Faculty of Medicine Professor Nelson L S Tang: Nurturing Students through Innovation and Incubation Support
English Translator: Charlotte Ip (TRAN/4)
CUHK Entrepreneur Competition: Direct LS-TA Method
Congratulations to Professor Nelson L S Tang (91/MEDU) for placing third in the 2022 CUHK Entrepreneur Contest. This technology analyses gene expression and the amount of different cells, and investigates how different types of pathogen causes unique reactions from blood cells. Currently, it successfully detects four diseases that bring about fever: bacterial infection, tuberculosis, viral infection, and autoimmune diseases. For example, as soon as the COVID virus enters the human body, the direct LS-TA method is able to conclude that the patient is suffering from a viral infection by identifying the responses exhibited by blood cells quickly. This allows for the patient to be treated immediately. Interestingly, a family member of Professor Tang has taken the test which helped in her recovery. Therefore, he is confident that the LS-TA method can also be helpful for other patients.
For Professor Tang, this competition was a challenging and enjoyable experience. He had to explain to the judging panel the features and benefits of the technology within 5 minutes. In a simulated elevator pitch, he was put to the challenge, as he convinced a designated investor group to support him and buy his shares within one minute. When asked about the challenge, the startup founder smiled, “In class, I usually have 45 minutes to explain things clearly.” Rising to the occasion, he decided to break down the concept of LS-TA into simpler terms using “emojis”: A happy emoji refers to the result that the cells are healthy; contrarily, a sad emoji indicates that the cells are unhealthy. Professor Tang admits that he is not good with words, but he reveals that the key to his success is “Dare to try. As long as you dare to try, it will always be possible!” Although the direct LS-TA method is the result of Professor Tang’s painstaking effort, he still considers education his mission. “Being a medical professor, education and patients’ welfare will always be the first priority. His passion is the result of his teachers, who led by example as attentive and caring doctors. He hoped to pass on this “patient-first” spirit to his students in The Chinese University of Hong Kong (CUHK).
Hardships and Hope
Success is never by chance. Professor Tang has devoted himself to the medical and education field throughout the years, having limited experience in business and experience with patent application and company establishment procedures. In the past, he gave a new Chinese name 「卡尼丁」 to a disease he made a major genetic discovery. However, the medical scholar was overtaken in its trademark registration. He shared, “It was a pity, but we gain wisdom through experience”. Therefore, his team sought intellectual property protection for their LS-TA technology through the Patent Cooperation Treaty very early. Professor Leung Kwong Sak, Emeritus Professor of the Department of Computer Science and Engineering at CUHK, is a comrade-in-arms of Professor Tang for many years. He takes up the job of data analysis to enrich the database of the LS-TA technology. The pair work hand-in-hand, tapping into their strengths. Moreover, the financial and manpower support provided by Science Park hit all the right notes, so the research and development process flowed rather smoothly. Now, the current LS-TA technology has a solid foundation, but Professor Tang remains keen on forging collaborations with other universities and hospitals to enhance its accuracy. He hopes that the technology can be made into convenient test kits for clinical use, allowing patients to find out the cause of fever within hours after collecting blood samples, so as to assist doctors in the Accident and Emergency Unit to make a diagnosis.
Words to Students
Speaking of learning, Professor Tang suggested UC students make good use of free resources offered by the College, such as the Shum Choi Sang Mentorship Programme and internship programmes. As the saying goes, “knowledge comes in all shapes and forms”, these extracurricular activities can expand partakers’ social circle as they exchange work experience and takeaways with peers and seniors while enriching their personal profiles. Numerous Science Park-based enterprises are willing to offer students who are interested in the emerging fields of innovation and technology and patent monetisation internship opportunities. He also encouraged students to expose themselves to subjects of different disciplines to enhance their competitiveness. Cross-disciplinary learning can train thinking and logical skills, enhancing students’ flexible application of knowledge. In addition, the Professor emphasized the necessity of taking time to relax. “After I had finished the Hong Kong Certificate of Education Examination in the past, I spent 7 days and nights on video games!” he grinned. He believes that CUHK students can integrate learning into living and will never stop enriching themselves.