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Arabidopsis overexpressing AtPAP2 (Experimental) grow faster than control plants (Control) under both short and long days. Credit: The University of Hong Kong Do you feel the heat? According to NASA and NOAA, 2014 was the hottest year since 1880 and the 10 warmest years in the instrumental record have occurred since 1998. The Intergovernmental Panel of Climate Change (IPCC) of the United Nations confirmed in its Fifth Assessment Report that cumulative emissions of carbon dioxide (CO2) largely determine global mean surface warming and predicted that by 2100, the global mean surface temperature may increase by 3.7 oC to 4.8oC over the average for 1850-1900 for a median climate response if there is no additional effort to reduce greenhouse gas emission is put in place. To alleviate the problem and slow down the rate of global warming, increasing the rate of CO2 absorption by plants or algae is one possible strategy. A research team led by Dr. Lim Boon-leong with his former PhD student Dr. Law Yee-song from the School of Biological Sciences, Faculty of Science, the University of Hong Kong (HKU), has developed a new strategy to promote plant growth and seed yield by 38% to 57% in a model plant Arabidopsis thaliana, hence increasing CO2 absorption from the atmosphere. This technology may also have potential in boosting food production and thus could solve another danger of human civilization: food shortage due to overpopulation. According to the World Population Prospect of the United Nations in 2015, the global population will reach more than 9.7 billion by 2050, meaning a 57% increase since 2000. In this technology, the researchers have identified a plant-growth promoting gene, designated as "Purple acid phosphatase 2" (AtPAP2) from the model plant Arabidopsis thaliana. AtPAP2 is dually targeted to two energy-generating organelles of plant cells: chloroplasts and mitochondria. Chloroplasts carry out photosynthesis, a process that fixes CO2 in atmosphere into sugars using solar energy. The sugars are then used for plant growth including cell wall, biomass and seeds, or consumed by mitochondria to produce adenosine triphosphate (ATP), an important energy source for many cellular processes. This is the first study of AtPAP2 in the world. The research team found that by dual expression of AtPAP2 on chloroplasts and mitochondria, the engineered plants can grow faster (see Figure 1) and produce 38% to 57% more seeds (see Figure 2). It is because AtPAP2 can modulate the import of a number of specific proteins into chloroplasts and mitochondria, and subsequently boost their capability to harvest solar energy and generate ATP. AtPAP2 is found to be the first protein that can modulate energy outputs from these two organelles simultaneously. Dr Lim have reported the findings in two international conferences, the 9th International Conference for Plant Mitochondrial Biology held in May 2015 in Poland and the 2nd FEBS Plant Organellar Signaling Workshop in September 2015 in Croatia, where Dr. Lim was the only speaker from Hong Kong and China respectively. This research has yielded eight research articles in journals including Plant Physiology, Biofuels and Biotechnology, as well as several patent applications with the assistance of Technology Transfer Office, HKU, and we wish the technology can be transformed into applications. Dr. Lim said: "We are happy to make this discovery which has aroused great interest from many plant scientists, as our research findings would allow plant scientists to study the impacts of high energy supply to various biological processes in plant cell, and to study how energy supply affects plants' abilities to cope with various biotic and abiotic stresses. However, it is just the beginning of a number of research projects, and funding support from the community is certainly essential for future discoveries."


