Hong Kong is failing to recognise and support home-grown scientists and their research, said a winner of a HK$5 million grant for promising research. A lack of government-sponsored scholarships and short-sighted attitudes across Hong Kong towards careers and work in academia are hindering the city’s efforts to position itself as an innovation hub, said Dr Jonathan Choi, the first Chinese University recipient of the Croucher Innovation Award. The independent grant goes to local academics in natural science, medicine and technology. “We all need to think more in the long term when it comes to research,” said Dr Choi, who said he chose to work in Hong Kong to be closer to his parents, who missed him while he was working the US. Doctors criticise government’s plans for medical watchdog The Stanford-educated Hongkonger, a specialist in treating kidney disease within the burgeoning field of biotechnology, said a short-termist approach and obsession with immediate financial rewards were to blame for Hong Kong’s research output lagging places like Singapore’s dramatically. Choi’s multidisciplinary research combines his extensive knowledge of the hard-to-detect processes that lead to kidney deterioration and failure, and that of nanotechnology, which can give more targeted treatment, lessening side effects. Research on biotechnology for more strategic cancer treatment is expanding worldwide. Nanotechnology could be used to ensure that therapeutic particles reach specific body parts without affecting others. Bad refrigerator storage threatens vaccines in Hong Kong, say medical experts But applying the same techniques to kidney disease – which is increasingly prevalent because of ageing populations worldwide – does not have the same level of academic investment. The Hospital Authority says more than 7,000 patients have end-stage kidney failure in Hong Kong, up 90 per cent on ten years ago. Dialysis, the current treatment, is expensive, uncomfortable and time-consuming. “We are still trying to understand so many kinds of moving parts,” said Dr Choi, of his research. “The size and charge of nanoparticles, the host cell type, delivery routes, the basic chemistry of certain drugs packaged into nanoparticle delivery.” The Croucher Award offers Choi funds towards the research project, which he says is still in the theoretical stage of development, and could take ten years before results can be applied in hospital settings and reap cost-saving benefits.