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Hong Kong-Europe biotech ties strengthen


France and Germany, home to many medical innovators, continue to push the boundaries.


The Hong Kong medical professionals team visit the BiotechPark Berlin-Buch in the German capital

From Pasteurisation in France to X-rays and Aspirin in Germany, Europe has been a source of much medical innovation and the trend shows no sign of letting up, as a team of medical professionals found out last month.

Biotech was high on the agenda at the Hong Kong Trade Development Council’s (HKTDC) recent run of events in Europe – including Think Business, Think Hong Kong in Paris, the first London Dinner in four years and the healthcare mission to Paris and Berlin.

A delegation comprising about 20 medical professionals from Hong Kong visited several start-up incubators and innovative firms in France and Germany to look into possibilities for trade, investment and collaboration.

Recent successes for European medical firms in Hong Kong include Injeq, a Finnish medical technology company which developed a sensing needle that makes lumbar punctures more efficient and safe. Seeking to expand abroad, Injeq came to the Asia Summit on Global Health in May. The move removed many barriers for Injeq in taking its IQ-Tip technology into Asian markets.

Another success is in the quite literally pedestrian field of queueing. Channelling digital communications into orderly queues is critical to prevent network breakdowns. Inspired by the queueing system in local pastry shops, a Danish team developed software for networking systems described as a “virtual waiting room”. One of their earliest partnerships in Asia was with the Office of the Chief Government Information Officer (OGCIO) during the COVID-19 pandemic, where they worked to safeguard Hong Kong’s online vaccine registration system.

Hoping to generate more success cases, the group from Hong Kong visited several entrepreneur incubators in France, including Spartners by Servier & BioLabs, which develops and operates high-end coworking labs in the United States and Europe and aims to become a major player in therapeutic innovation.

The team also visited the Paris-Saclay science and technology cluster, recognised as one of the world's top eight innovation clusters. Paris Saclay is renowned for its exceptional concentration of higher education institutions, state research laboratories, private R&D facilities and innovative businesses.

The cluster offers European researchers and developers access to expertise, resources and services, including mentors, networks, funding, data, samples, technologies, infrastructures and laboratories.

Other destinations included Genopole and PariSanté Campus. Genopole is an incubator for cutting-edge projects in biotechnology which provides a unique and supportive environment to scientists and entrepreneurs, enabling them to advance research and foster innovation.

The delegation moved on from the capital of France to Berlin, capital of Germany, and visited the BiotechPark Berlin-Buch, one of the largest biotechnology parks in Germany. It offers founders and companies in the biotech sector about 31,000 square metres of state-of-the-art lab and office space with an Innovation and Incubation Centre. 

The team visited a number of diagnostic start-ups

They also visited two leading research institutes situated in the biotech park.

The Leibniz-Research Institute for Molecular Pharmacology, founded in 1992, aims to broaden the molecular basis of pharmacological therapies at a stage prior to drug development by identifying and characterising novel active compounds and mechanisms of action, and disseminating the knowledge gained to the scientific community and general public.

The group also met the Berlin Senate Department for Economics, Energy and Public Enterprises and AsiaBerlin.

Powered by the Berlin Senate Department for Economic Affairs, Energy and Public Enterprises, AsiaBerlin forms the collective platform that brings together communities within the start-up ecosystems across Asia and Berlin. It enables relationship-building among investors, start-ups, and bridge builders by organising monthly AsiaBerlin events and delegation trips to Berlin and Asia throughout the year.

After the tour, Gene Man, Research Officer at the Chinese University of Hong Kong, said: “Beside promoting Hong Kong’s innovations on healthcare, this trip has been very helpful to enlighten us on the current demand for collaboration in Paris-Berlin. Importantly, new friendships were made from participating in this mission.”

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