Establishing an Internationally Competitive Stem Cell Biotech Cluster in HK: Bioartificial Human Hearts

Grant Data
Project Title
Establishing an Internationally Competitive Stem Cell Biotech Cluster in HK: Bioartificial Human Hearts
Principal Investigator
Professor Boheler, Kenneth Richard   (Project coordinator)
Professor Li Ronald Adolphus   (Co-Investigator)
Professor Wu Jingshen   (Co-Investigator)
Professor Oh Steve   (Co-Investigator)
Professor Wu Joseph C.   (Co-Investigator)
Professor Chen Christopher   (Co-Investigator)
Professor Tung Leslie   (Co-Investigator)
Professor Costa Kevin David   (Co-Investigator)
Professor Khine Michelle   (Co-Investigator)
Professor Tomaselli Gordon   (Co-Investigator)
Professor Chien Ken   (Co-Investigator)
Start Date
Completion Date
Conference Title
Presentation Title
Stem Cell Biotech Cluster, Bioartificial Human Hearts
Others - Medicine, Dentistry and Health
HKU Project Code
Grant Type
Innovation and Technology Fund Internship Programme
Funding Year
In the latest 12th 5-year plan of the People’s Republic of China, one highlight is to transform and expand from being the world’s low-cost factory to being hubs of R&D, by investing in seven key "Strategic Emerging Industries" (SEIs). As an SEI, the biotechnology sector has a specific focus on stem cell and regenerative medicine. Our present application seeks ITF support for the establishment of the Stem Cell Biotech Cluster in HK. IP portfolios are in place, with the technologies invented and developed by our team. The total funds being requested include the acquisition of state-of-the-art specialized equipment for setting up a Center of Excellence for Stem Cell Biotech forming part of the infrastructure that will be available for boosting other future developments of the Biotech sector in HKSAR. Not only will successful completion of the proposed projects be beneficial to the well-being of our rapidly-aging population but it will also serve as an important first step for the development of the biotech sector in HK, and bring forth tangible gains in the form of a knowledge-based economy (e.g., by creating jobs for highly trained doctorates in HK and overseas returnees) as well as national prestige in science and technology. This mission is consistent with the spirit of the PRC’s 12th 5-year plan and the Hong Kong-Guangdong Stem Cell and Regenerative Medicine Research Centre recognized by the Ministry of Science and Technology. The present project focuses on developing human stem cell-based diagnostic technologies, products and services to uniquely reduce the time, cost, use of animals and humans and therefore patient harm for facilitating pharmaceutical discovery and development of novel therapeutics for heart diseases, notorious for being a highly inefficient and expensive process. A major factor has been due to the lack of appropriate human heart models to simulate the normal and patho-physiology of our native human heart. Traditional mouse models are cheap and accessible but major species differences from humans in the cardiac anatomy and function exist. Indeed, numerous drugs have been withdrawn from the market because of proven risks to the patients and other adverse clinical side effects (with cardiotoxicity being the leading cause even for drugs not originally designed for the heart) that were not detected until during Phase III clinical trials or later, after significant patient recruitment and economical investments (e.g., a single drug withdrawal typically costs pharmaceutical companies 10+ years and US$1 billion). The present project is dedicated to the development and engineering of bio-artificial human heart prototypes using a combination of world’s first state-of-the-art cell and tissue engineering approaches. Our proprietary engineered prototypes of micro-patterned 2D monolayers and 3D muscle strip as well as an organoid chamber (i.e. "mini" hearts that approximate the size of a fingertip) best mimic the native human heart in numerous aspects and are superior to other models available in the market. These next-generation tools present 1) A more sensitive, accurate and convenient predictive tool for cardiotoxicity (arrhythmogenicity) screening, drug discovery and modeling of various heart diseases, and 2) A higher bio-fidelity prototype for potential future transplant applications. Using the reprogramming technology, we also have the capability to construct human heart tissues/chambers that are genetically identical to the individual patients for "personalized" screening. Please see Appendix 1A for images and video of our various human heart prototypes that we propose to upgrade in the proposed project of our cluster.