Li gives four campuses a much-needed $170m boost

Top News | Mandy Zheng 17 Sep 2020

The Li Ka Shing Foundation has given HK$170 million to four local universities in support of medical, biological and artificial intelligence research.

The donations have been given to the University of Hong Kong, Chinese University, the University of Science and Technology and Education University as related faculties received letters from tycoon Li Ka-shing, his foundation said yesterday.

In his letters, Li said: "This has been an ever-changing year, and every corner of the world has faced daunting challenges.

"But I believe that education is a necessary way to get out of the chaos, through which we can head to the future. I think there is nothing more inspiring than hope."

The foundation said the grants are aimed at boosting Hong Kong's competitiveness and capabilities, adding that it was a landmark moment for Li to donate to all four institutes at the same time.

Of the grant, HK$100 million went to HKU's Li Ka Shing Faculty of Medicine, which will be used to build the Cryo-electron Microscope Unit.

Cryo-electron microscopy (cryo-EM) is a technique that can capture each corner of a cell in atomic detail, and help visualize 3D protein complexes. A Nobel Prize in chemistry was given to three scientists who developed it in 2017.

The technique has a wide range of applications, including in pharmaceutical development, as it can provide high-resolution images of pathogenic proteins.

By studying the proteins' structures, scientists may be able to find or design drugs that can combine with them.

This method can be applied in treatment research for cancer, diabetes, heart diseases, cranial nerve degeneration and contagious diseases.

Gabriel Leung, dean of HKU's medicine faculty, said: "The grant can help us develop multiple types of drugs in more precise ways.

"Li and his foundation have a long-term commitment to medical education. HKU has achieved a great amount with their generous donations."

Meanwhile, HK$35 million was granted to CUHK's Faculty of Medicine to build what the foundation said would be "the world's foremost translational biomedical research platform."

The grant will help install a mass spectrometer with advanced analytical systems, in the hope that such equipment could speed up commercial applications of new scientific discoveries.

A mass spectrometer can accurately measure the mass of different molecules within a sample, a tool widely used in bio-science studies.

The HK$30 million grant for HKUST will be used to launch a new synthetic biology initiative conducting cross-disciplinary research among biologists, chemists, engineers and software developers.

One project of the initiative will be to design, compile or modify the genome of microbes, which is applicable to treating diseases and life detection.

The remaining HK$5 million was offered to Education University to help it introduce Hong Kong's first AI educational solution, including AI textbooks and other teaching materials designed by US tech company Kneron.

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