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Putting Innovation into Practice

Chemical and Biological Engineering Teams Won Championship and First Runner-up in HKUST-Sino One Million Dollar Entrepreneurship Competition

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(From right) Wong Ka-Chin from SPES Tech, Prof. Gary Chan, Director of HKUST’s Entrepreneurship Center, and Prof. Terence Wong and his PhD student Zhang Yan from PhoMedics.
(From right) Wong Ka-Chin from SPES Tech, Prof. Gary Chan, Director of HKUST’s Entrepreneurship Center, and Prof. Terence Wong and his PhD student Zhang Yan from PhoMedics. [Download Photo]

Two teams led by Chemical and Biological Engineering (CBE) Professors SUN Fei and Terence WONG received the top two prizes respectively from the HKUST-Sino One Million Dollar Entrepreneurship Competition 2020. The two teams, together with the second runner-up, will compete with finalists from seven other regions, including Macau, Beijing, Guangzhou, Shenzhen, Foshan, Zhongshan and the Yangtze River Delta, in the Grand Final to be held later this year.

Marking its 10th anniversary this year, the competition attracted 151 participating teams – 29% more than the previous year and the highest in a decade. It was hosted online for the first time due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

In order to enhance participation and diversity, HKUST provides an online matching platform for its member to seek partners outside of the University. The University also introduced the “Best Video Award” this year, drawing over 2,000 voters to select what they considered the best pitching video. Presentation of the finalists were also online for the first time.

SPES Tech Limited, a biotechnology start-up co-founded by Prof. Sun Fei and his former students WONG Ka-Chin, Dr. WANG Ri and Dr. YANG Zhongguang, won both the President Award (champion) and the GF Innovation Award for its proprietary photosensitive hydrogel “LitGel”. Hydrogel has good tissue-like properties to simulate in-vivo cell environment, creating more physiologically relevant models for biomedical studies. Using advanced genetic engineering and light sensing technology, the new hydrogel created by the team offers a more flexible and accurate testing environment than its counterpart derived from animal sources.

Established in early 2019, the start-up was selected for the global tech giant Merck’s China Accelerator program later in the same year and is an incubatee of the Hong Kong Science and Technology Parks Corporation’s Incu-Bio Programme.

Ka-Chin, who is the CEO of SPES Tech, received his MPhil in Technology Leadership and Entrepreneurship (2019) and BSc in Biochemistry and Cell Biology (2017) from HKUST. Ri and Zhongguang became postdoctoral fellows in the CBE Department after earning a PhD in Bioengineering (2018) and a PhD in Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering (2019) respectively from HKUST. Other team members include Bioengineering MPhil student JIANG Bojing, and undergraduate JIANG Hongliang in the Department of Finance.

PhoMedics Limited, a medical technology start-up founded by Prof. Terence Wong, received the Gold Award (first runner-up). He and his team developed a technology called computational high-throughput autofluorescence microscopy with pattern illumination (CHAMP), which allows a surgeon to check during a cancer surgery whether the patient’s cancer cells are cleanly eradicated, thus minimizing the chance of requiring a second operation. The technology is now undergoing clinical trial at the Queen Mary Hospital and will soon be trialed at the Prince of Wales Hospital as well.

Team members include Bioengineering students WONG Hei-Man (PhD), ZHANG Yan (PhD), and Victor TSANG Tsz-Chun (MPhil), Technology Leadership and Entrepreneurship MPhil students Oscar MOLIN and WU Jiajie, and Biotechnology undergraduate CHAN Wing-Yan.

(This news was adopted from a press release by HKUST Public Affairs Office here.)


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