ITF funding secured for anti-Covid-19 research

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(From top left, clockwise) Professor Michael Yang Mengsu, Professor Leung Kwok-wa, Dr Steven Wang, Dr Katie Chan Kei-hang.
(From top left, clockwise) Professor Michael Yang Mengsu, Professor Leung Kwok-wa, Dr Steven Wang, Dr Katie Chan Kei-hang.

 

Research at City University of Hong Kong (CityU) aimed at tackling Covid-19 has attracted over $7.1 million in funding from the Innovation and Technology Fund (ITF) under the Innovation and Technology Commission.

The CityU projects constitute our proactive response to the need for the application of cutting-edge technologies in fighting the epidemic.

Four interdisciplinary CityU projects in total have been successful in securing ITF support under the scheme “Public Sector Trial Scheme for the Prevention and Control of COVID-19 in Hong Kong”.

A team led by Professor Michael Yang Mengsu, Yeung Kin Man Chair Professor of Biomedical Sciences in the Department of Biomedical Sciences (BMS), dedicates to producing a simple but rapid test for Covid-19. The CityU team proposes a molecular point-of-care-testing procedure based on visual detection using a disposable lateral flow device, which includes a bio-sensor based on nano technology, and genetic biomarkers.

“The test will provide an alternative diagnostic approach for public health providers,” Professor Yang said.

Researchers in the Department of Electrical Engineering (EE) under the guidance of Professor Leung Kwok-wa, Chair Professor in EE, are working on a convenient and reliable method of keeping surfaces pathogen free. Ultra violet (UV) light is known as a disinfecting agent but it is harmful to the body. Recent studies, however, suggest that far-UVC light is harmless because it does not penetrate deeply into human skin and yet is still capable of destroying pathogens.

“Our disinfection device works on lift buttons, tables, fruit and other foods, boxes and bottles, to name a few,” Professor Leung said.

Meanwhile, initial reports suggest individuals living with chronic diseases are more likely to contract Covid-19. A study led by Dr Katie Chan Kei-hang, Assistant Professor in BMS and EE, adopts machine learning and deep learning techniques to predict infections and mortality, and investigates the link between Covid-19 infections and other diseases using a panel of established immunity and metabolic biomarkers.

“The prediction models classify people more prone to infection and/or death as well as co-morbidity conditions to streamline decision making on relevant treatments, and thus provide optimal care to help alleviate the clinical burden in Hong Kong,” Dr Chan said.

Last but not least, Dr Steven Wang, Assistant Professor in the Department of Mechanical Engineering, is working on a fast-track vented enclosure system for Covid-19 patients in hospitals. This fast-track enclosure offers an innovative way to housing/separating Covid-19 patients and others from airborne contagion. The prototype limits the spread of the virus and restricts encounters between infected patients and medical workers. The vented enclosure includes plumbing, fittings and other small parts easily purchased/ manufactured.

“The R&D outcomes will be ready for anti-epidemic purposes in all Hong Kong hospitals for the protection of medical workers and patients,” Dr Wang said.

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