Home > Funded Research > Funding Results > Funding Results of Other Schemes > Results of RGC Collaborative Research Fund 2015/2016 Released > RGC Collaborative Research Fund - Layman Summaries of Projects Funded in 2015/2016 Exercise

RGC Collaborative Research Fund - Layman Summaries of Projects Funded in 2015/2016 Exercise

Equipment Proposals

Thermal Desorption Aerosol Gas Chromatograph and Time of Flight Aerosol Mass Spectrometer for Research on Airborne Particles and their Impact on Health and the Environment
Project Coordinator: Dr GUO Hai (PolyU)

It is proposed that a state of the art Thermal Desorption Aerosol Gas-Chromatograph (TAG) and Time of Flight Aerosol Mass Spectrometer (ToF-AMS) for the simultaneous, real-time determination of the particle size and chemical composition of atmospheric aerosols be acquired and shared among all academic institutions in Hong Kong that conduct research on air quality and its health and environmental impacts, including: The Hong Kong Polytechnic University (PolyU), City University of Hong Kong, The Chinese University of Hong Kong, The Hong Kong University of Science and Technology (HKUST), and The University of Hong Kong. The instrument, which has recently become commercially available, revolutionizes investigations in the nature and sources of airborne particles. It does this by enabling, for the first time, highly sensitive field measurements and real time characterizations to be made of the size and composition of aerosols down to nanometer sizes in diameter. So far, no such instrument is available in Hong Kong. Thus, its purchase would significantly enhance the research capabilities of local universities with cutting-edge scientific studies on atmospheric processes, with applications for environmental sustainability, human health, and for enhancing the efficiency of industrial and energy generation processes. It is expected that as knowledge on size-related aerosol chemical transformation and composition accumulates, future standards and regulations in this area will be formulated to protect humans and the environment. Moreover, the TAG and ToF-AMS instrument that are requested, and which will be shared among all universities in Hong Kong, will open up new possibilities in research on air pollution. The proposed project has great potential to provide improved data on the composition and abundance of atmospheric particulates in Hong Kong and southern China, and to develop into an area of strength. It would also extend the capacity to contribute to other research projects of national and international scale. The proposed equipment will provide an improved platform for research students, postdoctoral investigators, technicians, and academics to cooperate. They will gain specialized insight into the operation and deployment of the latest analytical equipment, and also enhanced knowledge in their respective fields of atmospheric research. There is very high potential among the universities involved for joint opportunities to develop future research activities on atmospheric aerosols.


A High Content Imaging System for Phenotypic Analysis and Drug Screening
Project Coordinator: Dr KENG Wee Keong Vincent (PolyU)

Understanding the cause and finding new treatments for deadly human diseases are the main research goals of The Department of Applied Biology and Chemical Technology here at The Hong Kong Polytechnic University (PolyU). Our Department has an excellent track record in basic research and drug discovery programs, which are demonstrated by our strong publication record and collaboration from different pharmaceutical companies and academic institutions. One of our research arms relies heavily on the use of different microscopy techniques to analyze live cells as a model for testing novel drug and evaluating its toxicity, and finding out how different genes behave in both normal and diseased states. The current bottleneck, at ours as well as in other institutions, for cell-based research is an openly accessible facility to conduct systematic gene or drug screening at a medium- to high-throughput capacity. Therefore, together with colleagues in The University of Hong Kong (HKU), we jointly proposed to acquire a High Content Imaging System that would address this unmet demand in our locality. This system is a fully automated image-based analytical device that allows highly precise and sensitive capture of cellular images in a high-throughput manner. It will greatly enhance our research capacity in drug discovery, toxicity evaluations, and the understanding of gene functions. The system will be made available for researchers at the other institutions in Hong Kong. We believed the acquisition of this system would foster further collaboration with pharmaceutical companies and academic institutions in Hong Kong. Discoveries generated from these collaborations will be paramount in the better understanding of many diseases and importantly, finding new cures for treating them.


