Cancer-detecting startup wins business prize

Local | Carine Chow 28 Jul 2020

A startup whose technology creates computer images that allow surgeons to check whether patients' cancer cells are cleanly eradicated during surgeries won a HK$200,000 award from the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology.

The HKUST-Sino One Million Dollar Entrepreneurship Competition 2020 attracted 151 startups, marking the highest number of participating teams for its 10th anniversary. The event included finalists from eight regions spanning Hong Kong, Macau, Beijing, Guangzhou, Shenzhen, Foshan, Zhongshan and the Yangtze River Delta.

The competition was hosted online for the first time and received more than 2,000 votes in deciding the best product pitching.

PhoMedics, which is this year's gold award winner, won the competition with its new technology, CHAMP, which produces virtual staining computer images to see if complete excision is done during cancer surgeries.

"The current frozen section technology has around 70 percent of accuracy, and one in five patients have to undergo a second cancer surgery as not all cancer cells are removed. However, with our technology, the accuracy can be increased to 95 percent," said professor Terence Wong Tsz-wai, founder of PhoMedics and assistant professor in the Department of Chemical and Biological Engineering at HKUST.

The CHAMP technology is now undergoing a clinical trial at Queen Mary Hospital and will soon be trialed at Prince of Wales Hospital. The clinical trial is expected to be completed by the end of 2021.

Wong said that the prize money will be used as part of a startup fund.

The president awardee went to SPES Tech, which has developed a hydrogel that can be used under natural LED lighting by pharmaceutical companies to carry more effective drug experiments.

"We would devote all of the prize money in scientific research and hopefully can promote our technology in China after the pandemic," said cofounder and CEO of SPES Tech Wong Ka-chin.

Professor Gary Chan Shueng-han, who is also the director of HKUST's entrepreneurship centre, said that many of the participating teams are biotechnology or healthcare-related companies. "Biotechnology is a general trend and the public has an increasing demand for the healthcare industry, especially during the pandemic," he added.

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