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Home > Tech Reiews > Tech Report Last Updated: 15:26 03/09/2007
Tech Report #78: November 20, 2006

China Science & Technology Digest:
November, 2006


This digest summarizes S&T-related articles that appeared in the media ATIP monitored in August 2006. Some articles reference a relevant website to assist readers in obtaining further information. For questions or to request additional information, please send email to

CAS Proposes Strategy for China's AIDS Vaccine R&D
The Academic Divisions of the Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS), China's top advisory body in science and technology, recently submitted its third report (following two earlier reports in 2000 and 2004, respectively) on AIDS vaccine R&D to the State Council, China's cabinet. An expert panel headed by Yi ZENG, a virologist and CAS member, drafted all three reports.
Since the 1990s, systematic, large-scale research into the molecular epidemiology of HIV has been carried out in China, providing gene-cloning and sequencing materials for various vaccine research teams throughout the country. During the period of the 10th Five-year Plan (2001-2005), several domestic bio-pharmaceutical companies have developed manufacturing processes and quality control standards for DNA vaccines and virus vector vaccines, compliant with GMP (Good Manufacturing Practices for Drugs) and international practice. However, the report pointed out that China's HIV vaccine R&D has limited international impact. China does not possess independent intellectual property rights for the vaccine candidates under testing, has a limited investment in the discovery phase, lacks innovative research, and is faced with poor cooperation among research teams at different development phases. The issues have resulted in lengthy cycles in vaccine R&D. Additionally, funding policies for vaccine R&D vary among different administrations, lacking continuity and tracking mechanisms.
The report urged the central government to formulate China's National AIDS Vaccine Strategic Plan (CNAVSP) and made suggestions regarding the R&D cycle, and budget and management mechanisms. In order to achieve the goal of finishing Phase-III clinical trial for HIV vaccine candidates by 2010, the following three frameworks for HIV vaccine R&D were proposed:

  1. 1. Fundamental, cutting-edge technologies: basic research, applied basic research, and applied research
  2. 2. Bases and platforms: Platforms including in-vitro immunoassays, in-vivo immunoassays on primates and statistic data centers to support pre-clinical and clinical studies; Pilot bases for the vaccine's GMP production; clinical bases for Phase-II and III clinical trials.
  3. 3. Key research projects: Integrate core resources and leading researchers to form a complete R&D system and speed up the R&D process.
Analyst's Remarks
About 120 clinical trials for HIV vaccine candidates have been carried out worldwide. Currently, twenty-nine candidates are in Phase I trial, four candidates are in Phase I/II, three are in Phase II and one in Phase III. Although the first-generation anti-body vaccines failed Phase III clinical trials, the large-scale Phase III trial for the second vaccine candidate is still underway. China's first jointly developed HIV/AIDS vaccine with European collaborators just finished Phase I test this June. More than 140,000 HIV cases were reported by the end of 2005 in China, with around 70,000 new cases reported each year.
(Source: Science Times 08/18/2006)

New SARS Vaccine Under Clinical Trials in Guangzhou
A new genetic vaccine research center was opened last week in Guangzhou, capital of South China's Guangdong Province. The center is a cooperative project between Guangzhou's Sun Yat-sen University and the US's University of Pennsylvania, and has been approved by the US Department of Defense, the US State Department and the Department of Commerce, and China's Ministry of Education, according to Guangping GAO, vice-director of the research center.
Sun Yat-sen University and the University of Pennsylvania signed an agreement on vaccine research last September, and according to the agreement, both sides will share the intellectual property rights of any genetic vaccines developed. Vice-director GAO said investment in the co-operation projects totaled 20 million RMB (USD 2.5 million), provided by the Guangzhou municipal government, Sun Yat-sen University, and the Third Affiliated Hospital of Sun Yat-sen University.
The center will conduct research into vaccines for dangerous tropical epidemic diseases, and is currently working on research into vaccines for AIDS, SARS, dengue fever, Avian flu, and other epidemic diseases, according to Gang LI, vice-president of the Third Affiliated Hospital of Sun Yat-sen University.
Vice president LI stated that research on genetic vaccines for SARS have already been conducted at the University of Pennsylvania, and animal tests of the SARS vaccine have proved successful. Civet cats, after being vaccinated by the genetic vaccine, did not develop SARS. Further clinical trials of the vaccine will be conducted after its approval by the Food and Drug Administration.
Vice-director GAO explained that genetic vaccines are completely different from other vaccines; they have been developed from the genes of disease sources, such as animals. The genetic vaccine is able to deal with any variation of the SARS virus, and vice-director GAO also revealed that China would soon begin testing a genetic vaccine for AIDS on humans.
Source: China Daily 08/15/2006

