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Synthetic Biology Technology

Hong Kong University of Science and Technology receives gift of HK$500m to set up synthetic biology institute.

“It is fascinating that a humble yeast is the superstar of the next industrial revolution.”

Hong Kong-based plastics and real estate mogul Li Ka-Shing has announced a donation of HK$500 million (USD$64 million), via his Li Ka Shing Foundation, to the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology (HKUST) for it to launch a major institute for synthetic biology research.

According to the HKUST, the new academic and research building will be called the ‘Li Ka Shing Institute of Synthetic Biology’. It is hoped that the Institute will produce “advanced facilities” and help to make Hong Kong a “global pioneer in synthetic biotechnologies”.

The HKUST aims to make sure the Institute will develop scientific infrastructure and technologies to integrate genetic engineering with artificial intelligence and relevant analysis methodologies.

It is also hoped that the Institute will bring about discoveries ranging from biomolecules to cells as well as actual products, in order to promote public health, environmental sustainability and foster social advancement and co-sharing.

Overall, the main vision of the Institute is to develop Hong Kong into a global hub of synthetic biology, transfer research results under new policies and new models of education and entrepreneurship. In addition to this, it is also hoped that the Institute will attract the world’s top scientific scholars.

The University has been given funds by Li Ka-Shing, who, according to media reports, is Hong Kong’s richest man. He is also the chairman of the Li Ka Shing Foundation – a charitable organisation set up by Ka Shing in 1980.

Speaking about his donation, Ka-Shing said: “Since 2003, I have advocated repeatedly that Hong Kong must put resources behind science and technology-based manufacturing industries as it is a powerful geyser for upward mobility as well as a playground where entrepreneurship and innovation thrives.

“Just as synthetic chemistry and petroleum was central to the 20th Century, synthetic biology and DNA are the technology engines of this century, bringing disruption to traditional manufacturing and new opportunities in the industrialisation of biology.”

He added that it was fascinating that the “humble yeast” was the “superstar” of the next industrial revolution.

Ka-Shing also explained that he had “faith” in the next generation and was optimistic that Hong Kong would “stand in the forefront of this new frontier”.

Commenting on the donation from Ka-Shing, HKUST Council Chairman Andrew Liao Cheung-Sing said: “With Mr Li’s vision, as well as his benevolent support and trust in HKUST, a sturdy foundation has been laid for our collaboration. We look forward to seeing the fruit bore by the Hong Kong Institute of Synthetic Biology, and the transformational changes that it set to bring upon Hong Kong and our neighbouring regions.”

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