At its meeting of 30 September, the Karolinska Institutet University Board decided that the Ming Wai Lau Centre for Reparative Medicine (MWLC), KI’s research centre in Hong Kong, is to close at the turn of 2023/2024.
The endowment was for a five-year period
The MWLC was set up by KI on the receipt of a donation ring-fenced for its research in regenerative/reparative medicine, and for the establishment of a research centre in Hong Kong and its financing for five years. The centre was officially opened on 7 October 2016 and has been active since February 2017. I have referred to the MWLC and its work in several earlier blogs.
It was made explicit from the start that the funding was for a five-year period. The endowment that was intended to fund the local activities in Hong Kong is now close to being depleted. The winding down of the centre over the turn of the year 2023/2024 will imply deregistration of KI’s non-Hongkong Company. This company had to be established to be able to conduct research in Hong Kong. The staff in Hong Kong and the donator have been informed of the decision.
Knowledge-building, publications, and innovations
The MWLC has made important contributions in its research field. Many technical solutions have been generated and developed in imaging, tissue engineering, CRISPR gene editing, and mRNA delivery systems for use in the field of reparative medicine. The work of the MWLC in Hong Kong has produced some fifty publications, while two of KI’s researchers have started their own company based on the research they have conducted at the centre.
Newly established Centre for Neuromusculoskeletal Restorative Medicine takes over
Our activities in Hong Kong have enabled KI´s researchers to establish a collaboration with the Chinese University of Hong Kong (CUHK) that aims to make advancements in restoring the structure and function of neuromusculoskeletal tissues that are impacted due to age, in the interests of sustaining mobility and improving the life quality of this patient group. KI and the CUHK have found a way to ensure that part of the research begun at the MWLC will be allowed to continue after its closure. The newly established Centre for Neuromusculoskeletal Restorative Medicine (CNRM) will take over the MWLC building on 1 January 2024 and KI will no longer have employer responsibilities. Thus, CNRM will be part of KI´s academic network, in parallel with centres in other parts of the world. CNRM will receive funding from the Innovation and Technology Commission of the HKSAR. The activities that have been carried out under the MWLC umbrella in Stockholm will continue with the remaining funds from the current donation until 2026.
Closure long-since planned
KI’s activities in Hong Kong have drawn attention, and questions have been raised about our relationship to the Chinese regime and approach to recent political developments in Hong Kong. It is important in this context to point out that throughout the donation period, KI has focused on academic freedom, as highlighted in earlier blogs. We have not identified any signs of political intervention. If we had, the centre would have been closed with immediate effect. Now, the centre is being wound down because the term of the endowment is about to expire. We have been preparing for the closure over the past two years and have notified all relevant parties accordingly.
Now that my term of office as president is due to come to an end on 28 February next year, I would like to take this opportunity to thank the staff at the MWLC and colleagues from different Hong Kong universities for all your hard work over the past years. Once again, I congratulate you on your discoveries and the contributions you have made to science. And a heartfelt thank you to Ming Wai Lau whose support and engagement have been much appreciated.