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Theme-based Research Scheme - Call for Proposal

The Theme-based Research Scheme (TBRS), which supports academic research on themes of a longer-term nature and strategically beneficial to the development of Hong Kong, has been making good progress, says RGC Chairman Professor Roland Chin.

Earlier this year, the Steering Committee for Research Themes identified three research themes for the first round of TBRS, including “Promoting good health”, “Developing a sustainable environment” and “Strengthening Hong Kong as a regional and international business centre”. Following the receipt of over 300 white papers from local academics, sixteen topics for the selected themes were identified by RGC’s White Papers Review Panel formed mainly by external experts.

Theme-based Research Scheme - Call for Preliminary Proposals

As mentioned in the previous issue of this newsletter, academics in Hong Kong were invited to submit “white papers” for the suggestion of “grand challenge topics” for the three selected themes of the Theme-based Research Scheme. In response, a total of over 300 white papers were received. These white papers were examined and honed down to four to six initial topics for each of the three selected themes by a White Papers Review Panel formed mainly by external experts (with overseas academics or local experts who are not full time academic staff).
Launch of New Joint Research Schemes
Congratulations! In August 2010, RGC signed an agreement with the Netherlands Organisation for Scientific Research (NWO) to mark the launch of a new joint research scheme which strengthens cooperation in the fields of science and innovation, and promotes scientific research and technological exchanges between the researchers in the Netherlands and Hong Kong. The Scheme offers travel grants to support scholarly collaboration between individual Hong Kong and Dutch researchers as well as workshop grants to sponsor workshops held in Hong Kong and the Netherlands.

Nanotherapeutics in Angiogenesis: Synthesis and in Vivo Assessment of Drug Efficacy and Biocompatibility in the Zebrafish Embryos

To grow and spread, tumors need blood vessels to provide
nutrients. Scientists are trying to find ways to stop angiogenesis. Angiogenes is inhibitors stimulate cells to stop the angiogenesis process. Hence, angiogenesis inhibition therapy can help chemotherapy drugs and radiation therapy work more effectively when given in combination. Vascular integrins, in particular alpha-v-beta-3, are important regulators of angiogenesis, including tumor angiogenesis. The integrin alpha-v-beta-3 is highly expressed on activated endothelial cells and tumor cells but is not present in resting endothelial cells and most normal organ systems. The cyclic arginine-glycine-aspartic acid (RGD) peptide recognizes alpha-v-beta-3 integrin receptors and thus target to cancer cells.

Nimodipine suppresses chemokine release via inhibition of adenosine uptake in endothelial cells

Atherosclerosis is a common disease in which the artery wall thickens as a result of a buildup of fatty materials. The narrowing of arteries caused by atherosclerosis can significantly reduce the blood supply to vital organs. The complications of advanced atherosclerosis include heart attack and stroke, which are the major killers in modern society. While many clinicians consider the use of lipid-lowering agents like statins as the main strategy to prevent atherosclerosis, the combination of dihydropyridine-type calcium channel blockers (DHP) (a blood vessel dilator used in the treatment of patients with angina and hypertension) and statins has been shown to produce an additional 60% reduction of atherosclerosis compared with that observed with statins alone. Therefore, the effects of DHP on atherosclerosis are promising.

DNA-binding Activities of Some Alkaloids
from Chinese Medicinal Herbs

In recent years, small organic molecules have attracted a great deal of interests of scientists in new drug design targeting biological macro-molecules, such as proteins, enzymes, receptors and nucleic acids (DNA and RNA). The interactions of drug with DNA comprise noncovalent binding and covalent bonding. The former one is reversible but the later one is irreversible. Most of the interactions between drugs and DNA belong to reversible binding, except for aristolochic acids in some toxic herbs from Aristolochiaceae which damage DNA irreversibly.

Development of a High Performance Liquid Chromatographic
Method for the Quality Control of Rhizoma Smilacis Glabrae
and its Derived Products

Rhizoma Smilacis Glabrae (RSG), belonged to Liliaceae family, smilax genera, is a commonly used traditional Chinese medicine for detoxication and diuresis. It is the principal medicine used for the treatment of syphilis in ancient China. Besides, it is also used for skin problems, such as psoriasis and chronic eczema. The extract of this herb is also the main ingredient in turtle jelly, which is a functional food consumed popularly in Hong Kong and in Southern China. However, there are many confusable species of RSG existed in the market. These include Rhizoma Smilacis Chinae, Rhizoma Heterosmilacis etc.

Interactions between UGT isoenzymes and MRP transporters during the oral absorption process of Baicalein

Flavonoids are polyphenolic phytochemicals present extensively in our daily diet, medicinal plants and herbal remedies. Since 2001, with the continuous support of RGC grants and CUHK Direct Grants, a series of investigations on Baicalein (B), a bioactive flavonoid isolated from the root of Scutellaria baicalensis Georgi, and related flavonoids have been conducted in our research group. Previous studies from us and others have indicated that extensive intestinal first-pass metabolism, mainly glucuronidation catalyzed by UDP-glucuronsyltransferase (UGT) isozymes, and a subsequent unfavorable efflux transport mediated by multidrug resistance associated protein (MRP) are the two major reasons responsible for the low oral bioavailability of B.

Gender Differences in the Regulation of Endothelium-Dependent Contracting Factor

Results of Significance
It is now recognized that there are differences between males and females in the incidence and manifestation of vascular diseases, of which endothelial dysfunction is the underlying cause. Endothelial dysfunction is characterized by an imbalance between the release of endothelium-derived relaxing (EDRF) and contracting (EDCF) factors. It is precipitated by aging, western diet, obesity, diabetes and hypertension and thus becomes an increasing problem in societies like Hong Kong, facing the aging of the population combined with increasing access to western food.

Areas of Excellence Scheme Project: Introducing the Work of the Hong Kong Institute of Economics and Business Strategy  

The Hong Kong Institute of Economics and Business Strategy (HIEBS – 香港經濟及商業策略研究所) is a research center of the Faculty of Business and Economics at The University of Hong Kong. As an Area of Excellence (AoE) recipient it was principally funded by the University Grants Committee in the period 1999-2006. Since then it has raised its own funding to sustain and support its work. 

Areas of Excellence of Scheme Project: Building excellence in plant and agricultural biotechnology research

Ten years ago, under the UGC’s Areas of Excellence (AoE) scheme, the Chinese University of Hong Kong established a Center for Plant and Agricultural Biotechnology, to conduct research in a number of crucial aspects of plant & agricultural biotechnology. During the past decade, the Center has assembled a world-class interdisciplinary team of researchers from several institutions. This team has successfully pursued a research approach that integrates state-of-the-art modern technologies with the traditional wisdom of breeders. It is also a significant example to demonstrate cross-institution deep collaboration in Hong Kong.

RGC Collaborative Research Fund – Layman Summaries of Projects Funded in 2009/10 Exercise

Quantum order in novel materials: superconductivity and topological order
Iron-based (pnictides) superconductors and topological insulators are the most important discoveries in hard condensed matter physics in recent years. The two classes of materials exhibit the common feature of exotic quantum behaviors (quantum order). Elucidating the principles that govern the properties of these materials and exploring their technological implication are the goals of the physics community. The complexity in tackling the many intervening issues in this area calls for a collaborative approach. With the help of a previous Collaborative Research Grant, a research team to tackle this problem is ready. The proposal consolidates the team to study holistically the novel quantum order behind these materials and to explore the nature of general topological order, a key ingredient in quantum information science.