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0f2586a0 371e 11e9 b09f 892c410303c7 image hires 223631Albert Yu from the Hong Kong Biotechnology Organisation is pushing for an extension of national policy on drug administration. Photo: Sam Tsang

Drug-testing centres for clinical trials and medical data exchange should be set up in mainland zones bordering Hong Kong to develop the city into a biotechnology hub, an industry leader has said.

The call by Hong Kong Biotechnology Organisation chairman and neuroscientist Albert Yu Cheung-hoi follows Beijing’s unveiling of the “Greater Bay Area” blueprint, a grand plan to integrate Hong Kong, Macau and nine mainland cities into an economic and innovation powerhouse to rival Silicon Valley and the Tokyo Bay Area.

In an exclusive interview with the Post, Yu pointed out that for Hong Kong’s biotechnology sector to take off, the local government should fight for a national policy on drug administration to be introduced near its border – by setting up regional centres under the China Food and Drug Administration (CFDA) for bio data analysis and drug testing.

“The Hong Kong government needs to push for this measure if it wants to achieve success stories for the industry,” he said.

The Hong Kong government needs to push for this measure if it wants to achieve success stories for the industryAlbert Yu, Hong Kong Biotechnology Organisation

According to him, doing so would “showcase the importance of Hong Kong in the ‘nine-plus-two’ bay area”.

Yu’s proposal echoed the suggestion by Hong Kong Financial Secretary Paul Chan Mo-po last year, who said he hoped to fight for the free exchange of medical data in the bay area to facilitate biotech breakthroughs.

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The move as suggested by Yu would give Hong Kong access to a large quantity of mainland bio samples for research.

Chan had said that access to such information could bring in more talent as global research institutes would be drawn to the area.

Yu’s non-profit group comprises academic and business leaders in the biotech industry, including Hong Kong Science Park CEO Albert Wong.

The operation model, he said, should be in a similar vein to the Shanghai Food and Drug Administration – a branch of the Beijing-based CFDA – which oversees food and drug administration in Shanghai.

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Hong Kong Financial Secretary Paul Chan. Photo: Edward Wong

“I hope the central government can implement this national policy near Hong Kong’s border by setting up regional CFDA centres to enable Hong Kong biotech firms to conduct clinical trials and drug testing, and to collect samples from mainland institutes,” he added.

“Without this policy, local biotech firms need to file applications and undergo procedures in Beijing, which is a very long process.”

Yu said such an extension of national policy was vital for the development of biotechnology in Hong Kong as it would bring in a large volume of clinical material from the mainland such as blood samples for R&D.

“In mainland China, there is quite a large quantity of bio samples available for R&D but at present, due to national security reasons, they can’t be transported to Hong Kong for testing,” he said.

Yu, also the chairman of Hai Kang Life Corporation, a biotechnology firm specialising in molecular diagnostics of infectious diseases, cited himself as an example. Even though his firm is based in the Science Park, he said he set up an office in Beijing to gain direct access to mainland bio samples and to conduct national drug tests.

“If the CFDA is allowed to set up its regional centres in the bay area, ideally near the Hong Kong border, then Hong Kong biotech firms could easily obtain mainland samples and bio data for R&D there,” he said.

To lead the charge, Yu’s organisation will host the city’s first biotech conference next January at AsiaWorld-Expo. Innovation heavyweights are expected to attend the event, which will raise funds for the industry and set up brainstorming sessions.

The Science Park, meanwhile, said it would actively participate in bay area projects, especially on setting up quality innovation and development platforms.

“We are keen to see the enhanced management of cross-boundary use of medical data and bio samples, which will … accelerate commercialisation of technological innovations,” it said.

“We will continue to drive such collaborations in academia, research institutes and the industry. We believe that a concerted effort will be critical for turning Hong Kong into a regional biotech hub.”

This article appeared in the South China Morning Post print edition as: PUSH TO TURN CITY INTO BIOTECH HUB

Cannix Yau
Updated: Saturday, 23 Feb, 2019 11:27pm