HONG KONG – As a part of China's development plan for the Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macau Greater Bay Area, the Hong Kong Polytechnic University (PolyU) and its allies from the city cluster have established collaborations with U.S. institutions in the field of biotech research and translational medicine.

PolyU signed a memorandum of understanding with the State University of New York at Buffalo (SUNY Buffalo) and Roswell Park Comprehensive Cancer Center, signifying the first international biotech research platform in the Greater Bay Area. Besides PolyU, which is the initiator of that collaboration, other Chinese universities involved are Sun Yat-sen University, Shenzhen University and Macau University of Science and Technology.

Cherry Wu, from the faculty of applied science and textiles at PolyU, told BioWorld Asia that "in pursuit of knowledge transfer, the collaboration platform will put effort in forging closer links between academics and industry for their mutual benefits."

"We will bridge the network between the universities and biotechnology industry to create and transfer technology and knowhow with application value to the patients and the community," she added.

Wu also noted that the partners are now actively discussing the opportunities of engaging in the research projects. Med tech will be the starting point for the collaboration, in particular a self-sterilizing medical textile product to be released within a year, followed by more in-depth research and innovation in the areas of cancer, genomics, translational medicine, and other related areas in biotechnology.

"Our short-term goal is to jointly develop medical devices, including medical textile and glue. For midterm projects, we will focus on the genomics and diagnostics studies which emphasize on the comparative genomic studies, second-generation DNA data analysis systems and other vaccine or new antibiotics projects," said Wu.

But the long-term plan for the collaboration is to generate positive impact toward the development of cancer drugs translational research.

By introducing the overseas partners, the collaboration is expected to bring in the international insights and resources to the Greater Bay Area. The collaboration will benefit from the expertise from the collaborators and their networks. Leveraging the opportunities provided by the Greater Bay Area, the collaboration would foster more applied research in biotechnology.

PolyU has been a forerunner in translational medicine and application research and other Chinese institutions all have their own expertise. SUNY Buffalo is a flagship institution in the State University of New York system with its renowned School of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences. Roswell Park, on the other hand, has particular strengths in the areas of tumor immunology, cancer genetics and genomics, biophysical oncology, cancer prevention or epidemiology and cancer therapeutics development.

"The partners can benefit from Roswell Park's extensive clinical resources," said Terence Lau, director of Innovation and Technology Development of PolyU.

By grouping resources from six different institutions and getting new resources from the two partners in the U.S., the collaboration hopes to turn the Pearl River Delta region into a biotech hub.

"With the rich resources in the Greater Bay Area such as talents, capital and infrastructure, the region has the potential to be a biotechnology hub in China with the support from the government," Lau told BioWorld Asia.

The global community will likely benefit as the partners' understanding of the regulatory procedures in their own countries will help expedite the translation of innovative technologies to applications. For example, familiarity with the procedures formulated by respective regulators – the U.S. FDA and the CFDA – can facilitate approval for the new drugs.

"The platform will help drugs to gain access to the U.S. and China, the two largest markets in the world," said Lau. "This in turn helps market the drug sooner."

"The institutions tend to focus on the work in the early stage when it comes to R&D. I hope this platform can make it easier to put the drugs or medical devices into application. At the end, it's the patients we want to help," Lau added.

The Greater Bay Area initiative is the Chinese government's plan to link the cities of Hong Kong and Macau along with Guangdong province's Guangzhou, Shenzhen, Zhuhai, Foshan, Zhongshan, Dongguan, Huizhou, Jiangmen and Zhaoqing for the development of segments such as trade and logistics, financial services and R&D in innovative technologies.

By improving the level of cooperation within the region, leveraging each city's unique strengths, the government hopes to turn the Pearl River Delta region into a competitive integrated and global economic, business and innovation hub.

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