Developing computational models on cancer evolution helps predict cancer cells’ future behavior and prioritize treatment options, while precision cancer medicine promises to tailor treatments according to personal cancer mutations, although the dynamic changes during cancer evolution add to its complication.  sGBM tumor is high on our target list as it is one of the toughest tumors to treat.”

The findings were published in the top scientific journal Cell on November 29, 2018. This paper is a follow-up work of Prof. Wang’s three recent publications in Nature Genetics (Wang et al. 2016; Lee et al. 2017; Lee et al. 2018).

About The Hong Kong University of Science and Technology
The Hong Kong University of Science and Technology (HKUST) (www.ust.hk) is a world-class research university that focuses on science, technology and business as well as humanities and social science.  HKUST offers an international campus, and a holistic and interdisciplinary pedagogy to nurture well-rounded graduates with global vision, a strong entrepreneurial spirit and innovative thinking.  HKUST attained the highest proportion of internationally excellent research work in the Research Assessment Exercise 2014 of Hong Kong’s University Grants Committee, and is ranked as the world’s best young university in Times Higher Education’s Young University Rankings 2018.  Its graduates were ranked 16th worldwide and top in Greater China in Global University Employability Survey 2018.

For media enquiries, please contact:

Anita Lam
Tel: 2358 6313
Email: anitalam@ust.hk

Johnny Tam
Tel: 2358 8556
Email: johnnytam@ust.hk

University Development |
HKUST School of Science received $1,000,000 donation from Space Tactics Commercial Holdings (Group) Co., Limited for research endeavor related to data science

The Hong Kong University of Science and Technology (HKUST) School of Science signed a donation agreement with Space Tactics Commercial Holdings (Group) Co., Limited (Space Tactics). Space Tactics and pledged to donate HK$1,000,000 to HKUST in support of research related to data science.

Space Tactics is a multifaceted commercial property corporation based in the mainland China, offering through-chain service including planning, operation and investment. It also keeps up with trends and incorporates elements of culture, art and technology into its commercial property projects.

By exploring the synergy between data science and medical science, Space Tactics anticipates that the research can help improve the population health. With the donation from Space Tactics, HKUST is planning to set up a new laboratory on health data analytics supported by a robust team of research faculty. The new laboratory would also provide a platform for nurturing young researchers.

The donation agreement was signed by Prof. Wang Yang, HKUST Dean of Science and Mr. Alex Wong, Chairman of Space Tactics, at a ceremony held on November 19, 2018, witnessed by representatives from Space Tactics and HKUST.

 

University Development |
HKUST School of Science received $2,000,000 donation from Foga Tech Limited for spurring the development of financial technology (FinTech)

The Hong Kong University of Science and Technology (HKUST) School of Science signed a donation agreement with Foga Tech Limited (Foga Tech). Foga Tech pledged to donate HK$2,000,000 to HKUST to support research and training of postgraduate / postdoctoral students related to FinTech and blockchain.

 

Foga Tech Limited is a subsidiary of Forgame Holdings Limited, a listed company in Hong Kong and a leading company of mobile games and webgames in China which is speeding up the development of FinTech business.

 

With the financial support from Foga Tech Limited, HKUST School of Science is planning to set up a new laboratory on FinTech and crypto-technology. The two parties are eager to collaborate to pioneer new developments in FinTech, while facilitating HKUST students to grasp the chance to tap into the opportunity.

 

The agreement was signed by Prof. Wang Yang, HKUST Dean of Science and Mr. Wang Dongfeng, Chairman of Forgame, at a ceremony held on November 8, 2018, witnessed by representatives of Forgame Tech and HKUST.

 

STEM Education |
HKUST Enhances Promotion on STEM Education Launches STEM@HKUST One–stop Online Platform

The Hong Kong University of Science and Technology (HKUST) is enhancing its efforts in promoting STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics) education in Hong Kong.  With the support of its faculty, staff, students and alumni, HKUST has recently launched an interactive platform to help spark junior high students’ inquisitiveness and support local teachers in teaching STEM subjects in Hong Kong.

