1 March 2011

CUHK Awarded Three Ministry of Education
Higher Education Outstanding Scientific Research Output Awards



Three remarkable scientific research projects at The Chinese University of Hong Kong (CUHK) received the Higher Education Outstanding Scientific Research Output Awards (Science and Technology) in the category of Natural Sciences from the Ministry of Education. The winning projects are: 'Integrative Research on Molecular Basis and Potential Targets for Gastric Cancer' conducted by Prof. Jun Yu, Associate Professor, Department of Medicine and Therapeutics, and Prof. Joseph J.Y. Sung, Vice-Chancellor and Mok Hing Yiu Professor of Medicine; 'Concentration Phenomena in Nonlinear Elliptic Equations and Systems' conducted by Prof. Juncheng Wei, Professor of Mathematics; and 'Cholesterol-lowering and Cardiovascular Functional Foods and Nutraceuticals' conducted by Prof. Zhenyu Chen, Professor, School of Life Sciences, and Prof. Yu Huang, Professor, School of Biomedical Sciences. 

The award presentation ceremony was held today (1 March) at the Lecture Theatre of Shaw College, CUHK. Ms. Zhou Jing, Deputy Director-General of the Centre for Science and Technology Development of the Ministry of Education, was invited to Hong Kong as the prize presenter.

About the winning projects: 

Integrative Research on Molecular Basis and Potential Targets for Gastric Cancer

Gastric cancer is one of the most frequent and fatal malignant cancers in China. As it has a lower incidence rate in the West, not much gastric cancer research experience is available for reference. During the last 16 years, Prof. Jun Yu and Prof. Joseph J.Y. Sung led their research team to engage in the integrative research on molecular basis and potential targets for gastric cancer. Research focuses included: the role of H. pylori in gastric cancer and the value of H. pylori eradication in prevention of gastric cancer; aberrant gene expression and epigenetic changes during gastric cancer development and progression; and mutations and expressional aberrations of key regulators in gastric cancer. 

Findings of this research have led to new insights into mechanisms of gastric carcinogenesis, early diagnostic/ prognostic biomarkers and specific targeting therapy. A total of 132 research articles have been published in leading journals and cited for close to 3,000 times. Four U.S. patents have been registered. 

Accomplishments:

1. Demonstrated the close relation between H. pylori and gastric cancer. The first to report that the presence of babA2(+) H. pylori strains increase the risk of gastric cancer, and that eradication of H. pylori can help prevent gastric cancer;

2. Proved that the rearrangements/mutations of several key regulators are important factors leading to gastric cancer. Identification of novel proto-oncogenes that lead to gastric carcinogenesis;

3. Revealed the functions of several novel tumor suppressors and their diagnostic values in gastric cancer;

4. Introduced COX-2 inhibitor, COX-2 inhibitor combined with H. pylori eradication therapy, and PPARγ ligand for the prevention of gastric cancer. Demonstrated the mechanisms by which they function in the prevention of gastric cancer. 

Concentration Phenomena in Nonlinear Elliptic Equations and Systems

Prof. Juncheng Wei is one of the leading figures in the field of partial differential equations, particularly in the analysis of concentration phenomena in nonlinear elliptic equations and systems. His research is highly regarded worldwide with more than 3,000 citations, and he is identified as one of the highly-cited scientists by Thomson ISI. 

Professor Wei’s exhaustive research in the concentration phenomena has brought a complete solution to a long standing and unsolved problem in pure and applied science. Having won the recognition from the leading mathematics journal – Annals of Mathematics for his revolutionary research findings, he became the only mathematician from Hong Kong who has published in this journal. Professor Wei’s research has made great contributions to mathematical biology and material science by explaining how diverse patterns in nature are formed and helping to design medical implantation of specific surface properties. 

Accomplishments:

1. De Giorgi Conjecture is one of the most famous conjectures in pure mathematics, proposed by Italian mathematician Ennio de Giorgi in 1978. It concerns the structure of certain nonlinear equations and has attracted great attention among mathematicians worldwide for more than three decades. This conjecture was shown to be true in dimensions 2 to 8. In a paper by Professor Wei and his research partners, a counterexample was constructed in dimensions 9 and higher, thereby completely solved the full De Giorgi Conjecture.

2. A key issue in developmental biology is a mathematical understanding of how diverse patterns in nature, such as spots and stripes on sea-shells, fish, zebra and human beings etc., are produced. By using rigorous and sophisticated methods, Professor Wei and his collaborators obtained a complete understanding of nonlinear patterns in one or two spatial dimensions, opening up new dimensions in both pure and applied mathematics.

3. Block copolymers are soft, synthetic materials for industrial and commercial use. They are used in products like upholstery foam, adhesive tape, and asphalt additives. Professor Wei has developed a complete theory that helps design thermoplastic elastomers that combine high-temperature resilience and low-temperature flexibility, inexpensive box tape that achieves pressure sensitive adhesion, and medical implantation of specific surface properties. 