HONG KONG, March 2, 2017 /PRNewswire/ -- On February 28th, the event Nobel Laureates Series: 5th Social Caring Pledge Scheme Award Presentation Ceremony & Responsible Investment Forum was held at InterContinental Hotel Hong Kong. In the presence of over 150 members from political, academic, and business communities who promote awareness of social betterment, the hosting organisation presented 47 awards, which included the Asian Social Caring Leadership Award, the Social Caring Youth Leadership Award, the Outstanding Social Caring Organization Award, and the Social Caring Investment Excellence Award. In accordance with the United Nations Principles for Responsible Investment (UNPRI), responsible investment was rightfully named as the theme for the forum. The principle goal of the forum was to encourage personal and corporate investors to integrate elements of sustainable investment, investors' responsibility, and community investment into monetary decisions. The hosts were honoured to have invited Jasper Tsang Yok-sing GBM, GBS, JP, Ombudsman Connie Lau Yin-hing JP, and HKFTU President and National People's Congress member Lam Shuk-yee SBS as officiating guests, and to have welcomed them as Honorary Directors. In attendance at the ceremony were HKEX Non-Executive Director Jason Lee Kwan-ho, Board Director and Egive-for-you Founder Dr. Cho Kwai-chee, and Head of Asia of Principles of Responsible Investment Association Jessica Robinson. In addition, awardees included HKUST President Tony F. Chan, Founder of Sasa International Holdings Limited Eleanor Kwok, Law Kwai-chun Pang Siu-hin of Hin Sang Group (International) Holding Company Limited, Brand Manager of Renley Watch Manufacturing Company Limited Gary Lau Sun-tao. Dr. Dominic Lam Man-kit, Vincent Huen Wai-kei, and Dr. Richard Lee Man-fai also attended the event to show support. Dr. Ma Kai-cheung Ph.D., SBS, BBS, an honorary director of Social Enterprise Research Institute (SERI), was present to give the opening speech. During the opening speech, Dr. Ma mentioned that, as a successful entrepreneur, one's responsibilities go beyond profit-making, and extend to caring for society and having a spirit of giving. Dr. Ma noted that continual contribution to the prosperous development of Hong Kong and mainland China is also a crucial part of entrepreneurial responsibility. Under the speech title "Social Value VS Economic Costs", Jasper Tsang Yok-sing GBM, GBS, JP emphasised the value of social caring and responsible investment, and their relation to overall economic costs. Tsang also mentioned that SERI deserves praise and encouragement for encouraging personal and corporate investors to integrate elements of investor responsibility and community investment into investment decisions, and for promoting sustainable investment. In the speech given by HKFTU President and NPC member Lam Shuk-yee SBS titled "The Developing Trends in Corporate Responsibility and Labour Rights", Lam mentioned that corporate employee care is recognised as a social responsibility and as a right of labour workers, and that healthy employer-employee relations begin with care and consideration. As an Asian Social Caring Leadership Award recipient, HKUST President Tony F Chan mentioned that he felt tremendous honour, and that the award belongs to the staff and students of HKUST. In recognition of the schoolwide social service program, HKU Connect, and of educational platform SIGHT, Chan highlighted their achievements. The achievement include hosting underwater robotics competitions and designing feasible plans for improving medical sanitation in the world's developing regions. Chan praised them for servicing communities while making technological advancements. Representing Hin Sang Group (International) Holding Company Limited, Pang Siu-hin announced his gratitude as he accepted the Outstanding Social Caring Organization Award. Pang mentioned that Hin Sang Group pushed forward a series of volunteer services that pinpointed the needs of children of various age groups. Pang also noted that the group is proud to serve, to protect, and to care for the joys in family life. Gary Lau Sun-tao, Brand Manager of Renley Watch Manufacturing Company Limited, was honoured with the Social Caring Youth Leadership Award. During his acceptance speech, Lau claimed that in assembling young industrialists, not only can community members expand social circles, but individuals can also exchange information and experiences. Besides hosting his own friendly gatherings, Lau also attends activities hosted by major manufacturers' associations and by youth organisations, with the intention of building elite, meaningful social networks. To assist in the implementation of corporate performance pledges, SERI also hosted the Responsible Investment Forum at the biannual ceremony. Responsible Investment includes three components -- Environmental, Social, and Corporate Governance. In the implementation of said components, one aims to build an economically efficient and sustainable development structure that benefits the environment and the general society. Responsibilities include ensuring social and environmental protection, promoting human rights, maintaining labour standards, tackling corruption, and caring for customers. Speakers in attendance at the forum included the Head of Asia of Principles of Responsible Investment Association, Jessica Robinson, the Head of Sustainable Development at CLP Group, Jeanne Ng Chi-yun, Ascent Partners Director Hauman Yeung, and SERI Honorary Chairman Dr. Peter Liao Sheung-kwan. In endorsement of the principles advocated in UN Global Compact, and in encouragement of social caring and sustainable development, the Social Caring Pledge Scheme promotes Asian enterprises for their contributions to environmental and social protection, human rights, labour standards, anti-corruption, and customer care. In recognition, the Social Caring Pledge Scheme honours leaders and enterprises with four distinct awards - Asian Social Caring Leadership Award, Social Caring Youth Leadership Award, Outstanding Social Caring Organization Award, and the Social Caring Investment Excellence Award. The 5th Social Caring Pledge Scheme is hosted by the Social Enterprise Research Institute (SERI), and it receives wide support from various sectors. The Pledge Scheme is signed and recognised by Nobel Laureates Professor Harald Zur Hausen and Professor Kurt Wuthrich, and is also supported by Gustavo Berlanga, President of UN Global Compact and SERI Honorary President. Since its inception, the Pledge Scheme welcomed participation from over 300 enterprises. Widely supported by members of the political community and the business sector, the Pledge Scheme award presentation ceremony is surely an industry-wide, well-received biannual occasion.


