COVID-19 Research & Innovation|HKUST

When it comes to COVID-19 research and innovation, HKUST is dedicated in developing and undertaking innovative technologies and initiatives to fight the once-in-a-century pandemic on all fronts.

Guarding the City’s Health with COVID Research Projects of HKUST

In the battle against COVID-19, every second counts. There is no room to reserve any effort or to slow down the footsteps. That is why COVID research at the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology (HKUST) has never stopped. The university invests key resources in COVID research to develop various innovative measures to comprehensively combat the pandemic of the century.

Scientists and researchers at the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology (HKUST) are at the forefront of the response to the COVID-19 pandemic. The team is conducting groundbreaking COVID research on mostly every piece of information found. From the biology and composition of the COVID virus to ways to detect and stop the spread among the population of Hong Kong. These important COVID research helps stop its spread, safely navigating the city through the crisis that affects the whole wide world.

Major Outcomes of COVID Research Projects of HKUST

At the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology (HKUST), the COVID research team is committed to achieving excellence in research areas including the prevention, mitigation, treatment and policy around COVID. The COVID research team developed by members across our faculties is on the front lines of the global response to the COVID-19 pandemic, contributing to new research outcomes, collaborating on projects, and advising governments, businesses, and other stakeholders. HKUST's all-round efforts to help fight the COVID-19 pandemic have attained major outcomes in the following areas:

COVID Research on Prevention

One key area of COVID research is the prevention of the spread and transmission of the virus. With Hong Kong being a popular destination among tourist and business visitors from around the world, high risks can be expected from the inbound travellers and the interactions between people. In order to curb the spread of the virus in the community, the Hong Kong SAR Government has adopted the automatic geofencing technology developed by our COVID research team to monitor and track the situation of people under home quarantine, in addition to setting up a smart fever detection systems at border crossings and public places such as schools and public libraries.

3 Al-based fever detection stations were installed on the campus of the university while 16 were deployed at the borders of Hong Kong. Multiperson body temperature screening systems with a parallel measurement approach are utilised in multiple locations in mainland China. The system, developed by our COVID research team at Dacang Robots, has an accuracy of 0.05 degrees Celsius. With the above COVID research outcomes, early detection of abnormal cases could be achieved.

Recent tests conducted by independent laboratories in HKUST, France and the UK on the effectiveness and durability of the new coating have shown that the upgraded coating, MAP-∞ not only maintains a shelf life of up to 5 years on a variety of materials and surfaces but also effectively kill the new coronavirus (SARS-CoV-2) and its variant strain Omicron.

COVID Research on Mitigation

The pandemic is having an impact well beyond the fields of public health. It has posted new questions in many areas across society, affecting the economy, psychology, well-being and public policy, just to name a few. Therefore, COVID research on the mitigation of the pandemic has become an important research area.

In order to control the pandemic, we not only used unmanned autonomous vehicles to transport supplies in cities of mainland China to reduce social contact but also applied a new antimicrobial formula developed by our COVID research team that can effectively kill a variety of deadly viruses and bacteria in many places in Hong Kong. The use of autonomous technology equipped with all-terrain 3D mapping and large scale visual and sensor navigation has turned a new page in COVID research on helping to enhance people’s quality of life.

COVID Research on Treatment

The pandemic is raging in the world. The way to detect the infected person early is an urgent problem for all regions. To achieve early diagnosis and early treatment, our COVID research team created a portable detector that can detect the virus in merely 40 minutes. Compared with the 1.5 to 3 hours required by the current general detection method polymerase chain reaction (PCR) technology, the efficiency is greatly improved. Such quick detection helps to identify cases among a large number of specimens in a prompt way.

On the other hand, the COVID research team built the COVIDep platform to provide scientists with immunotherapy target recommendations. A machine learning-based CAiRE-COVID system with top-notch natural language processing (NLP) question-answering (QA) techniques was also created to help find answers about COVID, debunking myths based on scientific evidence.

Another new COVID research jointly conducted by HKUST and the University of Melbourne shows that although the new coronavirus variant Omicron contains more genetic mutations than other variants, the T cell immune response that humans rely on to defend against the virus can still respond to Omicron. Such discoveries shed light on the effect of vaccination towards new variants and help alleviate public concerns.

With the effort of researchers at HKUST, the university is committed to solving today's major global problems through technology and innovation, bringing advancement in various aspects of people’s life in Hong Kong, China and the world.

About the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology (HKUST)

The Hong Kong University of Science and Technology (HKUST) is an internationally renowned research university with world-class standards in science, engineering, business management, humanities and social sciences. HKUST offers an international campus, and a holistic and interdisciplinary pedagogy to nurture well-rounded graduates with a global vision, a strong entrepreneurial spirit and innovative thinking.

HKUST attained the highest proportion of internationally excellent research work in the Research Assessment Exercise 2014 of Hong Kong’s University Grants Committee and is ranked as the world’s second-best young university in QS Top 50 Under 50 - 2022. The university is also ranked the 9th among the QS Asia University Rankings 2022 and the 34th of the World’s Top 1,300 Universities 2022 (No. 2 in Hong Kong) in QS World University Rankings.

We have wasted no time developing and undertaking innovative technologies and initiatives to fight the once-in-a-century pandemic on all fronts.

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Prevention

To halt the community spread of the virus, an automated geo-fencing technology has been adopted by the Hong Kong government to monitor and track home confines under quarantine in addition to a smart fever screening system being deployed in the city’s border control points and public venues such as schools and a public library.

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Mitigation

Measures put in place to keep the outbreak under control include the deployment of autonomous vehicles that deliver groceries in mainland cities to minimize human contact, and the application of a new antimicrobial formula that can kill a wide spectrum of viruses and bacteria in multiple venues across Hong Kong.

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Treatment

To make early diagnosis and treatment possible, our researchers have come up with a portable detection device that can detect the virus in just 40 minutes, and developed a COVIDep platform to provide immune target recommendations to scientists and CAiRE-COVID, a machine learning based-system to facilitate the medical community to find answers to COVID-related enquiries, in the hope of finding a cure.

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Policy

Enhancing public health emergency preparedness is key to navigating health threats.
Our public policy experts have shared their insights into scaling up the authorities’ response capacities for disease control through an online seminar co-organized with another university and a research paper published worldwide.

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Education

The University is adopting a real-time interactive online teaching mode for all classes for the entire Fall Term 2020/21 in light of the evolving COVID-19 situation in Hong Kong. Multiple contingency plans are also in place to better respond to sudden changes in a timely manner to uphold our commitment to quality education.

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Outreach Service

To protect Hong Kong’s most vulnerable groups against the coronavirus, HKUST Connect initiated a donation campaign to collect protective supplies and disinfectants, with almost 5,000 pieces of masks and over 2,000 bottles of hand sanitizers distributed to a few NGOs.

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Keeping Our Community Updated

Ensuring the health and safety of our students, staff, and alumni remains our priority. A COVID-19 Info@HKUST online platform has therefore been established to provide the University community with all the related information including health advice, university arrangements, and precautionary measures.