Chinese University scientist wins award for prenatal testing

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 11 December, 2012, 3:09pm
UPDATED : Tuesday, 11 December, 2012, 6:26pm

A local scientist has won a national award for her work on prenatal testing for Down’s syndrome and other conditions, through non-invasive blood testing.

Chinese University chemical pathology Professor Rossa Chiu Wai-kwun, 38, received the Chinese Young Women in Science Fellowship award in Beijing on Tuesday, adding to the many awards she had already received for her successful clinical applications in DNA testing.

She is the second Hong Kong recipient of the award since it started accepting nominations from the city two years ago.

Asked about her passion for DNA research, she said, “I don’t know how to do other things. I only know how to work on DNA. That’s what I’m able to do to serve the public.”

Chiu developed diagnosis tests for Down’s syndrome and beta-thalassaemia in foetuses by testing the pregnant mother’s blood. They eliminated the risk of miscarriage associated with invasive procedures in conventional tests.

“I am a mother. I know about a pregnant mother’s eagerness to know about her baby’s health,” said Chiu, the mother of a pair of seven-year-old twin girls.

The Down’s syndrome test she has been working on since 1999 is now routinely used in different parts of Asia including Hong Kong, the United States and parts of Europe.

The biggest challenge of scientific research in Hong Kong is the lack of talented people who go into the field. “It seems to me that many of Hong Kong’s top talents have headed to the financial sector,” she said.

Chiu is one of 10 winner selected from 188 candidates this year for the award, founded by the All-China Women’s Federation, the Unesco China National Committee and other organisations. The award is given to elite female scientists younger than 45 in all fields of science.

The first Hong Kong recipient of the award was University of Hong Kong chemistry professor Dr Yang Dan, whose work expanded the potential use of a medical herb.

Chiu has received many other awards, including a Ten Outstanding Young Persons award last year.