A Mask-Making System for Nanoelectronic Device and Circuit Fabrication
Project Coordinator: Prof CHAN Mansun (HKUST)

NFF is a central facility in HKUST that currently supports more than 50 HKUST faculty and more than 20 external users from different institutions and research organizations (like ASTRI) in Hong Kong. It has the most complete fabrication facility in Hong Kong (and also the Guangdong province) that allows cutting-edge researches like nano-transistor fabrication, nano-material formation, nano-photonic structure construction, electronic packaging, sensors, actuators and more advanced device study like spintronics. It is the best facilities to help researchers in different area of device research at different university to work together. With the purchase of the laser direct write machine, NFF can enhance the service to the users and upgrade the level of technology integration. In particular, a system that integrate silicon transistors, carbon-nanotube interconnect, integrated optics, compound material, organic electronics will be demonstrated. The success of the project can significantly promote the collaboration of researchers working on different device technology in Hong Kong to work together to work on more sophisticated systems with larger scale of device integration.


Group Research Proposals

Efficient Algorithms and Hardware Accelerators for Tensor Decomposition and Their Applications to Multidimensional Data Analysis
Project Coordinator: Prof YAN Hong (CityU)

Multidimensional big datasets are being generated at an unprecedented pace in many places due to the rapid development of Internet and communications systems, and computing and mobile devices. Mathematically, these data form high-order tensors and it is a great challenge to analyze the data and extract useful information from them. In this project, we will investigate novel mathematical models for tensor decomposition. A systematic study of tensor eigen-structures, such as super-modes and super-compatibilities in high-order data, will be carried out. We will use tensor formulations to develop robust image and video processing and object segmentation and tracking methods, analyze multidimensional gene expression data, and study innovative computer algorithms to predict biomolecular interactions. This project will open the door for our cutting-edge research results to be used in a wide range of advanced electronic systems, especially portable devices, which require efficient processing and analysis of a massive amount of multidimensional data.


Benthic and epiphytic toxic algae (BETA): An emerging threat to coral ecosystems in Hong Kong waters
Project Coordinator: Prof LAM Paul Kwan Sing (CityU)

Gambierdiscus, Ostreopsis and Prorocentrum are three genera of benthic and epiphytic toxic algae (BETA) which are of increasing interest as most of them are potent algal toxin producers. Recent studies reported the presence of Gambierdiscus, Ostreopsis, and Prorocentrum in coral ecosystems in Southeast Asia. In addition to their potential roles in inducing ciguatera fish poisoning (CFP) or other seafood poisoning in humans, the algal toxins can cause mortality of marine organisms, affecting the structure and function of coral ecosystems. The present study will assess ecological risks associated with BETA in coral ecosystems in Hong Kong. The identification of BETA hotspots and in-depth understanding of the physiology, ecology and toxicology of BETA are essential for evaluating their potential threats on coral ecosystems. The results may provide scientific information for stakeholders to develop comprehensive and effective management plans to conserve local coral communities and fisheries resources, and protect health of seafood consumers.


Biomimetic 3D Microsystem to Study Tumour Survival and Drug Responses
Project Coordinator: Prof PANG Stella W. (CityU)

We propose to develop a three-dimensional (3D) biomimetic microsystem to study response dynamics of nasopharyngeal carcinoma (NPC) to anti-cancer chemotherapeutics. We aim to produce a biomimetic platform that recapitulates the crucial features of human NPC, including the cell type composition, extracellular matrix, vascularisation, and nutrient distribution. With our development of novel nanotechnologies and 3D microsystem designs, we aspire to build the first in vitro platform that models the interactions of cancerous and stromal cells in NPC in the presence of vascularisation. The results of this project can be extended to other human cancers, and will potentially revolutionize the fundamental understanding of cancer cell dynamics in a tumour environment, and provide a realistic model for studying the effectiveness of both traditional chemotherapeutics and new anti-cancer reagents under a well controlled microenvironment.


