Ten projects led by The Hong Kong Polytechnic University (PolyU) (PolyU) have recently received funding support from the inaugurated Research Impact Fund (RIF) under the Research Grants Council (RGC). Among them, half of them are health-related, covering areas of drug development, detection of scoliosis, myopia control and food safety. This has rightly demonstrated not only the strong research capabilities of the University but also the contribution of its research to the well-being of the community.
The funded health-related research projects include the followings:
Project Project-in-charge Funding Amount (HK$ million)
Development of a colistin/adjuvant antimicrobial regimen that exhibits low toxicity and high efficacy in combating multidrug-resistant bacterial pathogens Professor CHEN Sheng, Professor of Department of Applied Biology and Chemical Technology, PolyU 6
Early Detection of progressive adolescent idiopathic scoliosis and optimization for non-surgical treatments using novel 3D ultrasound imaging Professor ZHENG Yongping, Head, Department of Biomedical Engineering and Henry G. Leong Professor in Biomedical Engineering, PolyU 8.4
Tackling grand challenges in food safety: a big data and IoT enabled approach Professor CAO Jiannong, Chair Professor of Distributed and Mobile Computing, Department of Computing, PolyU 5.4
Effective of bright light therapy, myopic defocus, atropine and the combinations for controlling myopic eye growth in schoolchildren: a randomized control trial Professor TO Chi-ho, Head, School of Optometry and Henry G. Leong Professor in Elderly Vision Health, PolyU 8
Total amount 27.8
Details of the research projects are listed in the Appendix.
“Committed to conducting impactful research for the benefit of the community, PolyU has made healthcare and medical-related research one of our foci of research. From drug development, AI-powered medical images, predictive analytics and diagnosis, to surgical robotic systems and preventive medical intervention, we are leveraging our cross-disciplinary strength to come up with solutions to help prevent and treat illnesses as well as to enhance the health and well-being of the community,” said Ir Professor Alex Wai, Vice President (Research Development) of PolyU.
The 10 PolyU projects funded by RIF received a total of HK$65 million, representing one-third in terms of both funding and number of projects of the RIF in 2018/19. Other than the health-related projects, the other projects are related to the development of smart city, transportation and marine reclamation.
Developing a regimen in combating multidrug-resistant bacterial pathogens
Professor CHEN Sheng, Professor of the University’s Department of Applied Biology and
Chemical Technology, is leading a research project titled “Development of a colistin/adjuvant
antimicrobial regimen that exhibits low toxicity and high efficacy in combating multidrugresistant bacterial pathogens” which was granted a funding of nearly HK$ 6 million.
Among the major multidrug-resistant organisms that emerged within the past two decades,
carbapenem-resistant Enterobacteriaceae (CRE) pose a particularly serious threat to hospital
patients, especially those who are immunocompromised. Polymyxins (colistin) are currently
considered the last resort antibiotics in treatment of CRE infections due to its high efficacy
against clinical CRE strains and low resistance rate. However, couple major issues about
colistin as last resort antibiotic were raised including its neuro- and nephrotoxic side effects,
which remains intolerable to a high proportion of gravely ill patients, who are most affected by
drug-resistant hospital infections.
PolyU recently identified three compounds, namely CET, DOM and Econ, which exhibited
strong synergistic antimicrobial effect with colistin against both colistin-resistant and
susceptible Enterobacteriaceae strains, facilitating the use of a much lower dosage of colistin
in treatment and minimizing the toxic side effects on severely ill patients. Animal experiments
confirmed that they provide remarkable protective effect against multidrug resistant infections
that would otherwise be fatal. The proposed funded project will (1) perform pre-clinical studies
to optimize the antimicrobial efficacy and to facilitate design of the dosing and formulation of
such novel drug regimens, (2) investigate the mechanism of action by which CET/DOM/Econ
enhances the antimicrobial activity of colistin. The project is expected to produce a series of
new colistin and adjuvant-based antimicrobial drug regimens that are ready for clinical trial.
Early detection of scoliosis through novel 3D ultrasound imaging
Professor ZHENG Yongping, Head of the Department of Biomedical Engineering and Henry
G. Leong Professor in Biomedical Engineering, PolyU, leads a project titled “Early Detection
of progressive adolescent idiopathic scoliosis and optimization for non-surgical treatments
using novel 3D ultrasound imaging”, which was awarded HK$8.4 million funding.
The team has earlier developed an ultrasound imaging system for two-dimensional (2D)
scoliosis assessment, which allows frequent monitoring of scoliosis among children without
the impact of radiation. The technology has been adopted for clinical uses in a number of
The team now studies to explore a novel clinical tool to assess the three-dimensional (3D)
nature of scoliosis by applying radiation-free 3D ultrasound. The results of this study can be
integrated into the current 2D ultrasound imaging system for prediction of curve progression,
optimisation of spinal orthosis design and exercise treatment, and monitoring of scoliosis
Enhancing food safety with big data and IoT
Professor CAO Jiannong, Chair Professor of Distributed and Mobile Computing, Department
of Computing, is leading a project titled “Tackling grand challenges in food safety: a big data
and IoT enabled approach”. A system enabled by Big Data and Internet of Things (IoT) will
be developed to contribute to food safety by enhancing traceability and status detection of food
items, thus allowing risk prediction of foul food. The project was granted HK$5.4 million
The research team proposes to attach an RFID tag to each food item as its identity to enable
tracking food items through all stages of production, processing, and distribution. In addition,
a large number of wireless sensors will be deployed in the environment where food items reside
to monitor temperature and humidity, allowing timely detection of the food status during food
production, warehousing and shipping.
The research team will also integrate heterogeneous food safety data and propose big data
techniques to uncover the hidden correlations, thereby pinpointing the sources of food risks
and predicting the food status in future.
Bright light therapy and combined treatment for myopia control among children
Awarded a HK$8 million RIF funding, the project “Effective of bright light therapy, myopic
defocus, atropine and the combinations for controlling myopic eye growth in schoolchildren:
a randomized control trial” is led by Professor TO Chi-ho, Head, School of Optometry and
Henry G. Leong Professor in Elderly Vision Health, PolyU.
The research team will conduct a multi-arm randomised clinical trial to determine the
effectiveness of Bright Light Therapy (BLT) on inhibiting myopia progression in
schoolchildren, and whether a combination of various therapy treatments, including the use of
bright light, myopic defocus and low-dose atropine, is more effective than monotherapy. In
addition, potential factors that associate with the effectiveness of myopia control will be
analysed in the study.
The team will recruit in Hong Kong over 700 Chinese children aged between eight and 13
with low (-1D) to moderate myopia (-6D) for the 24-month clinical trial.
Ms Michelle Li
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