An academic quest by two founders of a Hong Kong genetics firm has blossomed into an action plan to cut waiting time and costs for tests on patients with a hereditary brain disease. Aldrin Yim Kay-yuen, who was involved in a project on spinocerebellar ataxia carried out by scientists and postgraduate students at Chinese University of Hong Kong, said the idea of applying his knowledge to improving patient care crossed his mind in 2013. A 2014 report by the Post , citing official figures, stated that there were about 300 people in Hong Kong diagnosed with the degenerative condition, which is an incurable condition that strips sufferers of the ability to coordinate their movements. As part of the research team, the former biochemistry postgraduate student delved into the profiles of patients. “I found that every case was a human story. I then thought that data gathered from our patients should be used to help them,” Yim said. His view was echoed by teammate Allen Yu Chi-shing, who was then also a biochemistry student at the university. “We wanted to do more in addition to writing academic papers.” The duo co-founded Codex Genetics in the same year, developing genetic tests using latest DNA sequencing technology. Smiling robot helps Hong Kong’s elderly stroke patients recover Noting that the technology has been more widely used in recent years to help determine the risk of inherited diseases in individuals, Yu said his team was looking to improve the process and help cut patient waiting times for test appointments. “Ataxia patients can be forced to wait for months before taking DNA tests at public hospitals,” Yu said, citing media reports. The pair’s work earned them a nomination for the Spirit of Hong Kong Awards. I found that every case was a human story. I then thought that data gathered from our patients should be used to help them Aldrin Yim, Codex Genetics co-founder The annual event, co-organised by the South China Morning Post and property developer Sino Group, honours achievements of remarkable people whose quiet work may go unnoticed. The Hong Kong Science and Technology Parks Corporation, a statutory body dedicated to grooming technology start-ups in the city, recommended Yim and Yu for this year’s Spirit of Innovation Award, which hails individuals who are behind breakthrough technologies or innovation for the good of society. Codex Genetics, comprising life sciences PhD graduates from CUHK and medical practitioners, provides sequencing technology and bioinformatics solutions for clinical laboratories, enabling such institutions to refine clinical diagnoses and personalise treatments. Widow defies tragedy to set up business that helps others The pair said their team wanted to help more patients living with neurological or mental disorders by identifying the cause of their illnesses. Apart from increasing efficiency of screening processes, the firm aims to reduce the cost of tests, which may come to tens of thousands of dollars. The Hongkonger who overcame blindness and now helps others “We want to make the services more sustainable for patients,” Yu said. Codex Genetics is also working with the Hong Kong Alliance for Rare Diseases on the provision of fully subsidised genetic screening services for patients in need. Breakthrough drug offers hope of longer life to brain cancer sufferers Yim said the firm required continued development and his team was building a data analysis platform and a database of local Chinese cancer patients. The founders expressed gratitude to CUHK and the Science and Technology Parks Corporation for helping their team develop the business and secure clients.