From Academia to an Entrepreneurial World – Dr Simon Han


Dr Simon Han

Associate Professor, Department of Teaching and Research, School of Chinese Medicine

"I keep telling myself: Dare to try. Although start-up journey is always full of challenges, I believe that great determination will bring unique advantages. Challenges make you stronger. This learning process paves the way to develop entrepreneurial abilities.”

Dr Simon Han’s outstanding research achievements meet a real business opportunity. The commercialisation of his research and development technology greatly enhances the standardisation and quality control of valuable traditional Chinese medicines in the industry.

Technology meets the market

Asians consume many Chinese herbs in their daily lives. The Chinese herbal medicine market kept expanding in the past few years. Among all herbs, Dendrobii Officinalis Caulis and Cordyceps are known to be precious and valuable. Therefore, counterfeits can easily be found in the market. However, these counterfeits may not only be ineffective in tackling diseases, but may also worsen one’s underlying conditions. To address this issue, Dr Han and his team have developed an innovative quality assurance technology to authenticate the herbs, which has revolutionised the industry.

The innovative technology has brought the company to global spotlight. This quick, efficient and low-cost herb authentication system provides trustworthy quality-control service that meets the market needs. To launch its service, Dr Han and his team founded the company - Hong Kong Authentication Centre of Dendrobii Officinalis Caulis (HKACDOC) in 2017.

The pioneer in the industry

“As a start-up, we have explored various ways for the idea to get off the ground.” Dr Han said.

HKACDOC is a HKBU spin-off company which consists of HKBU researchers and students. With their unique patent technology, HKACDOC was successfully awarded and supported by HKBU Technology Start-up Support Scheme (TSSSU)* for three consecutive years, with a total amount of nearly HK$3 million.

Dr Han understands well that running a successful start-up requires the team to be well-equipped with various entrepreneurial skills and knowledge. He therefore encouraged his team to participate in a series of comprehensive entrepreneurship training, such as Holistic Startup Training Programme (HSTP) and O2O Entrepreneurship Training Platform provided by the Knowledge Transfer Office (KTO).

Talent is crucial to start-up success

“Our company has gone through different stages such as company establishment and operations; research and development; publicity and commercialisation; and sale of services. We learnt all these by doing.” Dr Han said.

Over the years, there has been an increasing demand for specialists in Chinese Medicinal Pharmacy. “In our work field, there is a shortage of high-end research specialists. Thus, long term workforce planning has been taken place in time.” He said.

HKACDOC has also offered internship opportunities to attract HKBU medical students to join the company. To retain talent, they value team’s effort by rewarding colleagues with a more competitive package.

Recognition and the next big step

The company has now gained a firm foothold in the market by collaborating with some of the well-established health food and pharmaceutical enterprises in Hong Kong and mainland China. It has also received different opportunities to maximise exposure in the industry and the market, such as participating in the “Entrepreneur Day Exhibition” and “Greater Bay Festival” through KTO. It also won the silver medal of the Hong Kong Innovative Invention Award presented by the Hong Kong Federation of Innovative Technologies and Manufacturing Industries in 2017, and a gold medal at the First Asia Exhibition of Inventions Hong Kong in 2018.

Since 2019, the company has been admitted to the Hong Kong Science Park Incubation Programme. With more and more positive feedback from the industry, Dr Han will continue leading his team to carry out research in the authentication of valuable Chinese medicine and provide professionally-recognised services to the industry.

*HKBU TSSSU aims to bring R&D results from campus to real world, by encouraging more entrepreneurial activities at the University and facilitating more commercial development of HKBU’s intellectual property rights (IPR) and technology developed at the University. It is a "company start-up" scheme designed to encourage spin-off companies to commercialise the IPR and technologies developed at HKBU.

Click HERE to know more about HKBU TSSSU.

Dr Simon Han (middle) and his team obtained a US patent for their new method for authenticating Chinese herbal medicine. So far, his innovative authentication method has been filed and granted with seven patents including four in the US and three others in mainland China, Hong Kong and Macau.

Dendrobii Officinalis Caulis, called Tiepi Shihu (鐵皮石斛) (left), is traditionally recognised as the best Shihu for tonic purpose, which is hardly distinguishable from other Dendrobium species.

Dr Simon Han (left) and his team have developed a polysaccharide marker authentication method for the qualitative and quantitative authentication of Cordyceps sinensis (冬蟲夏草).

HKACDOC uses high-performance gel permeation chromatography to identify the quality control markers in Dendrobii Officinalis Caulis and Cordyceps.

The authentication method can be applied widely on the fresh and dried raw materials as well as formulated products with different forms of dosage.

A QR code is issued to authenticated herbs. Details of certification is shown by scanning the QR code. This system helps enhance customer confidence.