Neuronal Mechanism of Cholecystokinin-Facilitated Cross-modal Learning and Memory
Project Coordinator: Prof HE Jufang (CityU)

In our previous project, we have combined human and animal studies to investigate "where"and "how" cross-modal learning takes place. We found that a new visuo-auditory associativememory can be established after repeated pairing. The establishment of this memory in auditory cortex is enabled by cholecystokinin (CCK)-immunopositive, neocortical-projectionneurons in entorhinal cortex of medial temporal lobe (MTL). CCK works as the memory-writing switch in the cortex.

In the present proposal we will extend our investigation to unveil the role of CCK inmemory-encoding and the cellular mechanism how CCK switches neuroplasticity. We willadopt different approaches from behavioral neuroscience, electrophysiology,histochemistry, and newly developed bioengineering methods in our investigation.

The proposed study will answer a fundamental question in neuroscience of how long-termassociative memory is encoded in the neocortex. The proposed neural mechanism involvingthe neuropeptide CCK is likely to have a link with our current understanding of high-frequency-stimulation-induced plasticity.


Alzheimer's Disease: From Detection, Diagnostics to Therapeutics
Project Coordinator: Prof WONG Ricky Man-shing (HKBU)

Alzheimer's disease (AD) is the most prevalent form of dementia, which leads to an impairment of many cognitive functions and memory loss. According to the Alzheimer's Association, AD was estimated to be affecting 44 million people worldwide in 2013 (9.2 million in China) and the patient number is expected to be 135 million by 2050, causing an enormous health care cost and burden associated with this disease.

An interdisciplinary research team with expertise in organic, analytical, biophysical chemistry, biomedical and neuroscience has been assembled to tackle the unmet early detection, diagnostic and therapeutic challenges in AD treatment. We propose herein (1) Development of sensitive detection and accurate quantification of the AD biomarkers that would allow population-wide screening and early detection of the at-risk subjects for AD; (2) Development of A£] peptide-specific imaging technique(s) i.e. magnetic resonance that provides a powerful tool to detect, diagnose and monitor the disease status and progression; and (3) Development of non-toxic, blood-brain barrier permeable and neuroprotective aggregation-inhibiting small molecule compounds that serve as potential drug candidates for the prevention and amelioration of AD.

Advancement in these strategies would significantly relieve the global burden of the disease. We foresee future collaboration among academic, health and medical institutes, industry and commercial organizations will be facilitated and established upon the completion of this project for ultimate AD treatment benefits. In short, the success of this broad program certainly brings a new vista and new scientific knowledge as well as high impact on the development of novel drugs and medical diagnosis for AD and other related neurodegenerative diseases.


Toward Integrated Machinery: Cooperative Molecular Rotors
Project Coordinator: Prof VAN HOVE Michel A (HKBU)

This project aims to develop scientific understanding leading to the future exploitation of molecular machines, specifically rotor molecules. A molecular machine, whether natural or artificial, converts energy (e.g. thermal, electrical, chemical, magnetic, electromagnetic, electronic or thermal) into mechanical motion that can then be used to accomplish useful work (e.g. transporting, turning, propelling, pushing, pulling, pumping or cutting). In particular, a molecular rotor produces rotational motion, as in flagellae, wheels and propellers.

Individual molecular rotors are already well understood, but there is a need to go further and explore cooperative motions among a collection of such molecules, analogous to e.g. conventional mechanical gears and natural muscles that consist of multiple mechanically linked smaller "machines". Nanoscale phenomena and relatively large thermal energies add new and interesting opportunities not available to macroscopic machines.

Also important is the ability to combine the mechanical output of many single molecular machines in order to magnify their effect: this requires a network of mechanical linkages to funnel the combined mechanical motion to the desired application. Such mechanical linkages can also greatly help the challenge of thermal randomness: thermal energy will make some molecular machines produce motion in the opposite direction of what is desired, and this is especially important at the nanoscale. Mechanically linking molecular machines will significantly help counteract this randomization by ensuring that "the majority wins" and that the combined unidirectional motion is still a large magnification of the individual motions.

