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May 16, 2019

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Honoring outstanding achievements

Ten people ranging in age from 37 to 46 have been honored with outstanding achievement awards.

They include Pu Huayan, 37, the engineer who designed unmanned vessels used for polar science research, and electronic circuits expert Da Shengwei, 46, whose company plays a leading global role in the fields of deep learning and computer vision algorithms.

Another winner, 45-year-old Li Zonghai, has led the world in the study of using cutting-edge CAR-T therapy for cancer patients.

“I hope to make cancer curable,” he said.

In many cases, cancer patients are diagnosed too late to receive surgery, and they have to turn to other approaches.

However, chemotherapy kills everything and severely damages the immune system. Expensive targeted drugs don’t work beyond extending life for several weeks to several months.

Even emerging radiation therapies, such as heavy ion therapy, can work on just a very few cancers in limited areas. “So, patients just end up losing money and life,” said Li.

Immunotherapy, represented by CAR-T, became a hot topic after 2010.

Chimeric antigen receptor T-cell therapy uses genetically engineered T cells — a type of white blood cells that act as “special forces” in the body and are equipped with artificial receptors that allow them to better recognize cancer cells. Li’s company, CARsgen Therapeutics, cooperated with Shanghai’s Renji Hospital to try the therapy on two advanced liver cancer patients.

Researchers used T cells from blood samples, genetically engineered them in the lab and then injected them back into the patients.

“It required about 17 days of treatment,” said Li. “The patients’ cancers have apparently been eradicated. They have lived cancer-free for more than three years.”

Li said he hopes to develop medicine based on the therapy so that more cancer patients can benefit from the treatment.

Li’s company, with offices in China and the US, has been given the green light to launch clinical research on five CAR-T projects targeting liver cancer, myeloma and leukemia. Three are being tried on human beings for the first time.

“In the study of cutting-edge technologies, China is fully capable of rivaling the United States,” Li said. “For us, favorable policies greatly matter.”


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