China to Develop HPC Standards
The preparatory group for China High Performance Computing (HPC) Standard Committee was set up under the Chinese Electronics Standardization Association (CESA) on 18 August in Beijing. CESA is a national-level association consisting of volunteers from industry, research institutions, standardization bodies and individuals engaged in standardization work in the fields of electronic and IT technologies. The leading domestic supercomputer vendor, Dawning, leads a total of twenty-three enterprises across the industrial value spectrum, including Freescale Semiconductor and Microsoft, and initiated this HPC standards committee.
The China HPC standards will be comprehensive, covering all related main fields. Unlike previous practice, the HPC standard formulation will be based on open principles, and will be led by commercial enterprises, not by the government. Presently, systematic standards for HPC servers are not available from major international standardization organizations such as ISO, IEC, and ITU.
Analyst's Remarks
The lack of core technology has caused the Chinese DVD, mobile phone, and color TV industries to suffer from high licensing costs. As the HPC server sector is an important link in the industrial value chain, China has to advance and develop standards on HPC servers to gain more clout at the international HPC table.
(Source: Computer World 08/28/2006)

Scientists Discover Pathogenic Mechanism of SARS
Early studies identified a coronavirus in human, SARS-CoV, as the causative agent for the lethal severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) disease. SARS-CoV has a large singlepositive- strand RNA genome that contains 14 open reading frames (ORFs). ORF 3a of SARSCoV codes for a recently identified transmembrane protein, but its function remains unknown. Researcher Bing SUN and his team at the Institut Pasteur of Shanghai, Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS) and collaborators at the Shanghai Institute of Biological Sciences, Max Planck Guest Laboratory, University of Hong Kong, Queen Mary Hospital, Hong Kong, and Max Planck Institute for Biophysics, Germany recently discovered that coronavirus 3a protein forms an ion channel and modulates virus release. Their findings were published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS) vol. 103 no. 33, 12540-12545.
They confirmed the 3a protein expression and investigated its localization at the surface of SARS-CoV-infected or 3a-cDNA-transfected cells. Their experiments showed that recombinant 3a protein can form a homotetramer complex through interprotein disulfide bridges in 3a-cDNA-transfected cells, providing a clue to ion channel function. The putative ion channel activity of this protein was assessed by a two-electrode voltage clamp in 3acomplement RNA-injected Xenopus oocytes. The results suggest that 3a protein forms a potassium sensitive channel, which can be efficiently inhibited by barium. After FRhK-4 cells were transfected with an siRNA, known to suppress 3a expression, followed by infection with SARS-CoV, the released virus was significantly decreased, whereas the replication of the virus in the infected cells was unchanged.
Their observation suggests that SARS-CoV ORF 3a functions as an ion channel that may promote virus release. This finding would help to explain the highly pathogenic nature of SARS-CoV, and to develop new strategies for treatment of SARS infection.
(Source: Science Times 08/14/2006)