Of great interest is furthermore how collective motions propagate across a one-dimensional chain or multi-dimensional array of motor molecules, especially in the presence of defects, dissipation, etc., which will be largely inevitable in practical machinery.

We will study these effects by surface science techniques, which allow manipulation and observation of individual molecules arranged in pairs, triplets, chains and arrays, in particular using scanning tunneling microscopy (STM) and atomic force microscopy (AFM). Thereby, on a supporting crystalline substrate surface, each molecule can be fixed in a well-oriented and orderly fashion for individual observation even at the sub-molecular level.

We will investigate purpose-built molecules to explore the basic mechanisms of molecular linkages and coordinated motions. Through ab initio quantum modeling and molecular dynamics, we will be able to simulate and design correlated systems of molecules to understand and optimize their mechanical linkages and motions. Understanding these effects will make it possible in the future to design practical molecular machines operating at the nano- to microscale.


Learning to Labor: Social Media and Migrant Labor Protection in Mainland China
Project Coordinator: Prof PUN Ngai (HKU)

This study aims to synergize macro theories of traditional social sciences which look at capital, state and class formation at the abstract level with micro theories of communication and cultural studies that focus on life-world, every day practices, and new forms of communication and resistance. Inspired by the theory of working-class public sphere and digitally networked action, and informed by globalization and state theory, this project inspires to create an innovative paradigm to merge rich sociological debates with media studies so as to explore new forms of working class youth culture and novel platform of labor rights protection. Moving beyond traditional models of trade unionism and labor NGOs, this project contributes to a new exploration of attempting vocational schools as sites of learning, communicating and organizing, and preparing students to be proper working-class subjects.

This study shall pioneer in the exploration of students' life-world and its implication for working-class public sphere in globally networked society. Examining the characteristics of the new working-class public sphere - its emergence, transformation and relationship with social media and networked society - shall deepen our understanding about labor activism and labor protection in China and beyond.


Printable Flexible Organic Transistors for Biological Applications: from Materials to Devices
Project Coordinator: Dr YAN Feng (PolyU)

Organic electronics have shown many advantages over inorganic counterparts, including feasibility for printing, low cost and mechanical flexibility. Recently, the integration of organic transistors with biology has attracted increasing attention because the two naturally compatible systems can be conveniently synergized, which creates technological opportunities not possible with conventional inorganic devices. Owing to the unique ion-to-electron conversion property in organic semiconductors, organic transistors can operate in aqueous solutions and serve as ideal transducers to intimately bridge the gaps between electronic and biological systems.

Although great advance has been achieved in the biological applications of organic transistors, the current studies on materials, devices fabrication and applications are still at the early stage. The lack of the organic semiconductors synthesized specifically for biological applications by taking into account their interactions with the biological systems has impeded further development of organic bioelectronic devices. Based on our experience of synthesizing high mobility and stability organic semiconductors, we plan to develop novel conjugated polymers with high carrier and ion mobilities and good biocompatibility. To meet the challenges in achieving good selectivity of biological detections, we propose here to graft functional groups on these polymers to enable covalent bonding with biomaterials and ensure their selective and intimate interactions. These polymer semiconductors will be essential to realizing high-performance bioelectronic devices and related applications.

Multifunctional organic bioelectronic devices can be integrated by printing techniques, which however have been rarely reported until now. Hence, we propose to develop special printing techniques for the preparation of high-performance organic transistors on flexible or textile-based substrates. These flexible devices are promising for the applications as "wearable electronics" that can read out bio-information on a skin or "implantable electronics" that can be implanted in a body to directly extract bio-information due to their excellent biocompatibility. Regarding specific applications, we plan to develop printable organic transistors for enzyme biosensors and biomarker detections.

