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Hong Kong team wins for tumour-mimicking machine

According to recent news report, a tumour-mimicking machine by a Hong Kong team won a prize at the Asian edition of prestigious Swiss-based innovation awards.

Some 43 teams from universities and companies across China submitted entries for Asian offshoot of International Exhibition of Inventions Geneva.

The machine mimics the structure of tumour cells and the tech helps to test the efficacy of cancer drugs more accurately. It bagged two prizes at the first Asian edition of a prestigious Swiss-based innovation competition.

Entrepreneur Jonathan Lam Chung-wai and his team spent three years designing and building the automatic tumour simulation platform.

The efforts of the team finally paid off at the innovation competition when they took home two awards at the 1st Asia Exhibition of Inventions Hong Kong – an Asian offshoot of the International Exhibition of Inventions Geneva.

Some 43 teams from universities and companies across China submitted entries for the contest, which was organised by the Hong Kong Exporters’ Association. The team took home a gold medal as well as the event’s 3rd Geneva Invention Award.

The CEO of a biotechnology company said that he and his colleagues only managed five to six hours’ sleep a night in their three years of devising the machine.

The box-shaped device, not much bigger than a microwave, can simulate the three-dimensional structure of a tumour cell. It can also divide cells extracted from real tumours into tiny and consistently sized portions, to more reliably test how they respond to drugs.

One of the developers of the machine noted that, in existing laboratories and research organisations cells are structured in a two-dimensional manner and in a monolayer. But this cannot reflect reality because a tumour, a cell or tissue comes as a three-dimensional structure.

The team partnered with the Chinese University of Hong Kong and a Guangdong hospital to carry out trials on their invention. They hope to officially launch it next year.

The Hong Kong Science and Technology Parks Corporation helped them set up the partnership with Chinese University, and played host to their start-up as they worked on the project.

One of the team members noted that the team joined the Science Park a year and a half ago. If they hadn’t, the team wouldn’t have survived this long, it was noted it.

The park, an incubation zone for tech start-ups, is part of efforts by officials to make Hong Kong a “smart city”.

In October 2018, Hong Kong’s chief executive proposed funding of HK$28 billion (US$3.58 billion) for university research, reindustrialisation, the application of technology to the city’s public services, and for the IT sector. The amount would be in addition to HK$50 billion already earmarked in Hong Kong’s budget this year.

The government has facilitated Science Park tenants to run trials of their inventions in the public sector.

A tech firm which supplies green building materials, won the Grand Award and a gold medal at the contest with its Palmeco Geo-Insulator, part of a high-performing insulated wall panel made of fly ash, a by-product of power plants and palm fibre.

The tech firm’s director said she had tried in 2013 to apply for innovation funds from the government, but the large amount of administrative work required put her off.

The director founded the company with her husband and decided to continue the journey alone and fork out more than HK$20 million in investment from their own pockets. The firm’s director noted that she felt support for innovation had strengthened in the last three years, but many people still needed to change their mentality.

The director also stated that the government must take the lead in trying out new products so as to provide more opportunities for small and medium-sized enterprises, in particular young businesspeople with limited funds.

Hong Kong universities and start-ups have been a regular feature at the awards in Geneva. In April 2018, the Hong Kong Polytechnic University beat 800 entries from around the globe with a solution to delay the progression of short-sightedness in children.

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