Why would different acidity levels result in different colors on a pH paper? Is it possible to make someone fall in love with you by implanting some chemical substance in his/her brain? Co-founded by Prof. King CHOW, Director of HKUST’s Center for the Development of the Gifted and Talented and Prof. WOO Kam-Tim, Founding Director of the Center for Global and Community Engagement (GCE) at HKUST School of Engineering, the new platform STEM@HKUST (https://stem.ust.hk/) not only offers materials that encourage young learners to tackle everyday problems with a scientific mind, it also seeks to help local teachers of instilling the true spirit behind STEM education – a critical mindset and problem-solving skills, into their students.

“Teaching STEM at school is often viewed as following the science textbooks to cover the science and technology subjects items by items, or practice in the extracurricular activities that utilize knowledge delivered in class,” said Prof. Chow.  “But the gist of STEM education actually lies with the development of students’ mindset to observe, to analyze systematically, evaluate the validity and identifying feasible solution experimentally.  When the breadth of knowledge is overwhelming in modern days, only when one acquires this mindset, one can move beyond knowledge and practice STEM to the best relevance of our everyday life.”

STEM@HKUST not only seeks to be a one-stop shop of information on STEM related events and competitions, it also showcases original videos produced by HKUST’s faculty, staff and students which explain everyday conundrums in a lively manner.  Students can suggest topics or experiments they want to watch, secondary school teachers with queries on STEM related topics are also welcomed to raise questions through the website.

On the other hand, the team is also planning a mentorship program that could see HKUST undergraduate students observing STEM classes hosted by HKUST alumni in the teaching sector.  So while the students – many of whom already had experiences tutoring youngsters, could learn more about lesson planning and presentation skills, they could also help the alumni teachers in developing STEM materials.

HKUST has always been a keen promoter of STEM education. While HKUST’s Academy for Bright Future Young Engineers organizes workshops and summer programs for primary and secondary school students on topics spanning electric vehicles, financial engineering and Facebook Chatbot, the University’s enrichment program for gifted learners offers opportunities to high potential students on developing their talent.  GCE also provides training to students – including underprivileged and those with special education needs, who are invited to join its signature Underwater Robot Competition, to boost their confidence and interests in STEM.

About The Hong Kong University of Science and Technology

The Hong Kong University of Science and Technology (HKUST) (www.ust.hk) is a world-class research university that focuses on science, technology and business as well as humanities and social science.  HKUST offers an international campus, and a holistic and interdisciplinary pedagogy to nurture well-rounded graduates with global vision, a strong entrepreneurial spirit and innovative thinking.  HKUST attained the highest proportion of internationally excellent research work in the Research Assessment Exercise 2014 of Hong Kong’s University Grants Committee, and is the world’s second in the latest QS’ Top 50 under 50 ranking.  Its graduates were ranked 12th worldwide and top in Greater China in Global Employability University Survey 2017.

For media enquiries, please contact:

Anita Lam
Tel : 2358 6313
Email: anitalam@ust.hk

Jamie Wong
Tel : 3469 2512
Email : jamiewong@ust.hk

Research and Innovation |
HKUST Scientists Rebuild Synapse-like Machineries to Unveil its Formation and Regulatory Mechanism Paving Ways for Diagnosis and Early Intervention of Mental Disorders

A research team led by Prof Mingjie Zhang, Kerry Holdings Professor of Science in the Division of Life Scienceat The Hong Kong University of Science and Technology (HKUST), has employed a novel biochemical reconstitution approach to show how proteins in postsynaptic density (PSD) are regulated in synapses to process and transmit brain signals, which may provide insights into further research on early detection and intervention of mental disorders such as autism and schizophrenia.

Synapses, the structure that allows neurons to pass signals to one another, are essential to neuronal function. Proper formation and responses to stimulation of synapses are fundamental to brain functions, but to understand what governs the formation and regulation of compartmentalized synaptic assemblies is difficult as the number of synapses in an entire brain is enormous and it is hard to find two identical synapses – there is no simple repeating structural unit within synapses.