Cholesterol-lowering and Cardiovascular Functional Foods and Nutraceuticals

It is estimated that deaths from cardiovascular disease account for one third of total mortality in the world. High blood cholesterol level is one of the major risk factors in development of cardiovascular disease. Prof. Zhenyu Chen and Prof. Yu Huang’s research focused on the effect of nutraceuticals and functional foods on cardiovascular function, laying a foundation in the development of cholesterol-lowering functional foods. 

Accomplishments:

1. Comprehensive classification and analysis of cholesterol-lowering functional foods, such as hawthorn, tea, buckwheat, phytosterols, garlic, fermented dairy products, soybeans, oats, barley, onion, apple polyphenols and grape seed polyphenols;

2. Analysed the effect of cholesterol on cardiovascular function and found that oxidized cholesterol was more atherogenic than nonoxidized cholesterol;

3. Demonstrated the effect of functional foods, such as onion, apple polyphenols, grape seed polyphenols, tea, buckwheat and phytosterols, on the genes of cholesterol transporters in the intestine, thereby helps reduce the cholesterol absorption;

4. Revealed the effect of various functional foods on vascular functions, such as hawthorn, radix scutellariae and green tea. 

About Higher Education Outstanding Scientific Research Output Awards

The Higher Education Outstanding Scientific Research Output Awards (Science and Technology) is set up by the Ministry of Education to recognize outstanding research projects at all tertiary institutions in mainland China. Hong Kong’s tertiary institutions were included starting 2009. The award is presented to individuals or units who have made remarkable contributions in the areas of scientific discovery, technological innovation, science and technology advancement and implementation of patented technologies. The Natural Science Award honours researchers who have made discoveries in natural science and applied science, or given explanations to natural phenomena and characteristics. In 2009, two CUHK research projects received recognition from the award scheme, including a first-class award in Natural Sciences and a second-class award in Scientific and Technological Progress, among seven winning projects in Hong Kong.

Five CUHK professors receive the Higher Education Outstanding Scientific Research Output Awards from the Ministry of Education (from left): Prof. Juncheng Wei, Prof. Jun Yu, Prof. Joseph J.Y. Sung, Prof. Zhenyu Chen and Prof. Yu Huang.
Five CUHK professors receive the Higher Education Outstanding Scientific Research Output Awards from the Ministry of Education (from left): Prof. Juncheng Wei, Prof. Jun Yu, Prof. Joseph J.Y. Sung, Prof. Zhenyu Chen and Prof. Yu Huang.

(From left) Pro-Vice-Chancellors Prof. Jack Chun-yiu Cheng, Prof. Henry Nai-ching Wong, Prof. Kenneth Young and Provost Prof. Benjamin W. Wah take a group photo with the five award winners.
(From left) Pro-Vice-Chancellors Prof. Jack Chun-yiu Cheng, Prof. Henry Nai-ching Wong, Prof. Kenneth Young and Provost Prof. Benjamin W. Wah take a group photo with the five award winners.

Prof. Joseph J.Y. Sung (left) and Prof. Jun Yu (right) receive their award certificates from Prof. Pan Yonghua, Director General of Education, Science and Technology, Liaison Office of the Central People’s Government in HKSAR.
Prof. Joseph J.Y. Sung (left) and Prof. Jun Yu (right) receive their award certificates from Prof. Pan Yonghua, Director General of Education, Science and Technology, Liaison Office of the Central People’s Government in HKSAR.

Prof. Juncheng Wei (right) receives his award certificate from Prof. Pan Yonghua, Director General of Education, Science and Technology, Liaison Office of the Central People’s Government in HKSAR.
Prof. Juncheng Wei (right) receives his award certificate from Prof. Pan Yonghua, Director General of Education, Science and Technology, Liaison Office of the Central People’s Government in HKSAR.

Prof. Zhenyu Chen (left) and Prof. Yu Huang (right) receive their award certificates from Ms. Li Mei Sheung, Michelle, Deputy Secretary for Education, HKSAR Government.
Prof. Zhenyu Chen (left) and Prof. Yu Huang (right) receive their award certificates from Ms. Li Mei Sheung, Michelle, Deputy Secretary for Education, HKSAR Government.

A group photo of Prof. Joseph J.Y. Sung (1st right, 1st row), Vice-Chancellor and Mok Hing Yiu Professor of Medicine, CUHK, and Prof. Jun Yu (1st left, 1st row), Associate Professor, Department of Medicine and Therapeutics, CUHK, with their research team.
A group photo of Prof. Joseph J.Y. Sung (1st right, 1st row), Vice-Chancellor and Mok Hing Yiu Professor of Medicine, CUHK, and Prof. Jun Yu (1st left, 1st row), Associate Professor, Department of Medicine and Therapeutics, CUHK, with their research team.

Professor Sung and Professor Yu giving guidance on research work.
Professor Sung and Professor Yu giving guidance on research work.

Prof. Juncheng Wei and his research team.
Prof. Juncheng Wei and his research team.