The interdisciplinary project will be carried out by several groups from different areas including polymer synthesis, device fabrication, device physics, bioelectronics and wearable electronics. The success of the proposed study will lead to novel biocompatible organic semiconductors, provide better understanding of the interactions between organic semiconductors and biological systems, broaden the applications of organic electronics, and result in innovative technologies for not only biological and clinical uses, but also convenient and disposal healthcare products, which will have a huge market in the future.


From Molecular Dynamics to Systems Biology: A Multi-scale Approach Tightly Integrating Simulation and Experiment to Quantitatively Analyze the Transcription Accuracy of RNA Polymerase II
Project Coordinator: Prof HUANG Xuhui (HKUST)

Transcription is a process by which genome DNA is transcribed to messenger RNA for subsequent protein synthesis. Error made during transcription is a major factor in aging and human diseases such as cancer. Recent genome-wide studies show that transcription errors are strongly dependent on template DNA sequence, and there exist error-prone sequence motifs that can lead to genome instability. At the molecular level, the mechanisms for the transcriptional enzyme, RNA Polymerase II (Pol II) to mis-incorporate a nucleotide has been extensively studied by biochemical and structural experiments. The critical link is still missing between the structural mechanics of Pol II fidelity and the genome-wide transcriptional accuracy.

During elongation, Pol II undergoes conformational changes in its structure. We propose to construct a kinetic network model (KNM) based on sequence-dependent molecular dynamics of Pol II elongation to predict transcriptional accuracy in the genome-wide transcriptomic datasets. This model will allow us to pinpoint error-prone hot-spot sequence motifs in the genome with high transcription errors. It will also link these sequence motifs with their molecular origin related to the dynamics of specific Pol II conformational changes.

To build a KNM, we will employ a multi-scale approach by integrating individual rates of critical conformational changes of Pol II in a kinetic network framework to model the overall transcriptional elongation dynamics. When applying it to profile the transcriptome, our KNM has the predicting power to identify the mutational hot-spots for Pol II. Using the yeast transcriptome, we will validate our predictions with experimentally identified error-prone sequences from RNA deep sequencing, and further exclude errors not caused by Pol II using in vitro transcription assays. Furthermore, using Pol II mutants that are known to affect specific Pol II conformational changes, we will establish a link between these validated error-prone sequence motifs and structural dynamics of Pol II. Finally, we will also apply our KNMs to investigate the hot-spots for transcriptional mutations caused by human Pol II in the transcriptome.

To achieve the above goals, we have formed a highly inter-disciplinary team with expertise in mathematical modeling, computer simulations, biochemical experiments, single-molecular measurements, chemical biology approaches, and high-throughput sequencing. The tight integration of these areas of expertise is vital to the success of our proposed research.


Coping with landslide risks in Hong Kong under extreme storms: Storm scenarios, cascading landslide hazards and multi-hazard risk assessment
Project Coordinator: Prof ZHANG Li Min (HKUST)

Slope failures in Hong Kong are frequently triggered by rainstorms. For example, a severe rainstorm hitting Lantau Island in June 2008 caused about 1,600 natural terrain landslides, 900 debris flows and 600 flood spots. If the same rainstorm were to hit Hong Kong Island, the current slope safety system would be stretched to its limit. The capacity of the system would be exceedingly overwhelmed upon more extreme rainfall. According to the studies of the Hong Kong Observatory, the annual rainfall in Hong Kong is expected to be more variable and the frequency and intensity of extreme rainfall events may increase over time under the influence of the changing climate. Under extreme rainfall conditions, multiple hazardous processes such as landslides, debris flows and flooding may occur simultaneously or sequentially, resulting in cascading hazards increasing the risk. In the worst cases, interactions among these hazards can generate new hazards of greater destructive power such as formation of landslide dams and dam breaching. It is important to identify the catastrophic hazard scenarios that could be generated in Hong Kong and the corresponding bottlenecks in the slope safety system, and to make recommendations for improving preparedness and system safety.