In their recent study, the HKUST research team rebuilt – in solution and on membrane bilayers –  a PSD-like structure and demonstrated the dynamic interactions between PSD proteins upon stimulation. The reconstituted PSD condensates also recaptured several key functional features of PSD in living neurons, which indicates that the highly condensed PSD assemblies in living neurons might autonomously form, stably exist, and dynamically change.

“Our biochemical reconstitution approach built a molecular platform that provides a likely answer to the mechanism of synapse-based cellular compartmentalization of neurons – a striking morphology that is critical for the functions of neurons,” said Dr Menglong Zeng, a post-doctoral researcher on Prof Zhang’s team and a co-author of the paper.

“The information derived from such a reconstitution system, together with experiments performed in living neurons, offer valuable insights into understanding the roles of the PSD proteins in synaptic formation and functions,” said Prof Zhang. “Although still vastly simplified, this well-defined biochemically traceable system provides a platform and a new paradigm for studying excitatory PSD formation and regulation as well as for elucidating mechanisms of a range of brain disorders caused by mutations of synaptic encoding genes in the future, which could ultimately help early detection and intervention of mental disorders.”

The findings were published in the top scientific journal Cell on Aug 2, 2018, which is the latest of a series of findings (e.g. a related paper published in Cell on Aug 25, 2016) from Prof Zhang’s lab on this fundamental topic of brain science.  The laboratory of Prof Penger Tong, Head of Department of Physics at HKUST, contributed to this study by ascertaining the material properties of the PSD assembly in the condensed phase.

About The Hong Kong University of Science and Technology

The Hong Kong University of Science and Technology (HKUST) (www.ust.hk) is a world-class research university that focuses on science, technology and business as well as humanities and social science.  HKUST offers an international campus, and a holistic and interdisciplinary pedagogy to nurture well-rounded graduates with global vision, a strong entrepreneurial spirit and innovative thinking.  HKUST attained the highest proportion of internationally excellent research work in the Research Assessment Exercise 2014 of Hong Kong’s University Grants Committee, and is ranked as the world’s best young university in Times Higher Education’s Young University Rankings 2018.  Its graduates were ranked 12th worldwide and top in Greater China in Global Employability University Survey 2017.

For media enquiries, please contact:

Anita Lam
Tel : 2358 6313
Email: anitalam@ust.hk

Johnny Tam
Tel : 2358 8556
Email : johnnytam@ust.hk

Research and Innovation |
HKUST Scientists Determine Atomic Structure of DNA Replication Machine to Make Groundbreaking Discovery of DNA Replication Mechanism

Cells propagate by making copies of themselves through replicating their DNA genome, which are blueprints of their identities.  Every full grown human came from a single fertilized egg cell whose genome is replicated approximately 10 million-billion times.  What does the molecular machine that carries out this Herculean task look like?  A research team led by scientists from the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology (HKUST) have determined the three dimensional structure of the DNA replication machinery at atomic resolution for the first time in history.

When DNA replication was first proposed based on its double helix structure over half a century ago, many believed that deciphering the machine that separates the two strands of DNA for replication is near to come.  However, it turns out to be a much complicated task due to the large size, multi-partite nature (made up of three engines) and its flexibility of the machine.

Today, capitalizing on the Cryo-electron microscopy (CryoEM) technology, a team led by Prof Bik Tye, Senior Visiting Member of HKUST Jockey Club Institute for Advanced Study (IAS) (retired Visiting Professor of Life Science (LIFS)) at HKUST and Prof Yuanliang Zhai, former Research Assistant Professor (RAP) at HKUST who is now an Assistant Professor at the University of Hong Kong, in collaboration with Prof Ning Gao, Professor of Life Sciences at Peking University – have managed to decipher the function of eukaryotes’ DNA replication machine, Origin Recognition Complex (ORC), at unprecedented resolution.  This structure explains how ORC is able to scan a sea of bases (DNA is made up of 4 bases, A, T, G, C) to select the correct sites programmed for DNA replication to begin.

