Gift Advances Anti-Aging Drug Development
(2 March 2005)
Hong Kong University of Science and Technology (HKUST) will apply
part of a major donation from The Hong Kong Jockey Club and partner
with the San Francisco-based Geron Corporation to establish a biotechnology
company in Hong Kong. The company will conduct research and develop
drugs against age-related diseases. The
Club's HK$175 million donation was presented to Prof Paul Chu, President
of HKUST, at a ceremony held today (2 March 2005).
The new company, TA Therapeutics Limited, will be jointly founded
by HKUST through its wholly-owned company Biotechnology Research
Corporation (BRC) and Geron, which specializes in telomerase technology
and drug development.
HKUST and Geron scientists will conduct joint research, predominantly
in Hong Kong, and develop telomerase activator drugs that restore
the regenerative and functional capacity of cells to help fight
against age-related and neurodegenerative diseases.
"This collaboration represents a successful partnership between
academia and industry, working together for the benefit of global
healthcare," says Prof Paul Chu. "It also provides strong
impetus to the local biotech sector, while contributing to the economic
development and technological advancement of Hong Kong. HKUST is
most grateful to the Club for its generous support of this strategic
in 1989, the Club provided $130 million to the University to establish
the necessary foundation and essential infrastructure for the development
of the biotechnology industry in Hong Kong. We believe the continuous
investment on a meaningful project like this will actually encourage
commercial exploitation of successful research results," said
Club Chairman Ronald Arculli. "We're glad that this joint venture
will bring about technology transfer to Hong Kong."
"We are very pleased with this strategic development,"
said David Greenwood, Executive Vice President of Geron. "Our
scientific collaboration with HKUST on telomerase activation has
been very productive. Taking this one step further, we agreed to
create and capitalize a new company to aggressively pursue further
research with the intention of developing commercial drug products."
HKUST and Geron are long-time strategic partners in telomerase research.
The University has been collaborating with the California-headquartered
company since 2000 on the discovery of drug leads using Geron's
telomerase technology platform. Researchers have employed a systematic
approach to screen traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) extracts for
their ability to modulate telomerase activity.
"Using technology at the forefront of biomedicine, combined
with the long history of TCM, we have systematically screened more
than 50 TCMs and successfully identified two active small molecule
compounds with strong telomerase modulation activity," says
Prof Nancy Ip, Director of Biotechnology Research Institute and
Head of the Department of Biochemistry of HKUST.
In the next stage of this partnership, the two compounds will be
put into preclinical development and, in due course, clinical trials.
About TA Therapeutics Limited
TA Therapeutics will be equally owned by Geron, and HKUST through
its wholly owned company, the Biotechnology Research Corporation
(BRC). It will leverage on HKUST strengths in TCM research and drug
discovery, and Geron's expertise in drug development. Geron will
contribute intellectual property and capital while HKUST will provide
technical know-how and investment capital.
About Biotechnology Research Corporation (BRC)
Wholly owned by HKUST, the Biotechnology Research Corporation (BRC)
was established with a HK$175 million donation from The Hong Kong
Jockey Club to develop potential drug candidates into commercially
Geron is a California-based, NASDAQ-listed biopharmaceutical company
focusing on the development and commercialization of therapeutic
and diagnostic products for cancer based on its telomerase technology,
and cell-based therapeutics using its human embryonic stem cell
About The Hong Kong Jockey Club
The Hong Kong Jockey Club has a unique, not-for-profit, business
model, with its surplus being fully allocated to charities projects
to meet the needs of the community. Over the last decade, the Club's
donations of more than HK$10 billion have helped four key sectors
of society: medical and health; education and training; sports,
recreation and culture; and community services. In year 2003/04,
the Club donated HK$975 million to support more than 100 charity
and community projects.