Start main content

Jan 06, 2023

Press Release: Six HKU research teams receive US National Academy of Medicine Health Longevity Catalyst Award (Hong Kong) 2022

Press Release (2023-01-06):

Six HKU research teams receive US National Academy of Medicine Health Longevity Catalyst Award (Hong Kong) 2022


(upper row from left) Prof. Victor Li, Prof. Barbara Chan, Dr. Wei-Ning Lee,
(bottom row from left) Dr. Wu Chenshu, Prof. Liu Pengtao, Prof. Billy Chow

Six research teams from the Faculties of Engineering, Science and Li Ka Shing Faculty of Medicine, the University of Hong Kong (HKU) were awarded the Healthy Longevity Catalyst Awards (Hong Kong) 2022 in the Healthy Longevity Global Competition.

The competition is held by the United States National Academy of Medicine (NAM) with the Research Grants Council as its Hong Kong sponsor. A total of ten research teams from Hong Kong were awarded this year.

Launched in 2019, the Healthy Longevity Global Grand Challengeoffers opportunities for innovators, scientists, and entrepreneurs to catalyse breakthrough discoveries and innovations that could leapfrog existing barriers and jumpstart new solutions, thereby propelling the field of ageing research and improving the health of persons as they age. The competition composed three phases of Awards- Catalyst Award, Accelerator Award and the Grand Prize..

The Catalyst Awards reward bold, new, potentially transformative ideas from fields such as biomedicine, behavioural science, sociology, engineering and infrastructure, technology, policy, to improve the physical, mental, or social well-being for people as they age, and in a measurable and equitable way. In particular, NAM seeks ideas that will extend the human health span through innovations in disease prevention, biology, mobility and function, social connectedness, productive longevity and more. Ideas could focus on early-, mid-, or late-life, as long as it ultimately promotes health as people age.

Of the ten Catalyst Awards in Hong Kong this year, each includes a US$50,000 (approx. HK$389,000) cash prize at a maximum for a period of 12 months and travel subsidies (HK$30,000 per person; max. 6 persons per team) for awarded teams to attend an Innovator Summit in 2023.

Congratulations to Prof. Pengtao Liu from our school who has been awarded the US National Academy of Medicine Health Longevity Catalyst Award (Hong Kong) 2022 and his award winning project is:


A novel human cellular system for studying normal ageing and anti-ageing drug screen

Project leader:  Professor LIU Pengtao , Professor, School of Biomedical Sciences, Li Ka Shing Faculty of Medicine

About the project: Ageing is a natural process but brings social and economic burden to the society. Besides causing detrimental health issues to the elderly, the biological process of ageing is implicated in many human diseases such as cancer. Studying human ageing directly can be time-consuming.

The placenta is an essential organ in human life, where the trophoblasts nourish and protect the fetus. Two major types of trophoblasts (syncytiotrophoblast or STB, and extravillus trophoblast or EVT) are produced from trophoblast progenitors. This is an accelerated process of ageing, which is accompanied by multiple ageing manifestations. Trophoblast stem cells or TSCs, with trophoblast progenitor properties, can be established in culture dish from human in vivo tissues and pluripotent stem cells such as Expanded Potential Stem Cell (hEPSC) and induced to differentiate to STB or EVT, which mimic the natural process in the placenta. The entire differentiation process only takes around 10 days thus can be used to facilitate studying human cell ageing. 

The team proposes to use the in vitro human TSC to STB as a novel cellular system to investigate human ageing and to identify anti-ageing drug candidates.