It is believed that indiscriminate selection of too many sites may lead to rapid replication of the genome and therefore rapid cell divisions – a characteristic of cancer cells.  In contrast, inefficient selection of sites resulting in sluggish cell divisions especially at critical junctures of human development, such as embryogenesis, may lead to developmental disorders.  A three dimensional view of the DNA replication machine at 3Å resolution may help to identify better targets for cancer therapy such that synthetic chemicals can be custom made to fit the target.  More importantly, structures help to fully understand the mechanistic functions of molecular machines and therefore the roots of diseases due to suboptimal functions of these machines.

These findings on ORC were published in the prestigious scientific journal Nature on 4 July 2018 - the latest of a series of articles published by the Tye (HKUST)/Gao (PKU) collaboration that has opened the door for deciphering the function of the DNA replication machine at unprecedented resolutions.  The first, published in Nature 2015, determined the structure of the core engine of the DNA replication machine called the MCM complex.  The second reported an open-ringed structure of the Cdt1–Mcm2–7 complex as a precursor of the MCM double hexamer, which was published in Nature Structural and Molecular Biology.

Prof Tye’s interest in the mechanisms for DNA replication dated from when she established her own laboratory at Cornell University as an Assistant Professor.  Her group published the initial paper in 1984 that identified the MCM2-7 genes as key components in DNA replication.  Dr Yuanliang Zhai, formerly worked in Prof Tye’s group as RAP at HKUST’s LIFS and a Junior Fellow of IAS is now Assistant Professor in School of Biological Sciences at the University of Hong Kong.  The co-authors of this Nature paper also include Dr Wai Hei Lam, Post-doctoral fellow at HKUST’s LIFS and Dr Yongqian Zhao, RAP at HKUST’s LIFS and Junior Fellow of IAS.

About The Hong Kong University of Science and Technology

The Hong Kong University of Science and Technology (HKUST) (www.ust.hk) is a world-class research university that focuses on science, technology and business as well as humanities and social science.  HKUST offers an international campus, and a holistic and interdisciplinary pedagogy to nurture well-rounded graduates with global vision, a strong entrepreneurial spirit and innovative thinking.  HKUST attained the highest proportion of internationally excellent research work in the Research Assessment Exercise 2014 of Hong Kong’s University Grants Committee, and is ranked as the world’s best young university in Times Higher Education’s Young University Rankings 2018.  Its graduates were ranked 12th worldwide and top in Greater China in Global Employability University Survey 2017.

For media enquiries, please contact:

Anita Lam
Tel : 2358 6313
Email: anitalam@ust.hk

Johnny Tam
Tel : 2358 8556
Email : johnnytam@ust.hk

STEM Education |
Propelling Hong Kong’s Future Scientists Forward

Staying ahead in an increasingly hyper-competitive global playing field requires sharp observation and analytical thinking, and with that, the ability to think critically and execute an experiment is equally important. To encourage Hong Kong’s budding science student to go beyond their textbooks and demonstrate their mastery of the biology concepts via their problem-solving skills, HKUST is hosting Hong Kong’s first biology competition for senior secondary students: The Hong Kong Joint-School Biology Olympiad (HKJSBO).

Led by HKUST Professor King L. Chow and professors from all eight universities, supported by a dozen secondary school principals and teachers, the HKJSBO sees the competition as a fantastic opportunity for Hong Kong students to apply their powers of observation and logic to reach scientifically correct conclusions. Prof Chow explains: “We sincerely believe that this Joint School Biology Olympiad exercise modelled closely on the International Biology Olympiad format will offer a great platform for our students to study biology in a lively way, and make rounds of tests a stimulating learning experience.” The HKJSBO also hopes the unique and challenging questions will indulge students in exploration and inspire them to pursue science careers.

The competition kicked off last year and attracted close to 500 students from 60 secondary schools; selected through two rounds of tests, four best students had won. What is the prize for the four winners? An unforgettable summer conducting biology research alongside a university professor, some book coupons and trophies. With this superb exercise of investigative science, Hong Kong and its students are all winners.

For details on the Hong Kong Joint-School Biology Olympiad, please click here.