In Focus - Issue 35 (Spring 2023)

07 IN FOCUS Prof. Becki Kuang (center) and team members Li Cheuk-Yin (right) and Liang Zhenghua, both PhD candidates, showcase their mRNA tail sequence optimization technology. An inorganic coating to keep buildings cool is among the ve recently licensed technologies. Spurring mRNA drug and vaccine e ectiveness A synthetic biology research team led by Prof. Becki KUANG Yi, Chemical and Biological Engineering, has discovered a way to enhance the lifespan and increase synthetic mRNAs’ protein production e ciency by up to times. The exciting advance can augment the e ectiveness of mRNA vaccines and drugs, including those battling cancer, COVID- , and genetic diseases, and at the same time use smaller dosages. Synthesized mRNAs can teach cells to make proteins such as antigens and hormones that are essential to ght infections and regulate bodily functions. This means that mRNAs are o en the preferred option for vaccines and treatment for many diseases. However, the need for high dosages and repeated injections to generate enough proteins in the body has made increasing mRNA e ectiveness a key issue among researchers. Having engineered di erent mRNA tail sequences, Prof. Kuang’s team identi ed optimal sequences that could produce three to times as many proteins as unoptimized tail sequences commonly used for synthetic mRNAs for both human cells and on mice. The duration of protein production also doubled. In addition to reducing the amount and number of injections needed, the new technology could lower the cost of treatments. It can also be used along with other mRNA enhancement technologies to synergistically boost protein production. The nding was recently published online in Molecular Therapy – Nucleic Acids. Prof. Kuang’s team is now working in collaboration with Sun Yat-sen University in Guangzhou to explore optimized tails for mRNA cancer vaccines on animals. She also hopes to collaborate with pharmaceutical companies to transfer the innovation from lab to market. Integration of Building Information Modeling (BIM) data and a mobile map engine, enabling users to accurately and rapidly pinpoint people or facilities inside a building through their mobile phones. Bright Dream Robotics President Mr. WANG Kecheng said that the partnership with HKUST had built a bridge between academia and industry, enabling research and knowledge transfer. Meanwhile, Prof. Tim CHENG, Vice-President for Research and Development at HKUST and former Dean of Engineering, said that the signing of the licensing agreement exempli ed HKUST’s ability to create impact on society. “We will continue to forge and deepen our collaboration with industry to strengthen the University’s endeavors in knowledge transfer,” he added. (See also HKUST Industry Engagement Day, back cover.)