Newsletter No. 187

Top Chinese Scientists Declare Support for Agricultural Biotechnology I n t e r na t i ona l ly renowned b i o t echno l ogy scientists from mainland China, Hong Kong, and Taiwan participated in the Third Cross-Strait Symposium on Plant Molecular Bi o l ogy and Biotechnology organized by the UGC-Area-of- E x c e l l e n ce Cen t re ( P l a nt and F u n g a l Biotechnology) of the University from 6th to 9th August 2001 at the Mong Man Wai Building. Sponsored by the Innovation and Technology Fund o f the H K S AR and p r i va te sponsors, the symposium aimed at introducing the latest trends in plant biotechnology to local industries. The scientists, together w i t h key policy-makers, administrators, and research associates in the field, delivered lectures on the key developments and i s s u es r e l a t e d t o p l a n t biotechnology. The occasion also saw the signing of the first joint declaration i n s uppo rt o f a g r i c u l t u r al biotechnology, which affirms that recombinant DNA technology can be a p p l i ed to a g r i c u l t u r e, healthcare, and the environment, and the risks of any food are not determined by the process of c r o s s - b r e e d i ng or D N A recombination. The declaration was signed by Prof. Zhang Qi-fa f r om the China Academy of Sciences and the National Key Laboratory of Crop Genetic Improvement, Prof. Jia Shi-rong of the Chinese Academy of Agricultural Sciences and the Safety Committee of Agricultural Biotechnology, China Ministry o f A g r i c u l t u r e, P r o f. Yang Shang - fa o f Academia Sinica and the US Academy of Sciences, Prof. Shaw Jei-fu of the Institute of Botany, Academia Sinica, and Prof. Samuel Sun Sa i -mi ng and Prof. Lam Hon -m i ng of the CUHK Department of Biology. The declaration w i l l pool Chinese talents in this area for future cooperation and enhance the development of plant biotechnology in mainland China, Hong Kong, and Taiwan. Father of Hybrid Rice Visits CUHK P r o f. Yuan Longp i ng, known also as the 'father of hybrid rice', visited the University from 2nd to 5th July 2001 as Wei Lun Visiting Professor. Prof. Yuan, an academician at the Chinese Academy of Engineering and director of the China National Hyb r id Rice Research and Development Centre, has been u s i n g h y b r i d i z a t i o n techniques to improve rice production since the 1960s. He has received many awards and prizes, including the prestigious Nikkei Asia Prize, and the China National Top Scientific Technology Award, presented for the first time last year. During his visit, Prof. Yuan delivered public lectures to introduce the latest developments of Chinese hybrid rice. His visit also gave impetus to the research collaboration between the UGC-Area-of- Excellence Centre (Plant and Fungal Biotechnology) at the Un i ve r s i t y, the China Na t i onal Hy b r id Rice Research and Development Centre, andWashington State University. With the help of advanced biotechnology and recent progress in the decoding of rice genome, together w i th traditional breeding techniques, researchers from the institutes aim at developing enhanced Chinese hybrid rice for the 21st century. Experience Sharing with IT Entrepreneurs T hree prominent IT entrepreneurs shared their entrepreneurship experience with the audience at the IT Entrepreneurship Seminar, organized by t he I n f o r m a t i o n T e c h n o l o gy Entrepreneur Programme (ITEP) and the Information Technology Entrepreneurs Association (ITEA) on 18th August 2001 at the Hong Kong Productivity Council B u i l d i ng i n K o w l o on Tong. The programme was initiated in response to the first report of the Chief Executive's Comm i s s i on on I n n o v a t i on and Technology and the D i g i t al 21 I T Strategy of the HKSAR. Its objective is to provide oppo r t un i t i es to young graduates and I T professionals to turn their innovative ideas into prototypes w i t h high commercial value and application. ITEP is a joint effort of the Government of the HKSAR, the I T industry, The Chinese University o f Hong Kong, the University o f Hong Kong, and the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology. It aims at providing en t r ep r eneu r i al t r a i n i ng and c r ea t i ng an environment conducive to technology transfer and company spin-offs for the pre-incubation stage in the development of IT products and services. The speakers were Dr. Jack Lau Ka-chun, CEO of Perception Digital Ltd., Dr. C l i ff Chan Chok-ki, CEO of TeleEye Holdings Ltd., and Mr. John Ng Ka-lung, Chief Technical Officer of SurfIT System Ltd., who was also a graduate of the CUHK Department of Computer Science and Engineering. Mr. John Ng Ka-lung Biology Can Put More Fish in the Water, Says Marine Scientist T he d e c l i ne o f f i s h population due to over- harvesting has been observed in many areas around the w o r l d , and i t has been p r ed i c t ed that an annual wo r l dw i de shortage o f a hundred billion pounds of fish p r o d u c t s w o u l d be experienced by 2020. To cope with the worldwide demand for f i sh products and the dramatic increases in fish price, many countries have turned to aquaculture to boost production of fish products. Prof. Thomas T. Chen, professor in the Department of Cell and Molecular Biology and director of the Biotechnology Center at the University of Connecticut in the US, discussed the crucial factors for success in aquaculture in his lecture 'Contributions of Modern Biology to Aquaculture'. The lecture, a Sir Edward Youde Memorial Fund Visiting Professorship Scheme 2000-1 Public Lecture, was delivered on 14th June 2001 in the Esther Lee Building. Prof. Chen explained how the application of molecular biology and biotechnology in aquaculture would enhance somatic growth rates, control reproductive cycles, improve the quality of meat, produce new vaccines, and develop disease-resistant and hardier genetic stocks.