Cystic fibrosis links to diabetes

Researchers from Hong Kong, Chengdu, Beijing and Tokyo recently reported a functional link between diabetes and cystic fibrosis.

Cystic fibrosis occurs when mutations in the CFTR gene hamper the function of the Cystic Fibrosis transmembrane conductance regulator. This leads to a “tough mucus” secretion in the lungs, and its most acute symptoms are therefore shortness of breath. Indigestion is also a serious symptom, as organs in and around the gastrointestinal tract are affected as well. Without proper management, the respiratory and metabolic consequences of this disease are fatal at young age.

Despite the high frequency of diabetes in adult cystic fibrosis patients, the relationship between the two diseases is still hardly understood. Now, a consortium of Chinese/Japanese institutes has shown that the conductance regulator also regulates glucose-dependent electrical signaling in insulin-producing Beta cells. In other words, defects in the gene that lead to problems in mucus secretion also affect insulin secretion. As most Cystic Fibrosis patients develop insulin deficiency (belonging to the Type I Diabetes category), this finding indeed resolved an important missing link.

Whether the new insights also lead to new treatment options is not clear yet. The investigators have been able to focus at one specific gene mutant. Extrapolating their findings to known >1900 mutations in the Cystic Fibrosis transmembrane conductance regulator gene in humans is a daunting task. Nevertheless, in their mice model, they have not witnessed a destruction of pancreatic islets, where the Beta cells are located that produce insulin. If in patients, insulin secretion would also be decreased before islet are destroyed, timely anticipation could potentially provide leads to effective non-invasive treatment options.

A summary of the paper has been published here.

Cystic Fibrosis organs - from Wikipedia

Airbus and COMAC cooperate on sustainable air transport


On Friday February 21st, Airbus and Commercial Aircraft Corporation of China (COMAC) announced both aircraft manufacturers will collaborate on sustainable growth in air transport. The scope of their collaboration will however extend beyond the aircraft itself. Under the Memorandum of Understanding, signed by Günter Butschek, Airbus Chief Operating Officer and He Dongfeng, President of COMAC, they will “share best practices and identify improvements required by current ATM technology roadmaps both on-board the aircraft and on the ground to foster safer, more efficient and sustainable air traffic operations.”

This results in for instance optimised take-off, landing and taxiing procedures that reduce emissions, and noise as well as shortened travelling times for passengers. In 2012, COMAC also signed an agreement with Boeing to jointly conduct research on aircraft fuel efficiency and reduction of greenhouse-gas emissions.

COMAC is China’s leading civil aircraft manufacturing. Its C919 will be competing with the Airbus A320 and Boeing 737 family of aircraft. The c919 is expected to be delivered in 2017, which is several years after the upgraded and re-engined A320neo and Boeing 737 Max enter into service.

More info to be found on the Airbus website.

R&D Cooperation between European companies and universities in China

‘R&D Cooperation between European companies and Universities in China’, that was the title of a fully booked workshop organized this morning by the European Chamber R&D Forum in Shanghai.

The speakers presented an interesting mix of research on R&D cooperation and actual examples of past and on-going projects between multinational companies and Chinese universities.

Dr. Ulrike Tagscherer, Fraunhofer Institute for Systems and Innovation Research (ISI), presented her research findings on the key drivers, key co-operation models, and key success factors of academic collaborations of multi-national enterprises. Communication and clear goals were the top-2 most important key succes factor according to the people she had interviewed for her research. Patents were less of an issue, or at least not for the projects that the MNCs started with their counterparts (because there might have been some preselection on the research topics). Most of the time IP is shared and/or companies get the freedom to use the outcomes of the research at no cost.

Dr. Mason Wang, Director Open Innovation at Unilever Shanghai, explained the audience how Unilever approached open innovation with Chinese academia. Not only had Unilever managed to tap into the knowledge of Chinese researchers, but many of the researcher got so engaged that they ended up working for Unilever. For Unilever open innovation is important to increase the input of the R&D pipeline. Therefore Mason was happy to tell that open innovation projects also lead to products that are being put into the market.

Mr. Floryan de Campo was the final speaker at the workshop. Floryan is Director of Shanghai Joint international lab on Eco-Efficient product and Processes. That lab is a partnership of Solvay, ECNU, Fudan, CNRS, ENS Lyon & Lilles University. In 3 years time they managed to build a team of about 20~25 researchers that produce per year about 10~15 patents and a similar amount of papers.

Interestingly all presenters had the feeling that money was not the reason for Chinese professors to get engaged in joint industry-academia projects. The Chinese government provides plenty of funding. It is more important to find those professors who want to work on something more than just papers, and preferably also more than just patents. You have to find those people who want to see their research really applied in real life.


Read the workshop announcement here: EUCCC

Think Asia, Think Hong Kong

Hong Kong Science Park (Photo by Andy Wong

Hong Kong Science Park (Photo by Andy Wong

Think Asia, Think Hong Kong. That’s the title of two seminars organised by the Hong Kong Science and Technology Parks Corporation (HKSTPC) and the Hong Kong Chamber of Commerce in the Netherlands. The seminars, to be held in Zoetermeer (3 March) and Enschede (5 March) are part of a promotion tour of the HKSTPC and aim to show how Hong Kong, and the Science Park in particular can serve as a platform for high tech startups and enterprises to grow their business in Asia.

Presentations will be given by:

Mr. Allen Ma, CEO Hong Kong Science and Technology Parks Corporation,
Mr. Simon Galpin (Zoetermeer), Director-General of Investment Promotion, Invest Hong Kong,
Mr. Siegfried Verstappen (Enschede), Senior Investment Promotion Executive, Invest Hong Kong,
Mr. Andrew Young, Vice President, Marketing & Sales, Hong Kong Science and Technology Parks Corporation,
Mrs. Kristina Koehler-Coluccia, Director Klako Group and
Mr. Jacques Theunissen, Senior Director Automotive & Industrial BU, Dialog Semiconductor B.V.

For more information please have a look at the website of the Hong Kong Chamber of Commerce in the Netherlands.

Independently, NOST-China has done an extensive study into the opportunities and facilities for scientific and technological collaboration with/in Hong Kong. The results will be published shortly, so keep an eye on this newsfeed.

Great Tunnel of China

China is planning another engineering wonder; it has drafted a plan for a 123km undersea tunnel with an estimated cost of 220 billion yuan (EUR 26.5 billion). The underwater tunnel will surpass the combined length of the current world’s two longest underwater tunnels: Japan’s Seikan Tunnel and the Channel Tunnel between Britain and France.

The tunnel will house a rail line connecting the port cities of Dalian in Liaoning province and Yantai in Shandong province.


Dalian – Yantai undersea tunnel. Source:

“Once approved, work could begin as early as 2015 or 2016,” according to Wang Mengshu, a tunnel and railway expert at the Chinese Academy of Engineering who has worked on the plan since 2012.

The tunnel and its construction is not without risks. Complicated geologic structures may pose challenges in the construction, especially with two major fault zones in the region.

Read more: China Daily