Experts advocate the two cities join force in formation of complementary advantages to foster international competitiveness HONG KONG, CHINA--(Marketwired - Feb 15, 2017) - New research released today by the professors of The Chinese University of Hong Kong (CUHK) Business School's Center for Entrepreneurship (CfE) and Hong Kong Baptist University (HKBU)'s School of Business shows that entrepreneurship in Hong Kong and Shenzhen is on the rise. A collaborative effort by CUHK CfE, HKBU School of Business, the University of Hong Kong's Faculty of Business and Economics, Shenzhen Academy of Social Science and Savantas Policy Research Institute, the research titled "Global Entrepreneurship Monitor (GEM) Hong Kong and Shenzhen Report 2016-17" provides a detailed analysis of the current status of entrepreneurship in Hong Kong and Shenzhen. The study compares the results with past indicators for both ecosystems and provides an international benchmark with 65 economies worldwide. It is part of the global initiative, Global Entrepreneurship Monitor (GEM), the world's foremost comparative entrepreneurship study and a trusted resource on entrepreneurship for key international organizations such as the United Nations, World Economic Forum, World Bank and more. In the recent few years, Hong Kong and Shenzhen have experienced an explosive growth in the start-up support ecosystem. The GEM Hong Kong and Shenzhen Report 2016-17 shows that the start-up rates recorded a staggering increase in Hong Kong and Shenzhen from 2009 to 2016. In mid-2016, the early-stage entrepreneurial activity among the adult population was estimated at 9.44 percent (3.64 percent in 2009) in Hong Kong and 16.04 percent (4.8 percent in 2009) in Shenzhen. The growth has been driven by a rapid increase in Shenzhen's new* (+284 percent) and Hong Kong's growth in nascent** businesses (+206 percent) in comparison with 2009 statistics. The prevalence rates of established businesses recorded an increase as well: +389 percent for Shenzhen and +109 percent for Hong Kong. It is worth noting that while entrepreneurship rates are on the rise in Hong Kong and Shenzhen, they are declining in other places in China. Both cities have developed a separate start-up culture and entrepreneurial ecosystem that operate independently from the rest of the Mainland. The positive changes were not limited to early entrepreneurship rates only. The research team also observed a major shift in attitudes and entrepreneurial intentions. In particular, 56.8 percent of the adult population perceives start-up opportunities in Hong Kong. In Shenzhen, the same proportion of individuals who declared they possessed necessary skills and knowledge to start a new business (35.8 percent), also reported their intention to start a business in the next two years (36 percent). Comparing to 2009, the population with entrepreneurial intentions in Hong Kong grew from 7.3 percent to 19.7 percent in 2016, representing an impressive increase of +170 percent. Similarly, in Shenzhen the intentions grew from 17.6 percent to 36 percent, an increase of +105 percent. According to the study, cultural conditioning and attitudes towards entrepreneurship, perception of own skills, and exposure to entrepreneurship practices all had a positive impact on intentions to start businesses. Successful entrepreneurs are also regaining their high status and are promoted by local media in Shenzhen and Hong Kong. In terms of financial support, Hong Kong early-stage firms have lower capital requirements than that of their Shenzhen counterparts, which may be related to the lower technological intensity of Hong Kong firms. 92 percent of nascent entrepreneurs in the two cities declared that their principal source of financial support was their own savings. The role of the family in financing new ventures is still significant in Shenzhen, but not so much in Hong Kong. Banks are also more supportive of startups in Shenzhen than in Hong Kong and so are venture capitalists, which could be explained by a higher prevalence of start-ups with profound market impact. In Hong Kong, on the other hand, crowdfunding is more prevalent as the source of capital for early-stage businesses, a sign of a more established product innovation. Aligned with higher entrepreneurship rates, the research team also found a growing culture of informal investors developing in both cities. Shenzhen observed a much higher informal investment prevalence rate (20.5 percent) than Hong Kong (6.5 percent) of the adult population. In fact, Hong Kong and Shenzhen informal investors were two of the most generous among all economies in the study with a contribution of US$70,565 and US$76,112 respectively. The study has also recorded a dramatic change in investment patterns for Shenzhen. While in 2009 individuals were rather investing in family members, in 2016, friends and neighbors had been the first choice which was aligned with that of Hong Kong. In addition, the research team interviewed 39 Hong Kong and 37 Shenzhen experts in the field of entrepreneurship about their opinions on how the cooperation between Hong Kong and Shenzhen that would increase the cities' international competitiveness. The most frequent recommendation was to leverage the natural industry compatibilities between Hong Kong and Shenzhen. Other recommendations include: Prof. Kevin Au, Associate Director of CUHK CfE and Associate Professor of the Department of Management at CUHK Business School, says: "If Hong Kong and Shenzhen join forces in the formation of complementary advantages on entrepreneurship, it would strengthen the international and Mainland competitiveness for both. This can be the first step towards the development of the Hong Kong-Shenzhen megalopolis." Dr. Marta K. Dowejko, Research Assistant Professor in Entrepreneurship of the Department of Management at HKBU School of Business, says: "Hong Kong and Shenzhen are facing a fantastic opportunity: that of being in the perfect position to build a highly unique and internationally competitive start-up hub with an unparalleled ecosystem compatibility between the two cities and a supportive informal investment culture. While Shenzhen's start-ups are well geared to deliver innovative ideas with high growth potential, Hong Kong's entrepreneurs possess the know-how in taking ideas to the next level and ensuring their long-term sustainability. The results from this year's GEM report give testament to this unique setup that no other place in the world has." * 3 to 42 months old businesses ** in the process of starting up, less than three months old About CUHK Business School CUHK Business School comprises two schools -- Accountancy and Hotel and Tourism Management -- and four departments -- Decision Sciences & Managerial Economics, Finance, Management and Marketing. Established in Hong Kong in 1963, it is the first business school to offer BBA, MBA and Executive MBA programs in the region. Today, the School offers 8 undergraduate programs and 13 graduate programs including MBA, EMBA, Master, MSc, MPhil and PhD. In the Financial Times Global MBA Ranking 2017, CUHK MBA is ranked 36th. In FT's 2016 EMBA ranking, CUHK EMBA is ranked 37th in the world. CUHK Business School has the largest number of business alumni (32,000+) in Hong Kong -- many of whom are key business leaders. The School currently has about 4,400 undergraduate and postgraduate students and Professor Kalok Chan is the Dean of CUHK Business School. More information is available at: www.bschool.cuhk.edu.hk or by connecting with CUHK Business School on Facebook: www.facebook.com/cuhkbschool and LinkedIn: www.linkedin.com/company/cuhk-business-school. About HKBU School of Business Since 1956, HKBU School of Business has provided innovative business education to students from across the globe. We seek to inspire good business practice, create value for stakeholders, and enhance social and economic growth and development through our research on corporate sustainability issues, encompassing the areas of business ethics, corporate social responsibility and corporate governance. About Faculty of Business and Economics, The University of Hong Kong The Faculty of Business and Economics at The University of Hong Kong strives to nurture first-class business leaders and foster academic and relevant research to serve the needs of Hong Kong, China and the rest of the world in the new Asia-led economy. As Asia's premier international business school, FBE engages leading scholars from all corners of the globe and they instil in the students global knowledge with an Asian perspective. The Faculty attracts top students from Hong Kong and beyond. It admits the highest proportion of non-local undergraduate students amongst all Faculties at HKU. Three of its undergraduate programmes are ranked among the University's top 10 programmes. The Faculty's full-time MBA programme has a strong Asia and China focus, and the programme has been ranked Asia's no. 1 in the World MBA Rankings released by the Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU) for seven consecutive years from 2010 to 2016. Students can opt for an overseas exchange opportunity to supplement their campus learning in Hong Kong: a London track at London Business School, a New York track at Columbia Business School or a Hong Kong/China track at Fudan University. The Faculty also offers an elite EMBA Global Asia programme, jointly with CBS and LBS, for globally-focused senior executives and professionals. Its International MBA Programme, delivered in Shanghai in collaboration with Fudan University, was the first of its kind when it was launched in 1998. FBE is fully accredited by the European Quality Improvement Systems (EQUIS). Its accounting and business programmes are also accredited by the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business (AACSB). About the Shenzhen Academy of Social Science Established in July 1992, the Shenzhen Academy of Social Science (SZASS) is a subordinate unit of the Shenzhen Municipal People's Government. SZASS is a research institute of philosophy and social science, consisting of five research units: economy, social development, culture, political science and law, and international urban studies. More information is available at: www.szass.com.