The primary objective of this project is to develop a stress-testing framework for assessing the landslide risk in Hong Kong under extreme rainstorms caused by the changing climate. This project will, for the first time, address the issue of slope safety under extreme rainstorms within a novel framework of 'stress testing' by integrating the strengths of two universities (HKUST and HKU) and two government departments (Geotechnical Engineering Office and Hong Kong Observatory). Stress testing is defined as a targeted reassessment of safety margins of a given system in light of extreme events. It involves testing beyond normal operational capacity, often to a breaking point. The scientific tasks of this project include (1) identification of plausible future critical storm scenarios considering climate changes, (2) evaluation of slope system response under extreme rainstorms using advanced multi-scale hydrological and geotechnical processes modelling algorithms and advanced centrifuge modelling techniques, (3) multi-hazard risk assessment, and (4) formulation of a unique stress-testing framework for evaluating the Hong Kong slope safety system. The bottlenecks of the present Hong Kong slope safety system will be identified and the areas of improvement to the system will be recommended to the policy makers.

The proposed multi-scale multi-process modelling techniques will advance the state-of-the-art in hazard analysis. The stress-testing framework for landslide risk management can be applied to other regions of similar climate conditions and to other engineering systems.


Molecular mechanism of PACT-dependent innate antiviral response
Project Coordinator: Prof JIN Dong-Yan (HKU)

Host cells combat invading viruses by initiating an innate antiviral response. Detection of viruses by sensor proteins RIG-I and MDA5 in human and animal cells elicits a signal which ultimately switches on the production of antiviral proteins such as interferons. Our research work has revealed a new partner and activator of RIG-I and MDA5 called PACT. Understanding the mechanisms by which PACT activates RIG-I and MDA5 will substantially advance the field. In this group research project, we will pool our complementary expertise and resources to carry out molecular, biochemical and virological studies to understand PACT-induced activation of MDA5 during viral infection in both cultured cells and mouse models. In addition, we will also determine the dual antiviral function of PACT in influenza A virus and hepatitis B virus infection. By strengthening the new concept that the dual antiviral function of PACT can be achieved by turning on interferon production on one hand and crippling viral RNA or proteins on the other hand, our work will not only provides new avenues for studying viral and cellular regulators of innate immune response, but will also reveal novel strategies for developing antiviral and immunomodulatory drugs.


Regulation and Function of Novel Histone Modifications
Project Coordinator: Dr LI Xiang (HKU)

Histone posttranslational modifications (PTMs) play crucial roles in regulating a wide range of biological processes, such as gene transcription, DNA replication and chromosome segregation. Growing evidence has now revealed that histone PTMs can serve as a heritable 'code' (so-called 'histone code'), providing epigenetic information that a cell can pass on to its progeny. Given their numerous links to essential cellular processes, dysregulation of histone PTMs has been implicated in many human diseases such as cancer. It is therefore important to understand the regulatory mechanisms and functions of histone PTMs.

Significant progress has been made on the detection of a large variety of PTMs on histones. However, the regulatory mechanisms and cellular functions of vast majority of these PTMs remain poorly understood. This is particularly the case for those newly discovered histone PTMs, including lysine crotonylation (Kcr) and succinylation (Ksucc). To decipher the biological significance of histone Kcr and Ksucc, this proposed research focuses on developing new chemical approaches to examine the cellular mechanisms and functions of histone Kcr and Ksucc. We will combine chemical, biochemical, biophysical, genomics and proteomics methods to i) identify and characterize enzymes that catalyze the addition and removal of histone Kcr and Ksucc marks (i.e., 'writers' and 'erasers' of Kcr and Ksucc); ii) examine the influence of histone Ksucc on the compaction state of chromatin; and iii) elucidate the functional roles of histone Kcr in the regulation of gene expression. The completion of these studies will provide critical information regarding to the complex cellular networks regulated by histone Kcr and Ksucc in chromatin biology.


