Researchers in pandemic race

Local | Carine Chow 12 Aug 2020

Polytechnic University researchers have received HK$18 million in public funding to conduct eight research projects relating to the pandemic.

One is an online rehabilitation system for those who have recovered and will see 400 survivors from five hospitals assessed on the impact of the coronavirus on their hearts, lungs and brain function for 18 months to look into whether there is any correlation between the effects.

Led by associate head of rehabilitation sciences Amy Fu Siu-ngor, it received HK$4.47 million from the Health and Medical Research Fund, the most among the eight projects.

"The funding will mainly be used to hire staff and develop an online rehabilitation system and guidelines," Fu said.

The fund sponsored 23 projects by universities totalling HK$59 million.

Yip Shea-ping, head of health technology and informatics, will lead a team in developing a low-cost handheld device for coronavirus testing.

It will use gold nanoparticles as testing reagents, which will change from red to transparent if a patient tests positive. The device is estimated to give preliminary results within 30 minutes.

"Our device can give results as accurately as laboratories in a shorter time, as traditional labs usually need at least an hour to obtain the results," Yip said.

PolyU is also carrying out a year-long study on psychological traumas caused by the pandemic. The team, led by dean of health and social sciences David Shum Ho-keung, will survey 3,000 adults on the emotional and behavioral changes.

"We will also have 240 deep interviews with high-risk groups and the disadvantaged, including health-care workers, the elderly, the disabled and low-income families, to better evaluate the effect on people's psychological health," Shum said.

Other PolyU projects range from medical technology to monitoring studies and are estimated to be completed between one and two years.

They include creating a database of coronavirus patients, using artificial intelligence in X-rays, investigating drainage and vent pipes at public housing with a pseudovirus, developing a blended gaming Covid-19 training system for staff in residential care homes and studying public compliance with coronavirus prevention measures.

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