20 October 2020

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

Three scientific research projects conducted by researchers of The Chinese University of Hong Kong (CUHK) have received Higher Education Outstanding Scientific Research Output Awards (Science and Technology) 2019 from the Ministry of Education (MoE), including a first-class award in natural sciences, a second-class award in natural sciences, and a first-class award in science and technology progress.

Here is a summary of the CUHK award-winning projects in 2019:

First-class award in Natural Sciences

Professor Yu HUANG, Dr. Li WANG and Dr. Jiang-Yun LUO, School of Biomedical Sciences, Faculty of Medicine — New role of “Hippo signalling pathway” in atherosclerosis caused by turbulent blood flow

Atherosclerosis is one of the major causes of stroke and heart diseases. There are 14 million people worldwide who die directly from atherosclerosis every year. However, the mechanism of how blood flow patterns lead to atherosclerosis remains unclear. A study conducted by Professor Yu HUANG from the School of Biomedical Sciences, Faculty of Medicine, CUHK, in collaboration with Tianjin Medical University found that the occurrence of vascular inflammation by inhibiting the “Hippo signalling pathway” of the vascular endothelium leads to atherosclerosis. Further study found that statins commonly used in clinical practice to lower blood lipid level can significantly activate the “Hippo signalling pathway” and it is expected that new drugs for atherosclerosis can be developed by searching for activators of the “Hippo signalling pathway”. Dr. Li WANG from Professor Huang’s team has established a drug screening platform targeting the “Hippo signalling pathway” and several compounds that have a relatively stronger stimulatory effect on the “Hippo signalling pathway” have been obtained through preliminary screening. The therapeutic effects of some drugs are currently being verified on mouse models.

Second-class award in Natural Sciences

Professor XIE Zuowei, Choh-Ming Li Professor of Chemistry, Department of Chemistry, Faculty of Science — Controlled Functionalisation of Carboranes

Carboranes are a class of carbon-boron molecular clusters, consisting of boron, carbon and hydrogen elements which possess extraordinary properties including three-dimensional aromaticity, icosahedral geometry, and inherent robustness. These features make carboranes unique and valuable molecular building blocks for applications ranging from functional materials to pharmaceuticals. Led by Professor XIE Zuowei, the collaborative research team of the Department of Chemistry at CUHK and the Shanghai Institute of Organic Chemistry at the Chinese Academy of Sciences has developed a series of synthesis strategies using transition metal catalysts. It provides a new direction for compound application. A set of cascade reactions has also been developed for one-pot synthesis of complex carborane-functionalised molecules in a controlled manner.

First-class award in Science and Technology Progress

Dr Howan LEUNG, Clinical Associate Professor (honorary) of the Division of Neurology at the Department of Medicine and Therapeutics, Faculty of Medicine — The mechanism of epilepsy and refractory epilepsy in relation to clinical research

Epilepsy is a serious neurological disease affecting both young and elderly individuals. One third of the patients are “refractory” due to a failure of response to antiepileptic drugs. In 2012, the research team of Dr Howan LEUNG, together with Professor Wai Sang POON and Dr Xian Lun ZHU from the Division of Neurosurgery, Department of Surgery, Faculty of Medicine developed the intracranial electroencephalography as an important modality of investigation to help localise seizure foci. In 2015, the team published a research report which highlighted the use of high frequency oscillations (HFOs) in the presurgical evaluation of refractory epilepsy. In 2018, the article “Ictal intracranial electroencephalography using wavelet analysis of high-frequency oscillations in Chinese patients with refractory epilepsy” outlined the way in which the clinical research by CUHK may benefit patients in day-to-day practice.

About Higher Education Outstanding Scientific Research Output Awards

The Higher Education Outstanding Scientific Research Output Awards (Science and Technology) is set up by the MoE to recognise outstanding research projects at all tertiary institutions in mainland China. Since 2009, Hong Kong's tertiary institutions have been included in the scheme. 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. The Science and Technology Progress Award honours research achievements in applied technologies of natural science that have made creative contributions, or individuals or units who have made important contributions to the national security.

(From left) Dr. Jiang Yun LUO, Professor Yu HUANG and Dr. Li WANG
(From left) Dr. Jiang Yun LUO, Professor Yu HUANG and Dr. Li WANG

Professor XIE Zuowei
Professor XIE Zuowei

Dr. Howan LEUNG
Dr. Howan LEUNG