News Article | November 2, 2016
Site: www.eurekalert.org

A study led by Dr K.C. Tan-Un and her team at the School of Biological Sciences, the University of Hong Kong (HKU), in collaboration with Professor Richard Festenstein at the Clinical Sciences Centre, Imperial College London, and Professor Sjaak Phillipsen at Erasmus University, Rotterdam, have discovered a crucial part of the genetic machinery that switches on the Neuroglobin gene. This discovery opens up a new opportunity in treating Alzheimer's disease (AD), such with the development of gene therapy. The study was published recently in the journal Nucleic Acids Research. Neuroglobin has previously been shown to protect the brain of mice and is shown to reduce the severity of damage due to stroke and AD. In human, it is observed that the two major risk factors of AD, age and female sex are associated with lower levels of Neuroglobin. Identifying the "switch" for the neuroglobin gene is therefore of paramount importance, as it will serve as a potential target for the development of novel therapeutic treatments with gene therapy or drugs. AD currently affects more than 70,000 people in Hong Kong and the number is estimated to reach 280,000 in 20 years because of the aging population. Currently the disease is incurable, thus there is an urgent need to find a treatment for the disease. Since the discovery of the neuroglobin gene in 2000, studies have focused on its functions, yet little is known about how the gene is being regulated. The HKU team spent 6 years addressing the mechanism that controls the switching of the Neuroglobin gene. Dr. Tan-Un at HKU led the study with the hypothesis that there is a "switch" that controls the expression of the neuroglobin gene which is located far away from the gene itself. The search of the distal DNA region has been technically challenging and the idea was tested by a series of experiments, carried out by two former PhD students, namely, Tam Kin-tung and Zhang Wei, including a technique called chromosome conformation capture (3C). The research team found that there is a segment of DNA which interacts with the Neuroglobin gene by means of a protein called GATA-2 in human neuronal cells. The results showed that the novel DNA segment is powerful in switching on Neuroglobin expression. Removal of either GATA-2 protein or the DNA segment from the cells led to a substantial decrease in Neuroglobin expression. Professor Godfrey Chi-Fung Chan, a co-author from the Department of Paediatrics and Adolescent Medicine, HKU, said: "AD is an incurable disease at the moment and understanding the control mechanism of an important protector in the neural tissue such as Neuroglobin will provide us with a new therapeutic strategy. In fact, the role of neuroglobin is not confined to degenerative brain disorders, its aberrant role in neurogenic neoplasms is another interesting area to be explored. Therefore knowing how to 'switch on' or 'switch off' this molecule will help us to modulate a variety of human diseases." The discovery of the Neuroglobin switch opens up new opportunities in treating AD, such as the development of gene therapy. To effectively increase the expression of Neuroglobin to protect the brain, the gene together with the newly identified switch may be inserted into the genome. GATA-2 protein may also be manipulated by drugs to induce Neuroglobin expression. As the increase in neuroglobin expression is protective for AD, the team's future research will focus on the identification of factors that will enhance the "switch" mechanism of neuroglobin in brain. Dr. Tan-Un highlighted: "Further understanding this 'switch' and neuroglobin locus will be crucial in the design of efficient gene therapy system for the treatment of Alzheimer's disease and other neurodegenerative diseases." The article "Identification of a novel distal regulatory element of the human Neuroglobin gene by the chromosome conformation capture approach" published recently in the journal Nucleic Acids Research* can be obtained from the following link: *Nucleic Acids Research ranks within the top 6% of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology journals


