An academic has urged Chief Executive Tung Chee-hwa to boost investment in biomedical fields such as genetic engineering to attract top scientists and ensure the SAR does not miss the knowledge revolution. However, the call came as another researcher warned that laws banning cloning and restricting stem cell research were holding back Hong Kong scientists. The associate dean for research affairs of the University of Hong Kong's medicine faculty, Professor Paul Tam Kwong-hang, said Shanghai, Singapore and Taiwan were already ahead of Hong Kong in the biological revolution. 'The Government should invest more quickly, heavily and boldly in biomedical research. This is the right strategic direction,' Professor Tam said. 'If we start now the gap may not be that big because the biological revolution is only just starting.' The professor said that, as a first step, the university was holding a seminar tomorrow to discuss co-ordinating research in all its faculties. His call was echoed by Professor Philip Johnson, chairman of the department of clinical oncology at Chinese University, who said biomedical research was the way to go for Hong Kong. The recommendation came as Professor William Yeung Shu-biu, of the University of Hong Kong, said laws banning human cloning and regulating stem cell research rendered such work practically useless. Regulations ban cloning and allow embryonic stem cell research only up to the time when a fertilised egg divides into four-cells. Research on donated embryos is also permitted. Professor Yeung said fertilised embryos needed to be five days old, with 100 cells, to be useful. He said the fear of some scientists 'manipulating these genes, creating all sorts of designer babies' outweighed scientists' needs. The practice should be regulated, but laws should not be 'too restrictive' as they were now, he said. The chairman of the Human Reproductive Technology Council, Dr Leong Che-hung, said the Human Reproductive Technology Ordinance, enacted in June last year, could be made flexible through subsidiary legislation that was still being drafted. 'It does not mean Hong Kong needs to lag behind but we need to be careful,' he said. Meanwhile, the Innovation and Technology Commission is seeking project proposals for work in applied genomics - using genetic information that will lead to the identification of genes causing diseases, new and better drug leads, and disease markers for improved diagnostics.