Non-toxic Nanolithography Using Pure Water
Conventionally, the fabrication of thin film nanostructures is primarily accomplished by using selective etching or template-growth on a pre-patterned resist, and then performing a liftoff. The solvents used in developing resist are typically toxic, and add to the cost of the lithographic processing. Dr. Wei-Fang SU, professor at the Department of Materials Science and Engineering at Taiwan National University, and her colleagues have developed a novel, pure-water-developable, spin-coatable, lanthanum strontium manganese oxide (LSMO) resist. The use of pure water instead of organic or alkaline solvents would undoubtedly be not only environmentally desirable, but could also greatly simplify the imaging process. Their findings were published in the 14 August 2006 online edition of Nanotechnology.
During semiconductor or thin film production, a conventional resist performs a passive masking function, which is removed after the circuit is generated. The solvents used in developing resist are typically volatile and toxic, contributing to health hazards and environmental pollution. Professor SU and her colleagues have developed a direct writing resist from the LSMO using its precursor solution. This solution functions as a resist via an auto ignition mechanism during electron beam exposure, and the patterned LSMO film can be developed using nontoxic and environmental friendly pure water.
Either positive or negative patterns can be easily produced from the water-based magnetic resist material by varying the electron doses. The resist material consists of the oxide precursors La, Sr, Mn, and a phase formation promoter. The phase formation promoter is a polymer that assists the formation of the perovskite crystalline structure of lanthanum strontium manganese oxide.
A resist with dual positive and negative patterning capability would benefit the direct writing technology of electron beams. Various nanoscale patterns can be formed from the material using an electron beam. An external magnetic field on the spin-coatable LSMO resist samples shows huge negative magnetoresistance effects (CMR). The material also exhibits high refractive index (upto 2.38). The active magnetic characteristics and high refractive index of the material are useful for the direct fabrication of waveguides, photonic crystal, optoelectronic devices, optomagnetic devices, and spintronics
Professor SU will continue her research on this material. The interactions between the light and magnetic waves from patterned arrays fabricated from this material will be studied in the short term. The researchers also hope to fabricate novel devices by modulating magnetic or light waves.
(Source: Nanowerk 08/22/2006)

UGS to Integrate Chinese Technology from Jilin University
UGS Corp., a leading global provider of product lifecycle management (PLM) software and services, announced an original equipment manufacturer (OEM) agreement with Jilin University (JLU) to integrate one-step formability analysis (OSFA) technology developed by JLU into NX software, UGS' digital product development solution. The technology, developed by JLU's Institute of Auto-body and Die Engineering (IADE) helps improve design and manufacturing processes, and is expected to be available in NX commercially in the third quarter of 2006.
NX transforms the entire product development process to enhance design quality and increase efficiency. More than a suite of integrated CAD, CAM, and CAE applications, NX goes beyond individual and departmental productivity to improve efficiency in the overall process, and at each step in the process. A comprehensive solution, NX is built on an open foundation and advanced technologies that directly support initiatives to transform business processes.
The IADE is one of the beneficiaries of UGS' GO PLM (Global Opportunities in Product Life cycle Management) Initiatives. In November 2005, UGS granted NX and NX Nastran software with a retail value of US$169 million and technical support to Jilin University and set up the Jilin University/UGS Digital Manufacturing Education Centers to help develop Certified NX Specialists for China's growing economy.
"We remain committed to the success of the Jilin University/UGS Digital Manufacturing Education Centers to equip designers and engineers with the latest knowledge to design products. Our cooperation with UGS enables the graduates of Jilin University, especially those with NX Certifications, to be even better placed to offer employers value in today's competitive job market." Professor Ping HU, Dean of IADE of Jilin University stated.
Analyst's Remarks
According to Jilin University sources, UGS and Jilin University will share the intellectual property rights of the (OSFA) technology based on their OEM agreement. The OSFA would be the first commercial software independently developed by a Chinese entity. Presently, similar commercial software, such as FastForm and AutoForm/One-step, is developed by a Canadian company, FTI, and the University of Zurich.
(Source: UGS Press Release 08/14/2006)

