About the Hong Kong Laureate Forum

Welcome to the March 2024 issue of the newsletter of the Hong Kong Laureate Forum!

The "Scientists and Their Contributions Voxel Art Design Contest", jointly organised by the Council of the Hong Kong Laureate Forum ("the HKLF"), Index Game and The Sandbox, was staged and the award presentation ceremony concluded successfully on 2 March. We were honoured to have Ms Becky Wong, Chief Operation Officer and Co-founder of Index Game, Mr Erich Wong, Head of Growth (Hong Kong) of The Sandbox, Dr Jimmy Wong, Executive Director of the Hong Kong Academy of Gifted Education (HKAGE), and Prof Timothy Tong, BBS, JP, Chairman of the HKLF, to commend the participating teams. The Champion, 1st Runner-up and 2nd Runner-up teams were from Cotton Spinners Association Secondary School, Hong Kong University Graduate Association College and Fukien Secondary School respectively. These teams shared with the audience their experience and insights gained in the contest, including how they collaborated with their team members, the challenges they encountered during the production process, and how to enhance the likeness of their work. Members of the Champion team also talked about their experience in the two-day internship at Index Game, offering a glimpse of the daily work of a voxel art designer. The contest attracted 21 teams of students from 11 secondary schools. It was impressive that the participating teams went from attending the design software workshops to creating their own work in just two months. The award presenters recognised and appreciated the efforts and dedication of all participating teams. The masterpieces of the Champion, 1st Runner-up and 2nd Runner-up teams are now available on our website for everyone to visit. In addition, photos and highlights of the award presentation ceremony have been uploaded onto our photo gallery, video gallery and YouTube channel. Make sure you don't miss the remarkable moments of the ceremony!

Time flies. Our signature event, "Exploring New Horizons", has entered its third year. From January to March this year, we successfully organised "Exploring New Horizons 2024" – a series of 13 laboratory / enterprise visits along with sharing sessions specifically designed for senior secondary students in Hong Kong. The event garnered participation from over 300 individuals across 20 schools. The participating students had opportunities to interact with local scientists / research teams and delve into their work environment, laboratory operation, challenges faced by the research teams, and the latest scientific research projects in Hong Kong. We are delighted that a number of local scientists / research teams have supported this event for the second, or even the third consecutive year. Moreover, we are proud to announce that "Exploring New Horizons 2024" received support from a state key laboratory for the first time. This significant endorsement created opportunities for students to gain exposure to national key research projects. Also, we embarked on a collaboration with a local start-up, introducing students to medical metal 3D printing technology and application. The event photos and captivating highlights have been uploaded to our photo gallery, video gallery and YouTube channel and please enjoy! The HKLF extends its heartfelt gratitude to the enthusiastic participation of all students and teachers and the support of the local scientists / research teams / start-ups. They include:

Prof Chan Chi Hou and his research team from State Key Laboratory of Terahertz and Millimeter Waves (City University of Hong Kong)
Prof Kannie Chan and her research team from Hong Kong Centre for Cerebro-Cardiovascular Health Engineering
Prof Tom Cheung and his research team from the Division of Life Science of The Hong Kong University of Science and Technology
Prof Chu Ming-chung and his research team from the Department of Physics of the Chinese University of Hong Kong
Dr Calvin Or and his research team from the Department of Industrial & Manufacturing Systems Engineering of the University of Hong Kong
Prof Patrick Tang and his research team from the Department of Anatomical and Cellular Pathology of the Chinese University of Hong Kong
Prof Carmen Wong and her research team from the Department of Pathology of the University of Hong Kong
Research team from Centre for Immunology & Infection
Research team from Koln 3D Technology (Medical) Limited
Research team from the University of Hong Kong – Pasteur Research Pole

Furthermore, the HKLF forged 'G3 Alliance', with HKAGE and Centum Charitas Foundation at the end of last year. Under the principles of 'Gifted, Groom and Giving', the alliance aims to identify and nurture the next generation of innovation and technology leaders. Its key event, the "Young STEAM Talent Award", is now open for registration. This Award is an initiative to create a dynamic platform for Secondary 3 to 6 students in Hong Kong who are keen on STEAM to showcase their creativity, unleash their imaginative ideas and cultivate critical thinking abilities, so as to emerge as leaders in the realms of environmental, social, and governance (ESG) practices. This Award consists of numerous awards and prizes, including "Top Ten Young STEAM Talents Award", "Young STEAM Talent of the Year Award" and "Nominator of the Award winners". Young STEAM Talent Award winners will be entitled the HKAGE membership as well as receive a commendation certificate and scholarship. They will also be joining a well-structured nurturing programme. After the completion of the programme, they will have opportunities to share with the public their learning and research outcomes, paving their ways to scientific research and innovation. The registration deadline for the Award is 15 April 5:00pm. Please visit here for more information.

The HKLF looks forward to future collaborations with more organisations to promote education and exchanges in various disciplines in science and technology in Hong Kong, incubating more scientific research and innovation talents. For the latest news and our upcoming events, stay tuned to our website, social media and the next newsletter!