News Article | November 8, 2016
Site: www.chromatographytechniques.com

The research team of Xuechen Li at the HKU Department of Chemistry, together with collaborators at the University of Central Florida (Yu Yuan), and the Hong Kong Polytechnic University (Sheng Chen), reported their research findings on the synthesis of a newly discovered "game-changing" antibiotic, Teixobactin, in Nature Communications recently. This underlies potential application and development of the next-generation teixobactin-based antibacterial drugs. Antimicrobial resistance is on the rise globally and has become a serious threat to human health. For instance, methicillin- resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) has emerged as one of the most important pathogens, both in hospital (HA-MRSA) and community-acquired infections (CA-MRSA). It is considered one of the most important superbugs in Hong Kong as it is extremely infectious and has a high mortality rate. To avoid further aggravation of resistance-related problems, misuse and overuse of antibiotics should be prevented to minimize the emergence of drug-resistant organisms. At the same time, development of novel antibacterial and anti-resistant agents should be actively pursued. Although there is an urgent public need for new antibacterial drugs, very few pharmaceutical companies are interested in investing in the development of these, due to the lower profit margin compared to medicines used to treat diabetes and cardiovascular diseases. The fact that no new antibiotics have been introduced to the market over the last decade is evidence of this. To address this issue, researchers in academia should play a more active role in the search for new antimicrobial compounds. Li's research team has taken up the responsibility and challenge and has been working on the development of new antibiotics for the past seven years. In 2013, they developed the first chemical synthesis of an antibiotic daptomycin, which enabled them to search for the next-generation daptomycin-based antibiotics. Recently, his team has achieved further success by developing a chemical strategy to synthesize another antibiotic, teixobactin. Last year, the discovery of the antibiotic teixobactin by researchers in the U.S.,, was considered a breakthrough in antibacterial drug research (Nature, 2015, 517, 455). Teixobactin can kill a range of pathogens without detectable resistance, including methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA), vancomycin-resistant Enterococcus (VRE) and Mycobacterium tuberculosis. As promising as it is, Teixobactin is not perfect yet as a drug and can be further improved for its clinical properties via its structural modification. In the history of antibacterial drug development, modification of the lead compound has successfully led to many generations of improved penicillin-based antibiotics. Indeed, it is only through chemical synthesis and medicinal chemistry that one can flexibly modify the teixobactin structure to generate various teixobactin derivatives from simple materials. Thus, the development of a strategy to chemically synthesize teixobactin and its derivatives has drawn a lot of attention with intense competition worldwide and more than 15 research groups from different countries have been striving to develop a chemical strategy to synthesize teixobactin. Collaborating with another chemist from University of Central Florida, USA, the HKU team became one of the fastest groups in the world to complete the chemical synthesis of teixobactin, from which they have also generated 10 teixobactin analogues with promising properties (US provisional patent filed). The strategy they developed is very efficient and can generate many teixobactin derivatives in a fast and combinatory manner. Now, they are running at a full speed with an aim to synthesize more 100 different teixobactin derivatives within two years to search for analogues with improved pharmacological properties for the clinical development.