ChinaGrid Completes First Phase
ChinaGrid, one of five main grid projects in China, successfully achieved its first-phase target (2003-2005), an accomplishment praised by a group of experts in Beijing early this August.
ChinaGrid, also known as China Education and Research Grid, is funded by Ministry of Education as a means to extend IT resources and services to thousands of researchers, as well as to more than 290 million students in the country's university system. Based on CERNET (China Education and Research Network), it currently covers twenty key universities, spanning thirteen provinces, with an accumulated computing power larger than 16Tflops, and storage capacity over 170TB.
According to the project's leader, Professor Hai JIN, Huazhong University of Science and Technology, ChinaGrid has implemented five representative grid applications, including an image processing grid, a bioinformatics grid, a course on-line grid, a computational fluid dynamic grid, and a large-scale information-processing grid.
To implement those applications, the ChinaGrid Supporting Platform (CGSP), a grid middleware for ChinaGrid, was developed by a team of more than forty researchers from eleven universities. Following the WSResource Framework (WSRF) and Open Grid Service Architecture (OGSA), the proprietary CGSP 1.0 and CGSP 2.0 were released in January 2005 and April 2006, respectively. One patent has been granted, and the other twenty-three patents have been filed during CGSP development. About 28,000 users from more than 50 countries visit CGSP: 42% of them are from the U.S., and 34% of them from are from China. The average download per day is about 620MB.
The second phase of ChinaGrid is underway, and will be initiated at the end of 2006.
(Source: Science Times 08/08/2006)

Chinese Scientists Realize Oriented Self-assembly Nanocubes
Researcher Lian GAO and his team at State Key Laboratory of High Performance Ceramics and Superfine Microstructure, Shanghai Institute of Ceramics, Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS), prepared CeO2 nanocubes and nanorods enclosed by six {200} planes with controlled sizes through regulating the shape and size of a surfactant. Oriented self-assembly of CeO2 Nanocubes was also achieved. Their work was published in the Journal of the American Chemical Society 128 (29), 9330 -9331, 2006.
Researchers discovered in their experiments that nanocubes have a strong tendency to assemble into 2D and 3D arrays with regular patterns on a substrate, which is probably driven by the dipole-dipole interaction of polar {200} planes. The possible formation mechanism of the nanocubes was suggested as oriented aggregation mediated precursor growth.
CeO2, an important rare earth material, has various applications in catalyzed preparation hydrogen, automobile exhaust gas treatment, fuel cell, and polishing agent. It is possible to use the synthesized nanocubes as building blocks to achieve {200}-perfect-oriented monolayers or thickness-controlled films. The preparative method can also be applied in the incorporation of heterogeneous atoms or nanoparticles for semiconductor doping or heterogeneous nanostructures. In addition, the demonstrated oriented nanostructure is crucial for the understanding of nanomaterial crystallization characteristics and facilitating further exploration of nanocrystal applications in catalysis, magnetics, and nanoelectronics.
(Source: Chinese Academy of Sciences Press Release 07/10/2006)

Chinese Scientists Discover Mechanism for Neuronal Polarity
Early studies have shown that asymmetric distributions of activities of the protein kinases Akt and glycogen synthase kinase 3b (GSK-3b) are critical for the formation of neuronal polarity. However, the mechanisms underlying polarized regulation of this pathway remain unclear. Yizheng WANG and his research team at the Institute of Neuroscience, Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS) recently reported that the instability of protein kinases Akt regulated by the ubiquitin-proteasome system (UPS) is required for neuron polarity, which explained the mechanism of how protein kinases Akt and glycogen synthase kinase 3b (GSK- 3b) are regulated locally. Their findings were published in Journal of Cell Biology Jul 2006; 174: 415 - 424.
The human brain is a network consisting of hundreds of millions of neurons. Each neuron connects and regulates each other through synapses to control various physical activities such as respiration and recognition. Although neurons are different in terms of form and function, they have a common structure, i.e., one long thin axon with multiple complicated dendrites. The formation process for the unique structure is called polarity formation, which is the foundation for the nervous system as a functional network. In their experiments, scientists observed that Akt prefer to degrade in the branches to be developed into dendrites but not to be axons. Suppressing the UPS led to the symmetric distribution of Akt and the formation of multiple axons. These results indicate that local protein degradation mediated by the UPS is important in determining neuronal polarity.
(Source: Chinese Academy of Sciences Press Release 08/01/2006)

