Croucher scholars receive the State Science and Technology Awards

16 January 2018

Prof Kwok Yung Yuen, Prof Tang Benzhong and Prof Ka Sing Wong received the State Science and Technology Awards for their remarkable contribution to scientific and technological progress.

The 2017 State Science and Technology Awards ceremony was held at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing recently. Five categories have been presented, which include the State Supreme Science and Technology Award, the State Natural Science Award, the State Technological Innovation Award, the State Science and Technology Advancement Award, and the International Science and Technology Cooperation Award.

The State Science and Technology Awards is the highest scientific honour in the People’s Republic of China. Three Croucher scholars are presented with the prize in recognition of their remarkable contributions to scientific and technological progress.

Professor Kwok Yung Yuen

Professor Kwok Yung Yuen (Croucher Senior Medical Research Fellowship 2006) , Director of the State Key Laboratory for Emerging Infectious Diseases at the University of Hong Kong and his team received the State Science and Technology Progress Award (Special Class) for his team’s work towards the prevention of infectious diseases, including the deadly H7N9 Bird Flu virus.

The team, composed of scientists from 11 institutes in China and Hong Kong, has established an innovative model for prevention and treatment of epidemic disease which prevented and controlled the spread of the H7N9 bird flu virus in 2013 successfully. It was the first time that Chinese scientists had independently contained a major epidemic.

While not only avoiding the recurrence of the tragic SARS outbreak of 2003, the team’s approach has since helped safeguard China against recent global outbreaks of the likes of MERS and ZIKA. Most notably, its outstanding performance when fighting Ebola allowed this new approach to have a global impact. The method was praised as an example to follow internationally by the World Health Organisation (WHO).

Professor Benzhong Tang

Prof Benzhong Tang (Croucher Senior Research Fellowship 2007), Stephen Kam-chuen Cheong Professor of Science and Chair Professor of Chemistry at Hong Kong University of Science and Technology and his research team received the State Natural Science Award (First Class) for the research on aggregation-induced emission (AIE), and such discovery’s significant contribution to life science, medicine and applied science. Since the establishment of the State Natural Science Award in 1956, only 33 scientists or research groups received the top honour, amounting to about 3% of all award categories.

Prof Tang first discovered high-performance AIE in 2001, when applied to different materials, this phenomenon can serve purposes including long-term tracking and visualising of tumour tissues or cancer cells, as well as high-sensitivity detection, forecast and control of even the tiniest amount of chemicals. AIE was ranked by Thompson Reuters the world’s top 100 research theme in 2013.  Since the establishment of the Chinese National Engineering Research Centers on Tissue Restoration and Reconstruction in 2015, Prof Tang has developed more than 100 AIE materials and gained 67 patents.

AIE is gradually breaking the monopoly holds by international corporations on fluoroscopic technology and related products.  This new emerging material is being widely used in areas such as life science, medicine and applied science, examples include different medicine and treatments, fluorescent probes for the prevention and diagnosis of diseases, materials and technologies for inspection of food, medicine and environmental safety, minimal invasive techniques for rebuilding tissue functions, and integrated diagnostic and treatment techniques.

Professor Ka Sing Wong

Prof Ka Sing Wong (Croucher Senior Medical Research Fellowship 2011, Croucher Fellowship 1992received the State Scientific and Technological Progress Award (second-class) for his innovative strategy and technology for the prevention and treatment of stroke. 

In collaboration with the Third Military Medical University and Chongqing Medical University, Prof Wong and his team have been working on the prevention and treatment of stroke for many years, in particular on the epidemiology, pathogenesis and treatment of intracranial atherosclerosis. 

Ischemic stroke is one of the leading causes of adult disability in China, with a high risk of subsequent recurrence. Professor Wong was the first to confirm that intracranial atherosclerosis, which means narrowing of blood vessels in the brain, is the predominant stroke subtype in Chinese patients with stroke. In another study, the team used microembolic signal monitoring to evidence that dual antiplatelet therapy is more effective than aspirin alone in reducing microembolism in patients with Transient Ischemic Attack (TIA) and minor stroke. Based on the results of this study, subsequent studies have confirmed that dual antiplatelet is the best medical therapy for minor stroke. 

Recently, the team have moved on to investigate new treatments to improve the motor function of disabled patients after stroke. They observed that external counterpulsation can enhance blood flow to the brain and might improve functional recovery after stroke. Transcranial magnetic stimulation is another innovative approach to help the recovery of motor function by rewiring the damaged pathway linking the brain to the body. 

“It is noteworthy that there may be synergistic effects from combining both treatments; with one augmenting the blood flow to the brain and the other revitalising the circuit between the limbs and the brain. These new innovative treatments may offer hope to stroke patients who remain disabled even after the best medical and physical therapy,” said Wong.