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Hong Kong PolyU and UoW sign historical agreement for ocular research and tech

According to a recent press release, The Presidents of The Hong Kong Polytechnic University (PolyU) and The University of Waterloo signed a Strategic University Partnership institutional agreement recently.

The objective of the agreement is to foster a closer partnership between the two universities in education, research and entrepreneurship.

This historic agreement will see the two universities exploring opportunities for collaboration in research, furthering ties on faculty and student mobility and discussing connections in entrepreneurship, amongst other key areas.

The President of PolyU stated that the Canadian university a valued partner, as both universities are committed to shaping the future through conducting world-changing research and sending forth graduates who are ready to lead in a global economy.

With a solid foundation, the new partnership will serve as an institutional framework for expanding the scope of the bilateral cooperation including diversifying areas of interdisciplinary academic, research and entrepreneurial collaboration; fostering greater mobility between the two universities; and paving the way for the development of dual or joint programmes together.

The signing of the PolyU-University of Waterloo Strategic University Partnership Memorandum of Understanding and an Implementation Agreement as an addendum marks an important milestone for advancing the initiative of establishing a global Centre for Ocular Research and Development (CORD). The Centre will operate under the umbrella of the Waterloo Biomedical Research and Innovation Node (WBRIN) in Hong Kong.

CORD will address vital population health and ageing imperatives in Hong Kong by partnering with local and internationally recognised leaders in ocular and vision science and translating the research to commercial applications.

According to the World Health Organization, vision problems cost the global economy US$200 billion annually to lost productivity. The Centre for Myopic Research at PolyU found that 70 per cent of people born between 1950 and 1980 in Hong Kong are myopic.

The two institutions have broadly agreed on the three possible research areas under CORD, namely ageing eye, sight-saving technologies and the eye as a window to the brain.

The researchers will explore new approaches in the detection and treatment of eye diseases, study the use of tear fluid as biomarkers to predict and diagnose diseases, and innovate technologies related to myopia prevention and reversal, visual neuro-rehabilitation and nanotechnology-based drug delivery.

CORD will also research into early diagnosis and disease monitoring in particular for diabetes and Alzheimer’s disease through peripheral retinal imaging or optic nerve examination.

One of the key members of the CORD research team is from the Physics & Astronomy Department at the University of Waterloo and is a Laureate of the 2018 Nobel Prize in Physics. The Professor will lead a flagship project to treat age-related macular degeneration.

She will expand on her award-winning work on chirped pulse amplification (CPA) to develop a laser-based two-photon excitation technique for photodynamic drug therapy to remove abnormal blood vessels in the retina with a high degree of accuracy.

Translating research into commercialisation will also be a key focus of CORD. The Centre aims to bring the University of Waterloo’s entrepreneurial culture to Hong Kong, developing spinoffs and multinationals to commercialize research, and creating a sustainable long-term business model.

The two institutions intend to submit a proposal to the HKSAR Government under the recently announced Health@InnoHK research cluster initiative, with a plan to establish a research node in the Hong Kong Science Park.

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