Longevity Physician Dr Christine Huang Yuan in Hong Kong
In 2020 Forbes China published its China 30 under 30 list of the most successful entrepreneurs. One of these executives on the list representing the healthcare & science sector was Dr. Christine Huang Yuan, the CEO of Cellomics International. While not exactly a longevity company, Cellomics specializes in early cancer detection and monitoring and Christine is playing an important role in Hong Kong’s biotechnology industry.
Christine graduated with a bachelor’s double degree in Medicine and Science, and a masters degree in Epidemiology. In 2017, Christine decided to give up her medical practice to focus on entrepreneurship. Nevertheless, Christine remains heavily involved in the medical community.
In May 2021, she developed and recorded the Introduction to Longevity Medicine for Physicians course in Chinese, which has a concise three-hour curriculum designed to familiarize busy medical professionals with the latest advances in aging research with the focus on biomarkers of aging and longevity. As part of Dr. Christine Huang’s many contributions to the community, this course was made available online for free.
While longevity medicine is a rapidly emerging field, there are not many longevity physicians in China and it is a pretty barren field in Hong Kong so I decided to interview Christine to find out about her future plans and vision for this exciting area.
Christine Huang Yuan
Alex: You seem to have a very successful career in biotechnology. What got you interested in longevity medicine?
Christine: Thanks for taking the time to interview me, Alex! It’s my honour to present the “Introduction to Longevity Medicine for Physicians” course in Chinese, and to work with a group of excellent longevity experts globally.
I regard this course as an important milestone in Chinese longevity medicine education. “Longevity” has been a popular term in China for thousands of years, with most people merely hoping for longevity, while very few people make the effort to consider it scientifically. This course introduces the scientific “beauty” of Longevity, and brings healthcare professionals up-to-date on latest advances in anti-aging research.
Longevity is actually happening without being noticed by the general public. The global average life expectancy improved from 31 years in the year 1900, to 66.8 in the year 2003. However, instead of resting on our laurels, some of my close friends are also enthusiastically developing senolytics, like NMN or NR, and developing agents to delay, prevent, alleviate, or reverse age-related diseases. I would like to take this opportunity to thank Dr. Alex Zhavoronkov, for systematically and scientifically introducing me to the Longevity Medicine field.
Alex: How do you envision the next 10-20 years in biotechnology? Do you expect any dramatic advances in science and technology that will bring us closer to the disease-free future?
Christine: I was very into “hard-tech” in biotechnology and medtechnology, and I love to create cool and new ideas. At present, I’m looking at the biotechnology and healthcare industry more from technology and application perspectives.
Many people now view biotechnology as the next stage of the industrial revolution, and I think the biotech industry will become exponentially more influential. Biotechnology has a direct impact on human lives as well as on our environment, e.g. in agriculture. World changing technology does not happen overnight. Taking mRNA technology as an example, the technology gradually developed over 60 years, and started becoming applied to clinical use over the 10 years. Now, everyone is familiar with mRNA technology because it is used to develop vaccines for COVID-19.
In the next 10-20 years, I’m very much looking forward to seeing biotechnologies which are currently being developed, becoming matured and applied to save people’s lives, with multi-discipline technology combinations and optimization bringing a quantum shift in the world.
The use of AI in biotech and healthcare is no doubt a growing trend. Looking at Insilico Medicine is currently doing, it is a game-changer in the pharmaceutical industry. In the end, we hope that this can bring more new and good first-in-class drugs to save more lives. In the future, I hope AI-biosensor-biotechnology can be developed to be more applicable, and that the data-privacy system will also be more reliable, allowing for a personalised healthcare system to be built.
I am also interested in 3-D bioprinting technology, especially organ printing combined with gene-editing technology. Hopefully we can soon test gene-edited results using a printed model.
With the combination of advanced technologies, we may make faster progress towards a disease-free future. It is also my hope that as cutting-edge biotechnology matures and commercializes, everyone would have an equal opportunity to access affordable healthcare resources in the future.
Alex: You recently recorded the longevity medicine course for physicians in Chinese. In your opinion, what are the most promising antiaging intervention that are available on the market today?
Christine: I think “anti-aging” has a very broad meaning. Many skincare products claim to be “anti-aging”, which usually means that they are very expensive. I also follow a complicated skin-care routine every day, to prevent wrinkles. The best physical anti-aging intervention method currently is Botox, which most effectively makes you appear younger.
I want to highlight here, there is also psychological anti-aging, which is often neglected. In China, we have a proverb: Laughter is the best medicine, which is a very traditional yet useful way to intervene in psychological aging. Your psychological age will eventually affect your physical appearance. To know more about psychological aging, please enroll in the longevity medicine course (www.longevity.degree). It is free and gives you CME credits.
Alex: What are the most important interventions that will be available in the next 5 to 10 years?
Christine: I’m very much looking forward to stem cell therapy and gene therapy technology maturing and becoming safer methods for anti-aging intervention. I also believe that current senolytic candidates, as well as metformin, NMN, NR and Resveratrol, will be clinically proven as effective anti-aging methods.
Alex: Usually there is a lot of data that can be collected from the individual patients in order to make a treatment recommendation. From the longevity medicine doctor’s perspective, what is the most important data type or data types to collect in order to track and intervene in aging?
Christine: Blood test results are very important. There are hundreds of biomarkers included in your blood test results, and blood tests can be done continuously to monitor how your body is aging or getting young.
Activities data, for example, sleep data, walking data, and imaging data, such as, brain MRI, are important as well.
Alex: What are you personally doing to extend your longevity? How long do you expect to live and until what age do you expect to be very physically active?
Christine: I exercise regularly. I practice yoga twice a week, and I also practice Taekwondo to maintain my flexibility. I go hiking with friends every week, and fresh air, physical activity and social contact and plenty of laughter with good friends, all help promote both physical and psychological longevity. I think regular exercise is the key to longevity.
Also, keeping passionate about doing the things I love, is another key to longevity. I maintain intellectual curiosity about all aspects of the world around us, and I hope to keep mentally active at least until I am 80 years old.
Alex: What advice would you give to the young girls starting their careers in biotechnology and medicine in China and globally?
Christine Huang Yuan, CEO of Cellomics and longevity physician
Christine: I would recommend that they keep abreast of the latest developments globally, and learn to utilize multi-discipline technology combinations – China is currently one of the leaders in applied AI, and we should all leverage off this advantage and apply AI to more biotechnology disciplines, to supercharge developments in these areas. I would suggest that young girls “know-your-why” when starting careers in biotechnology and medicine – Love what you do, and never underestimate what you can achieve!
Meet Christine and other scientists and entrepreneurs at the 8th Aging Research and Drug Discovery forum.