News Article | February 15, 2017
Site: www.prweb.com

The #1 tech camp and leader in STEM education in the United States, iD Tech, has partnered with GEMS Nations Academy and The University of Hong Kong (HKU) to bring technology camps to international students in summer 2017. “We are so excited to be working with these prestigious locations to bring almost two decades of technology education experience and the spirit of Silicon Valley to Dubai and Hong Kong,” says Joy Meserve, Chief Program Officer of iD Tech. “While visiting Dubai and Hong Kong, I spent time visiting with students and teachers from top private schools. Seeing their enthusiasm for technology and passion for learning, I knew iD Tech would be well received.” Over the years, thousands of families have traveled from all over Asia and the Middle East to attend iD Tech programs in the US. Now, students in Dubai and Hong Kong will receive the same world-class instruction from top-notch staff right in their backyard. With only eight students per instructor, students will spend the week exploring technology, creating an impressive project, and building skills for college and beyond. iD Tech delivers the academic rigor and hands-on experience that students need to build a competitive advantage for their future. The GEMS Nations Academy facilities are of bold and creative design, with inspiring interior spaces housing technology-rich learning environments. The campus goes beyond state-of-the-art and provides a stimulating environment for students. Here, kids and teens will be to be immersed in Java and C++ coding, LEGO and VEX robotics, in addition to engineering and game design courses. Courses will be held at GEMS Nations Academy for eight weeks starting July 2, 2017. The University of Hong Kong is the territory’s oldest institute of higher learning and is an internationally recognized, research-led, comprehensive university. While recognizing the strength of its heritage and traditions, HKU also engages in frontier research and academic endeavours that reflect and address the needs of an ever-changing, knowledge-based world. Courses will primarily focus on coding for kids and teens, and will also include electrical engineering and game design. Courses will be held at The University of Hong Kong for seven weeks starting June 26, 2017. “These new locations are just the first step in our international opportunities,” says Pete Ingram-Cauchi, CEO of iD Tech. “We plan to grow our program overseas to deliver our unique blend of essential STEM education and summer fun to additional campuses across the Middle East and Asia.” About iD Tech iD Tech is the leader in summer STEM education programs for students ages 6–18. Over 275,000 students have attended iD Tech since 1999. Camps are held at over 150 prestigious campuses in the United States, including Stanford, Harvard, UCLA and many others. In addition to its flagship program, iD Tech Camps, the company offers four distinct divisions all aimed at delivering inventive technology experiences to the next generation—one student at a time. Learn more at iDTech.com.


News Article | August 29, 2016
Site: phys.org

Antimicrobial resistance is on the rise globally and has become a serious threat to human health. For instance, methicillin- resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) has emerged as one of the most important pathogens, both in hospital (HA-MRSA) and community-acquired infections (CA-MRSA). It is considered one of the most important super-bugs in Hong Kong as it is extremely infectious and has a high mortality rate. To avoid further aggravation of resistance-related problems, misuse and overuse of antibiotics should be prevented to minimize the emergence of drug-resistant organisms. At the same time, development of novel antibacterial and anti-resistant agents should be actively pursued. Although there is an urgent public need for new antibacterial drugs, very few pharmaceutical companies are interested in investing in the development of these, due to the lower profit margin compared to medicines used to treat diabetes and cardiovascular diseases. That no new antibiotics have been introduced to the market over the last decade is evidence of this. To address this issue, researchers in academia should play a more active role in the search for new antimicrobial compounds. A team of researchers led by Dr Xuechen Li of the HKU Department of Chemistry, have taken up the responsibility and challenge and have been continuingly working on the development of new antibiotics for the past seven years. In 2013, they developed the first chemical synthesis of an antibiotic daptomycin, which enabled them to search for the next-generation daptomycin-based antibiotics. Recently, his team has had further success by developing a chemical strategy to synthesize another antibiotic, Teixobactin. Last year, the discovery of the antibiotic Teixobactin by researchers in the USA, was considered a breakthrough in antibacterial drug research (Nature, 2015, 517, 455). Teixobactin can kill a range of pathogens without detectable resistance, including methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA), vancomycin-resistant Enterococcus (VRE) and Mycobacterium tuberculosis. As promising as it is, Teixobactin is not perfect yet as a drug and can be further improved for its clinical properties via its structural modification. In the history of antibacterial drug development, modification of the lead compound has successfully led to many generations of improved penicillin-based antibiotics. Indeed, it is only through chemical synthesis and medicinal chemistry that one can flexibly modify the teixobactin structure to generate various teixobactin derivatives from simple materials. Thus, the development of a straetgy to chemically synthesize teixobactin and its derivatives has drawn a lot of attention with intense competition worldwide and more than 15 research groups from different countries have been striving to develop a chemical strategy to synthesize teixobactin. Collaborating with another chemist from University of Central Florida, USA, the HKU team became one of the fastest groups in the world to complete the chemical synthesis of teixobactin, from which they have also generated 10 teixobactin analogues with promising properties (US provisional patent filed). The strategy they developed is very efficient and can generate many teixobactin derivatives in a fast and combinatory manner. Now they are running at a full speed with an aim to synthesize more 100 different teixobactin derivatives within two years to search for analogues with improved pharmacological properties for the clinical development. Explore further: New approach sees breakthrough in antibiotics research More information: Kang Jin et al. Total synthesis of teixobactin, Nature Communications (2016). DOI: 10.1038/ncomms12394