China Develops Centimeter-scale Micro-energy System Prototype
Researcher Jinliang XU and his team at the Guangzhou Institute of Energy Conversion (GIEC), Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS), recently developed a prototype micro-energy system measuring 3.5 cm in external diameter and 7 cm in length. It spins at speeds of 20,000 rotations per minute (rpm), much faster than macro-scale rotating machines. The system can produce about one watt of electricity, enough to light three LEDs (light-emitting diode). The micro-energy system also incorporates a micro compressor, a combustor, a turbine and a micro power generator, using hydrogen and liquid as fuel.
U.S. scholars proposed the concept of a micro-energy system a few years ago, aiming to compress a conventional power plant into overall dimensions at cm-scale and key components at micro-scale. The micro-energy system is expected to replace lithium-ion cells to provide long-duration power for field workers. It is also expected to supply power to micro air vehicles (MAVs), micro electromechanical systems (MEMS) or other electronic devices. However, due to interdisciplinary difficulties with materials, thermo-physics, and micro system, reports of electricity generation by micro-energy systems are rare.
At present, the prototype developed by GIEC is still far from any practical application, and the research team is still working on a micro-scale energy conversion project supported by the CAS.
(Source: Science Times 07/31/2006)

Chinese Scientists Create Escherian Crystals
Dr. Shuhong YU and his team at the Hefei National Laboratory for Physical Sciences at Microscale (HFNL), the University of Science and Technology of China (USTC) and collaborators at the Max Planck Institute of Colloids & Interfaces, Potsdam, Germany, jointly reported the creation of complex concaved cuboctahedrons of copper sulfide crystals exhibiting highly geometrical symmetry by a solution process in the Journal of Chemistry of Materials 2006, 18, 3599-3601. The 3 August issue of Nature under the title of Crystal growth highlighted their achievement: Star Quality. On 24 July, the American Chemical Engineering and News published also reported this achievement in Science Concentrates under the title of Escher goes Chemical.
"Recipe for making geometric 'stars': dissolve copper nitrate in ethylene glycol, add sulphur and bake well. The result is microscopic crystals of copper sulphide that have a beautiful cuboctahedral form, reminiscent of the cages drawn by M. C. Escher in his 1948 engraving 'Stars'. They are composed of four intersecting hexagonal plates and contain 14 concave cavities," Nature reported.
MC Escher was a Dutch graphic artist well-known for his extremely realistic prints and engravings of bizarre optical illusions. In his 1948 wood engraving 'Stars', Escher celebrated geometric symmetry in a composition of polyhedrons, including a cuboctahedron, in which an octahedron intersects a cube.
To make the Escherian crystals, the researchers prepared an ethylene glycol solution of Cu (NO3)2 and elemental sulfur, which they autoclaved at 140 digrees centigrade for a day. After the resulting black solid was collected by centrifugation, scanning electron microscope imagery gave Dr YU and his coworkers a most welcome surprise. Each copper sulfide cuboctahedron consisted of four intersecting hexagonal flakes, each about 2 μm across.
"It is appealing that a synthetic technique as simple as the one presented here can produce such beautiful objects that even a skilled craftsman cannot touch on the microscale level," the researchers note. They suggested that other potential uses for these structures might be as building blocks for larger structures and encapsulating agents for other materials.
(Source: Science Times 8/7/2006)

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