Targeted Genomics and Functional Studies of Novel Cancer Predisposing Genes for Esophageal Squamous Cell Carcinoma
Project Coordinator: Prof LUNG Maria Li (HKU)

Worldwide, the number of esophageal cancer (EC) cases is rising. This is a particularly deadly cancer with survival rates less than 20%. It occurs with highest frequency in China, where inherited genetic susceptibility, eating/drinking habits, and exposure to dietary and environmental carcinogens contribute to its development. Our long-standing interests and past foundation studies in understanding the genetic cause for inherited EC, together with valuable access to key clinical specimen resources from areas in China with high numbers of affected individuals, strategically position us to make exciting contributions to the study of EC, which is ranked amongst the top most deadly cancers in China. We have embarked on discovery studies utilizing powerful targeted gene sequencing based on our knowledge of EC genetics and our hypothesis that mutations in DNA damage repair pathways and key gene regulators will increase the risk of family-associated EC.

Our preliminary studies indicate that candidate gene mutations in BRCA2 occur in close to 15% of cancer families. These genes are important in repairing DNA defects, adhesion, and other important cellular functions. We have identified specific mutations in several other genes of interest specific to the cancer cases, which are absent in the healthy controls. Thirty-eight of these are involved in DNA damage repair. Our hypothesis is that one of these DNA damage repair pathways plays an important role in predisposing an individual to EC. Validation of these results in more individuals is needed. We believe that multiple factors affecting chromosomes and DNA repair contribute to inherited genetic susceptibility to EC. These genes will be our primary focus for the proposed studies.

The synergism between team members with basic and clinical expertise and invaluable clinical specimens from high-risk Henan and moderate-risk Hong Kong EC patients ensure the success of these studies. We aim to validate candidate genes of interest from our discovery set in a larger cohort of EC and healthy regional controls and to perform functional studies to determine the role of these potential cancer predisposition genes in EC. We will utilize genome editing tools to perform functional analysis in specific genes of interest to determine their role in EC development. Furthermore, we have developed an efficient gene delivery system and animal models for functional studies. We will further validate the clinical utility of the genes/markers of interest. The goal of this proposed project is to translate findings into clinical practice for identification and management of high-risk family-associated EC and to improve personalized care for EC patients.


Problems, Solutions, and Optimization for Modern Clouds
Project Coordinator: Prof LAU Francis Chi Moon (HKU)

Cloud computing has permeated practically every aspect of our living where computing or information processing is involved. It has been hailed as the single most important technology that is revolutionizing every way computing is done today and traditionally. Despite the huge amount of ongoing work worldwide in advancing the technology, many challenging problems remain to be solved. This project will study six very critical problems related to the resource provisioning and scheduling aspects of clouds, and try to come up with solutions that can deal with these problems satisfactorily in practical deployment scenarios. The six problems are: (1) dynamic server provisioning, (2) dynamic virtual machine (VM) provisioning and pricing, (3) VM autoscaling, (4) hypervisor-level VM scheduling, (5) bandwidth scheduling in datacenters, and (6) bandwidth scheduling across datacenters.


Total Synthesis and Medicinal Chemistry of Cyclic Peptide-based Antibacterial Compounds: An Integrative Programme for Novel Antibiotic Development
Project Coordinator: Dr LI Xuechen (HKU)

Bacterial antibiotic resistance has become a serious public health issue worldwide and the situation is getting worse and worse. To combat multidrug-resistant bacteria such as methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) and vancomycin-resistant Enterococcus (VRE), this project synergizes organic chemistry, medicinal chemistry and microbiology to develop cyclic peptide-based antibiotics. Using daptomycin, mannopeptimycin and teixobactin as scaffolds, this project aims to develop novel analogues with improved activities and pharmacological properties to treat multidrug-resistant pathogens and extend current clinical applications through structural modifications.