The Biotechnology Research Institute (BRI) at the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology (HKUST) was founded in 1990 through a generous donation from the Hong Kong Jockey Club Charities Trust. Our mission is to provide the critical expertise necessary to drive the development of innovative, high value-added biotechnology products that possess the potential to fuel the growth of a viable industry in Hong Kong. We are notably the first institute in Hong Kong to possess an integrated drug discovery capability and to utilize traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) in novel drug screening strategies. The resulting successes and achievements have led to the establishment of numerous collaborations with academic institutes and biopharmaceutical companies.
BRI is actively engaged in biotechnology-related research and development projects, which focus primarily on neuroscience, TCM-based drug discovery, and lead identification and optimization.
Our research programs in neuroscience relate to the unraveling of the complex processes involved in the pathology of neurodegenerative diseases. By understanding the mechanisms involved in the progression of these diseases, BRI aims to identify novel molecular targets associated with defective and impaired neurotransmission, and to develop therapeutic agents for the treatment of neurological diseases.
TCM-based Drug Discovery
TCM has been successfully used in Chinese culture for thousands of years in the treatment of diseases. We utilize modern technology to provide scientific verification of the efficacy and safety of TCM, and aim to identify biologically active compounds that can be further developed into new promising therapeutic agents.
Drug Lead Identification and Optimization
We use multiple approaches, including genetic engineering, nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) and computer-aided drug design, to elucidate the structure and function of biological macromolecules, as well as the structural basis of their interactions with lead compounds. Such information is instrumental to target selection and lead identification and can be further utilized in the design of potential lead compounds.
BRI has successfully established itself as a major player in the global biotechnology arena and has continually helped to spearhead biotechnology developments in Hong Kong. Our research has resulted in a number of international patents, and collaborative industrial partnerships that have elevated our technological capabilities in drug development to a respectable level. A notable example is the collaboration between BRI and Geron Corporation, a NASDAQ-listed biopharmaceutical company, to identify anti-aging products using BRI’s expertise in TCM and Geron’s proprietary telomerase technology platform. BRI will continue to pursue excellence in biotechnology in years to come, thereby facilitating development of HKSAR’s competitiveness in this promising field.
Throughout the years, BRI has co-organized various conferences to stay informed of the latest scientific, engineering and business opportunities in the biotechnology and pharmaceutical industries. The success of the BRI-organized Gordon Research Conference (GRC) on “Molecular and Cellular Neurobiology” in 2000 was instrumental in the selection of HKUST as the permanent site for the prestigious GRC meetings in the Asia-Pacific region. Other examples include: Symposium on “Neurodegenerative Disease” (Dec 2012), Symposium on “Biomedical research across the continents – Insights and Innovation” (Mar 2013), HKUST-EPFL Joint Symposium “Data Science and Neuroscience” (Dec 2015), and the IAS Focused Program “Frontiers in Stem Cell Research” (Jan 2016). These activities create an atmosphere conducive to scientific discussions and facilitate the formation of stronger international ties.