HKU Funded the Largest Sum in 1st Round of RGC's Theme-based Research Scheme

HKU has done exceptionally well in the first round of the Research Grant Council’s (RGC) Theme-based Research Scheme (TRS), being co-ordinating institution of 3 of the 6 funded projects. These 3 projects look at cell-based heart regeneration, personalized medicine for cardiovascular diseases, and challenges in organic photo-voltaics and light emitting diodes.

The selection process was highly competitive—of the 89 preliminary proposals received, only 15 were invited for interview, with 6 being finally selected for funding. The 3 co-ordinated by HKU researchers have been awarded $157M over a period of 5 years, representing 64% of the total funds in this round of the scheme.

The TRS, launched in 2010, aims to focus academic research efforts of the UGC-funded institutions on themes of strategic importance to the long-term development of Hong Kong. The current themes are Promoting Good Health, Developing a Sustainable Environment, and Enhancing Hong Kong’s Strategic Position as a Regional and International Business Centre.

Under the Promoting Good Health theme, HKU is co-ordinating two projects. Professor Ronald Li from the Department of Medicine is co-ordinator of Cell-based Heart Regeneration. “We are proposing to use human pluripotent stem cells to bioengineer human heart tissues,” Professor Li said. “Our project is anticipated to significantly advance the field and lead to translations that benefit the community. We also anticipate to generate in the process a cadre of locally trained stem cell experts and to bring in foreign recruits for developing Hong Kong into a sustainable Stem Cell Biotech hub.” In terms of the significance of collaborative thematic research, Professor Li commented “It is clear that doing structural research on focused topics with teams of highly collaborative multi-disciplinary investigators is a world trend. As an international city, Hong Kong is doing the right thing by investing in strategic themes to stay globally competitive.”

The other health-related project is Personalized Medicine for Cardiovascular Diseases: From Genomic Testing and Biomarkers to Human Pluripotent Stem Cell Platform co-ordinated by Professor H.F. Tse from the Department of Medicine. “We combine our expertise and strength in clinical and genetic research, based on our existing large clinic and population-based databases, biomarker discovery and development and human stem cell platform to develop a novel approach to “Personalized Medicine” in the diagnosis and treatment of dyslipidemia, a major risk factor for cardiovascular diseases (CVD) in the local Chinese population,” Professor Tse said. “The knowledge gained from our study on the genetic determination of the serum lipid levels in Chinese will undoubtedly enable improvements to be made in early diagnosis, prevention and treatment of CVD in Hong Kong, China and worldwide.”.

The third HKU-led project Challenges in Organic Photo-Voltaics and Light Emitting Diodes - A Concerted Multi-Disciplinary and Multi-Institutional Effort is under the theme of Developing a Sustainable Environment. Project co-ordinator Professor Vivian Yam from the Department of Chemistry says there is an urgent global demand for energy, particularly in the region given that China is becoming the largest consumer of energy in the world. “Our project is built upon the recognized strengths of the team, especially in the discovery and creation of innovative materials, complemented by the expertise from physicists, materials scientists and device engineers,” Professor Yam said. “We believe that these, coupled with the critical mass of research excellence and infrastructures, will form the solid foundation and basis for achieving the breakthroughs to meet the grand challenges related to energy.”

The second round of the scheme is underway. For details, please click here. The University has arranged a sharing session with 2 project co-ordinators of the awarded projects in the first round which will be held on September 12, 2011 (Monday) at 3:30pm in the Convocation Room, 2/F, Main Building. For registration, please contact Research Services at

Related Links

About the funded projects

About the HKU researchers
   Professor Ronald Li, Department of Medicine
   Professor H.F. Tse, Department of Medicine
   Professor Vivian Yam, Department of Chemistry

About the Theme-based Research Scheme