News Article | March 30, 2016
Site: www.nature.com

The visible face of intensive agriculture is supermarkets bulging with vegetables, meat and milk. Yet behind the scenes, as Science Gallery Dublin's latest exhibition reveals, factory farming's reliance on energy-intensive fertilizer manufacture and vast amounts of water raises big questions about sustainability. No one solution is on offer in Field Test, which is curated by the Center for Genomic Gastronomy, an artist-led global think tank devoted to imagining a more just, biodiverse food system. But visitors can feast on prototypes, research, revolutionary agronomy manifestos, innovative and imagined farm technologies and speculative cuisines. “We're asking how we can get more from less,” explains acting gallery director Lynn Scarff. Meat, for instance, is a Western penchant now spreading around the world. The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations estimates that demand will increase by more than two-thirds over the next 40 years, despite sky-high costs — it takes 15,000 litres of water to produce a kilogram of beef. The curators' Farmstand Forecast looks at alternatives: attractively packaged insect-based foods, and historical 'miracle' crops such as breadfruit and Chlorella algae. An exhibition strand dubbed 'Farm Cyborgs' features animal-husbandry innovations including Silent Herdsman, a smart collar for tracking data on bovine health. Playing With Pigs: Pig Chase is a video game for alleviating porcine boredom, designed by researchers at the HKU University of the Arts Utrecht and the Wageningen University and Research Centre, both in the Netherlands. A pig uses its snout to manipulate a virtual ball on a touch-sensitive display, while a person uses a finger to do the same on a tablet computer. The reward for moving the ball in harmony is colourful 'fireworks'. Imagination-tickling as this is, it does not probe the central issue — demand and supply. That dilemma is framed in 'Grow House'. Does the plastinated leftover of physician Mark Post's 2013 in vitro burger, made by culturing beef cells, represent a viable solution? Bioartist Oron Catts thinks not. “The real price of growing meat in a lab is hidden,” he notes. Muscle cells are macerated in huge quantities of fetal bovine serum obtained by slaughtering pregnant cows — half a litre of serum yields just 5 grams of meat, says Catts. His speculative Stir Fly is a sleek prototype bioreactor co-created by artist Ionat Zurr and designer Robert Foster to grow fly cells in bovine serum. The mix could be siphoned off and eaten as soup, or drained to form insect 'meat'. Closed-loop urban agriculture systems offer a time-honoured sustainable alternative. AQUAlab, by Dublin-based agricultural start-up firm URBANFARM, harnesses aquaponics — a system in which waste from fish raised for food fertilizes salad and herbs, which in turn purify the water for the fish. (Plants and fish will eventually be harvested as a tasty proof of concept.) The 'Open Ag Lab' showcases another city-farming trend — beekeeping. In the The Dublin Honey Project, Irish black bees do their stuff in six apiaries across the city, and ecologist Jane Stout from Trinity College Dublin will be identifying pollen from the honey to determine foraging sources. Counter-intuitively, the project argues that cities can be relatively clean for bees because of stringent controls on pesticides. Stout argues, too, for ecological intensification — replacing artificial inputs by optimizing ecosystem services and fostering crop diversity. In service to that vision, botanists at Trinity focus on the microbiome. For Endophyte Club, Trevor Hodkinson, Brian Murphy, Anna Kaja Hoeyer and Anindita Lahiri have extracted the microbiome of wild barley and plated the microorganisms that live in the plant out on agar plates. They show how sprinkling seeds with such endophytes can boost yields, potentially reducing fertilizer use. The show points out that consumer choices can determine how and what is grown. 'LOCI Food Lab' is a cart peddling personalized snacks made from Irish foods, digitally selected on a tablet device using criteria such as biodiverse, traditional or delicious. My attempts yielded sweet-salty yogurt, shoots and leaves, mushroom dust and dillisk seaweed: a locavore's dream nibble. Field Test has dug up an assortment of agricultural advances, idealistic prototypes and thought experiments. But the quirkiness on show spurs questioning even as the discoveries framed rouse hope. A coordinated solution to our hungry future remains elusive.


