Home | English | 简体 | 繁體 | UGC | Font Size: A A A

  Project Flame: Social Innovation and Entrepreneurship@CityU

  Centre for Research into Circulating Fetal Nucleic Acids

  Regional Innovation Systems in Post-reform China: Indigenous Innovation and Regional Transformation in the Pearl River Delta

  Chinese Local Governments, Industrial Clusters, and Regional Disparities

  Time to leave? The Influence of Resource Dependence Structures on Sequential Investment Termination by Venture Capital Firms

  Children of Empire: Eurasians in Hong Kong, China and Britain, 1830-1960

  Antecedents and Consequences of the Establishment of Host Country Headquarter in Large Emerging Markets: Evidence from BRIC Countries

  Hong Kong Women Filmmakers: Sex, Politics and Cinema Aesthetics, 1997-2010

  Fig I. Prof Dennis LO, Prof Rossa CHIU and their plasma nucleic acid research team  
This project aimed to develop a new non-invasive prenatal testing technology for providing genetic and chromosomal information about a fetus in a safe manner. The project team (Fig. 1) had successfully developed such a technology in the first phase of the project (Fig. 2) and then went on to validate it for Down syndrome testing in the second phase (Fig. 3). The resulting test is over 99% accurate.

In addition to testing for Down syndrome, the project team has also extended this technology to test other chromosomal abnormalities (such as trisomy 18 and trisomy 13), as well as a number of single gene disorders, e.g. beta-thalassaemia. As an exercise to push the technology to its limit, the project team was the first to show that the entire fetal genome could be sequenced from maternal plasma. This work was published as a cover article in Science Translational Medicine and was widely publicised in international media.

The project team has created a valuable intellectual property portfolio. Part of this portfolio has been licensed to Sequenom and Illumina, two international biotechnology companies, as well as Xcelom. The latter is a local biotechnology startup company based in the Hong Kong Science Park founded by three members of the project team. A number of previous students of the project team now work at Xcelom.

Commercial tests based on this technology have been available since 2011 and have now been performed in over 90 countries and used by millions of pregnant women. This technology has received endorsements from many international professional bodies. The use of this technology has resulted in an approximately 30%-50% reduction in the use of invasive tests, hence resulting in a paradigm shift in prenatal medicine. Members of the project team have also received multiple international awards and honours based on this work, including election to the Royal Society, the US National Academy of Sciences as well as the King Faisal International Prize in Medicine in 2014.
Fig 2. Sequencing of maternal plasma DNA for the non-invasive prenatal detection of fetal chromosomal disorders

Fig 3. High accuracy for detecting Down syndrome prenatally

Prof Yuk Ming Dennis LO
Department of Chemical Pathology

The Chinese University of Hong Kong