The Newly Developed High-Efficiency Carbon Dioxide Electroreduction System Targets to Reduce Carbon Footprint and Progress Carbon Neutrality Goals

Background: Global warming continues to pose a threat to human society and the ecological systems, and carbon dioxide accounts for the largest proportion of the greenhouse gases that dominate climate warming. To combat climate change and move towards the goal of carbon neutrality, researchers from The Hong Kong Polytechnic University have developed a durable, highly selective and energy-efficient carbon dioxide (CO2) electroreduction system that can convert CO2 into ethylene for industrial purposes to provide an effective solution for reducing CO2 emissions. This research was recently published in Nature Energy and won a Gold Medal at the 48th International Exhibition of Inventions Geneva in Switzerland.

Ethylene (C2H4) is one of the most in-demand chemicals globally and is mainly used in the manufacture of polymers such as polyethylene, which, in turn, can be used to make plastics and chemical fibres commonly used in daily life. However, it is still mostly obtained from petrochemical sources and the production process involves the creation of a very significant carbon footprint.

Durable Electrocatalytic CO2 Reduction to Ethylene System via Eliminating Carbonate Formation

Introduction: In the fight against climate change, finding efficient ways to reduce CO2 emissions is crucial. Electrocatalytic CO2 reduction (ECO2R) using renewable energy sources has emerged as a promising solution. However, the presence of alkaline conditions and alkali cations during ECO2R poses challenges, hindering the development of this technology. We explore a groundbreaking pure-water-fed membrane-electrode-assembly (MEA) system that overcomes these obstacles, paving the way for a more stable and efficient ECO2R process.

Efficient CO2 reduction is crucial in fighting climate change. ECO2R with renewable energy is promising, but alkaline conditions and alkali cations pose challenges. Our pure-water-fed MEA system overcomes these, paving the way for a stable and efficient ECO2R process.


Prof Daniel Lau, Chair Professor of Nanomaterials and Head of the Department of Applied Physics, The Hong Kong Polytechnic University

Gut Microbiota Modulation for Post-Acute COVID-19 Syndrome: Current Evidence

Post-acute COVID-19 syndrome ("long COVID") refers to long-term symptoms that persist after acute SARS-CoV-2 infection, affecting multiple organs and systems. Long COVID affects over 65 million people worldwide, yet effective treatment is limited. Our research team at the Faculty of Medicine of the Chinese University of Hong Kong (CUHK Medicine) has completed a large-scale double-blind, randomised, placebo-controlled clinical trial, which confirmed that patients who were given an oral synbiotic preparation (SIM01) developed by CUHK experienced significant alleviation in various long COVID symptoms. The landmark findings have been published in the world-leading journal in infectious diseases, The Lancet Infectious Diseases, and presented at the inaugural Hong Kong Laureate Forum in November 2023.

Earlier studies by CUHK Medicine showed close associations between gut microbiota dysbiosis and long COVID. However, no research has yet to confirm that gut microbiota modulation could alleviate long COVID symptoms. SIM01 is a patented oral synbiotic formula developed by CUHK Medicine, who has been keen to utilise big data and machine learning to develop synbiotic formulae of beneficial probiotics and prebiotics for different diseases. In this large-scale double-blind, randomised, placebo-controlled clinical study (RECOVERY), our team have evaluated whether SIM01 could alleviate long COVID symptoms. In 2021 to 2022, we have recruited a total of 463 recovered COVID-19 patients to participate in the RECOVERY trial. Participants' mean age was 49 years, and 65% were female. Nearly 70% of participants were Omicron cases, whilst others were earlier cases. They were enrolled into the study at a median of 4 months after COVID-19 diagnosis and were randomly assigned either into the SIM01 group or the control group at 1:1 ratio. The SIM01 group received SIM01 orally for 6 months, whilst the control group received placebo containing vitamin C orally for 6 months.


Ms Raphaela Iris Lau, Hong Kong PhD Fellow, Department of Medicine and Therapeutics, Faculty of Medicine, The Chinese University of Hong Kong

Alpacas and Nanobodies

When we think of alpacas, the first things that pop up in our minds may be holiday farms or alpaca fleece. However, if you ask a biomedical scientist, they may have thought of nanobody, fragment of a special type of antibody.

To appreciate why nanobodies are so special, we must first understand what an antibody looks like (Fig 1). A conventional antibody is composed of two heavy chains and two light chains. These chains are joined by disulfide bonds to form a Y-shaped molecule. The two tips of the Y-shaped antibody are called variable regions, which are responsible for binding to a target antigen. Variable regions of antibodies literally vary greatly and they determine what antigen an antibody will bind to. In addition to conventional antibodies, members of the camelid family, such as alpacas, camels and llamas, also produce a special type of antibody that only consists of two heavy chains. Nanobodies are the variable regions of these special antibodies.

Fig 1: Structures of (a) a conventional antibody, (b) a camelid heavy chain-only antibody, and (c) a nanobody. (L: light chain, H: heavy chain; gray: variable region, purple: constant region)


Helen Wong, Student Editor, Science Focus, The Hong Kong University of Science and Technology