News Article | August 29, 2016
Site: www.rdmag.com

Dr Xuechen Li of HKU Department of Chemistry and his research team, together with his collaborators in University of Central Florida (Dr Yu Yuan), USA and the Hong Kong Polytechnic University (Dr Sheng Chen), reported their studies on the synthesis of a newly discovered "game-changing" antibiotic, Teixobactin, in Nature Communications recently. This underlies potential application and development of the next-generation teixobactin-based antibacterial drugs. Antimicrobial resistance is on the rise globally and has become a serious threat to human health. For instance, methicillin- resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) has emerged as one of the most important pathogens, both in hospital (HA-MRSA) and community-acquired infections (CA-MRSA). It is considered one of the most important super-bugs in Hong Kong as it is extremely infectious and has a high mortality rate. To avoid further aggravation of resistance-related problems, misuse and overuse of antibiotics should be prevented to minimize the emergence of drug-resistant organisms. At the same time, development of novel antibacterial and anti-resistant agents should be actively pursued. Although there is an urgent public need for new antibacterial drugs, very few pharmaceutical companies are interested in investing in the development of these, due to the lower profit margin compared to medicines used to treat diabetes and cardiovascular diseases. That no new antibiotics have been introduced to the market over the last decade is evidence of this. To address this issue, researchers in academia should play a more active role in the search for new antimicrobial compounds. A team of researchers led by Dr Xuechen Li of the HKU Department of Chemistry, have taken up the responsibility and challenge and have been continuingly working on the development of new antibiotics for the past seven years. In 2013, they developed the first chemical synthesis of an antibiotic daptomycin, which enabled them to search for the next-generation daptomycin-based antibiotics. Recently, his team has had further success by developing a chemical strategy to synthesize another antibiotic, Teixobactin. Last year, the discovery of the antibiotic Teixobactin by researchers in the USA, was considered a breakthrough in antibacterial drug research (Nature, 2015, 517, 455). Teixobactin can kill a range of pathogens without detectable resistance, including methicillin-resistantStaphylococcus aureus (MRSA), vancomycin-resistant Enterococcus (VRE) and Mycobacterium tuberculosis. As promising as it is, Teixobactin is not perfect yet as a drug and can be further improved for its clinical properties via its structural modification. In the history of antibacterial drug development, modification of the lead compound has successfully led to many generations of improved penicillin-based antibiotics. Indeed, it is only through chemical synthesis and medicinal chemistry that one can flexibly modify the teixobactin structure to generate various teixobactin derivatives from simple materials. Thus, the development of a straetgy to chemically synthesize teixobactin and its derivatives has drawn a lot of attention with intense competition worldwide and more than 15 research groups from different countries have been striving to develop a chemical strategy to synthesize teixobactin. Collaborating with another chemist from University of Central Florida, USA, the HKU team became one of the fastest groups in the world to complete the chemical synthesis of teixobactin, from which they have also generated 10 teixobactin analogues with promising properties (US provisional patent filed). The strategy they developed is very efficient and can generate many teixobactin derivatives in a fast and combinatory manner. Now they are running at a full speed with an aim to synthesize more 100 different teixobactin derivatives within two years to search for analogues with improved pharmacological properties for the clinical development.


News Article | November 8, 2016
Site: www.eurekalert.org

The research team of Dr Xuechen Li at the HKU Department of Chemistry, together with collaborators at the University of Central Florida (Dr Yu Yuan), USA and the Hong Kong Polytechnic University (Dr Sheng Chen), reported their research findings on the synthesis of a newly discovered "game-changing" antibiotic, Teixobactin, in Nature Communications recently. This underlies potential application and development of the next-generation teixobactin-based antibacterial drugs. Antimicrobial resistance is on the rise globally and has become a serious threat to human health. For instance, methicillin- resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) has emerged as one of the most important pathogens, both in hospital (HA-MRSA) and community-acquired infections (CA-MRSA). It is considered one of the most important super-bugs in Hong Kong as it is extremely infectious and has a high mortality rate. To avoid further aggravation of resistance-related problems, misuse and overuse of antibiotics should be prevented to minimize the emergence of drug-resistant organisms. At the same time, development of novel antibacterial and anti-resistant agents should be actively pursued. Although there is an urgent public need for new antibacterial drugs, very few pharmaceutical companies are interested in investing in the development of these, due to the lower profit margin compared to medicines used to treat diabetes and cardiovascular diseases. The fact that no new antibiotics have been introduced to the market over the last decade is evidence of this. To address this issue, researchers in academia should play a more active role in the search for new antimicrobial compounds. Dr Xuechen Li's research team has taken up the responsibility and challenge and has been working on the development of new antibiotics for the past seven years. In 2013, they developed the first chemical synthesis of an antibiotic daptomycin, which enabled them to search for the next-generation daptomycin-based antibiotics. Recently, his team has achieved further success by developing a chemical strategy to synthesize another antibiotic, Teixobactin. Last year, the discovery of the antibiotic Teixobactin by researchers in the USA, was considered a breakthrough in antibacterial drug research (Nature, 2015, 517, 455). Teixobactin can kill a range of pathogens without detectable resistance, including methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA), vancomycin-resistant Enterococcus (VRE) and Mycobacterium tuberculosis. As promising as it is, Teixobactin is not perfect yet as a drug and can be further improved for its clinical properties via its structural modification. In the history of antibacterial drug development, modification of the lead compound has successfully led to many generations of improved penicillin-based antibiotics. Indeed, it is only through chemical synthesis and medicinal chemistry that one can flexibly modify the teixobactin structure to generate various teixobactin derivatives from simple materials. Thus, the development of a strategy to chemically synthesize teixobactin and its derivatives has drawn a lot of attention with intense competition worldwide and more than 15 research groups from different countries have been striving to develop a chemical strategy to synthesize teixobactin. Collaborating with another chemist from University of Central Florida, USA, the HKU team became one of the fastest groups in the world to complete the chemical synthesis of teixobactin, from which they have also generated 10 teixobactin analogues with promising properties (US provisional patent filed). The strategy they developed is very efficient and can generate many teixobactin derivatives in a fast and combinatory manner. Now they are running at a full speed with an aim to synthesize more 100 different teixobactin derivatives within two years to search for analogues with improved pharmacological properties for the clinical development.

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