An ageing population may present challenges for society at large, but for companies involved in the health care business it means growing opportunities.
China Bio-Med Regeneration Technology is a case in point. To make the most of that greying potential, the growth enterprise market-listed company has signed an agreement to fund a Hong Kong University research project designed to develop products to treat ageing-related diseases.
Company chairman Oscar Wong Sai-hung, who is also a director of Hong Kong Exchanges and Clearing, said that under the agreement the company would pay HK$10 million to support the HKU research project.
The research has been under way for six years and already made some breakthroughs in understanding why some people age faster than others.
It will look at ways that Chinese medicine and other treatments can be used to slow the ageing process and preventing or even curing some diseases related to ageing such as osteoporosis - an affliction common among the elderly which results in loss of bone mass.
Wong said the university would undertake the research while his company would be responsible for turning the findings into health care products for the market.
Under the agreement, China Bio-Med will pay 5 per cent of the wholesale price of any products resulting from the research to the university.
"This is a win-win situation. We do not need to hire a huge research team to spend several years to do the research, and instead can use the research done by the university to develop products," Wong said. "For Hong Kong University, the agreement means it can commercialise its research results into consumer products."
Zhou Zhongjun, the HKU researcher responsible for the project, said he was delighted to have secured the funding from China Bio-Med to carry out the advanced phase of the anti-ageing research.
Wong said Zhou's findings would be important as the populations of Hong Kong and mainland China were ageing.
"By 2050, the number of people in China over 65 years old will be triple today's figure, while a similar trend is under way in Hong Kong," Wong said.
The research and its products would therefore deliver benefits not just to the company's shareholders but also the wider society, Wong said.
China Bio-Med now produces stem-cell products to help treat patients with burns, and the company would continue to look for co-operative ventures with other researchers that would fit with its health care product line-up.
The company recently raised HK$340 million in fresh capital from its shareholders to expand its factory in Xian as well as help fund its Hong Kong projects.