Massive science facilities drive innovative research

China Daily Updated:2022-07-07

Zhangjiang Science City in Shanghai's Pudong New Area has been strengthening its innovative abilities and developing a cluster of massive photon science facilities over the past several years, serving as an interdisciplinary research platform.

The Shanghai Synchrotron Radiation Facility, a public scientific experimental platform that has been running since 2009, is a synchrotron light source with 27 beamlines in operation to date, compared with 15 beamlines four years ago.

The facility is involved in frontier research in fields such as life sciences and new materials, and it has served over 30,000 users.

According to Li Ruxin, an academician of the Chinese Academy of Sciences, about half the users are from universities, 30 percent are from research institutes and the rest are enterprises.

"Large scientific facilities including the SSRF are critical to enhancing innovation capabilities in fundamental research," Li said.

Li cited Zanubrutinib, the first anti-cancer drug developed by Chinese medical enterprise BeiGene in 2019, as an example. The SSRF captured the structural molecular binding data of the drug, which has been approved for marketing in both China and the United States, the photonics expert said.

The biopharmaceuticals market is valued at over 65.8 billion yuan ($9.8 billion) in Zhangjiang.

Seventeen new Category 1 drugs had been developed, and 12 innovative medical devices had been approved for marketing in Zhangjiang as of 2021.

"The number of beamlines will surge to 32 next year, aimed at boosting the facility's role in driving industrial growth," Li said.

Zhangjiang Science City is home to over 20,000 enterprises, including 66 regional headquarters of multinational companies.

On Nov 6, 2018, President Xi Jinping visited the science city during a two-day inspection tour in Shanghai. He urged strengthening basic research and application, enhancing intellectual property protection, valuing innovative talent, and fostering new industries and innovation-driven enterprises.

He also called for pushing forward the building of a comprehensive national sci-tech innovation center in Zhangjiang with international vision and standards, with an aim to build a cluster of globally-advanced labs, research institutions and research-oriented universities.

Over the past few years, innovation has improved in Shanghai, where 14 massive scientific facilities at the cutting edge of research have started construction or are in use.

Last year, the total industrial output of industrial enterprises with annual revenue from principal business higher than 20 million yuan reached 342.4 billion yuan in Zhangjiang, accounting for 27.5 percent of that in the Pudong New Area.

Besides the SSRF, the domestically developed Shanghai Superintense Ultrafast Laser Facility in Zhangjiang, which provides high-strength electromagnetic fields for the investigation of materials under extreme conditions, will be opened this year.

The laser facility has a stable output of up to 10 petawatts of power-a laser with the intensity of about 10 times the power of the sun that can be focused down to a single human hair.

"The special laser and its secondary radiation source help scientists hunt for the movements of active ingredients in living things, reveal the mysteries of life, develop laser proton knives for cancer treatment and explore astrophysics and the origin of the universe," Li said.

Another core part of the photon facilities in Zhangjiang is the Shanghai High Repetition Rate X-ray FEL and Extreme Light Facility that is under construction and will be completed by 2025.The facility will be able to capture fast-changing details and serve as a new tool for physical and life sciences research.

"It'll be a major milestone in Zhangjiang's long-term efforts to become a global photon science research center," Li said.

"Massive scientific facilities used to be built separately, but that hasn't been the case since the construction of the photon facility cluster in Zhangjiang," he added.

The joint efforts also come from over 500 universities, R&D institutions, tech centers from enterprises and public service platforms based in the area. It includes the Li Zhengdao Research Institute and the Zhangjiang Science Park of Shanghai Jiao Tong University.

A talent pool of 499,000 professionals has been organized as well. Over 16 percent of them have earned a master's degree or higher, covering fields of integrated circuits, biomedicine and artificial intelligence.

The intellectual property protection center and the supervision pilot site for special biopharmaceutical products have also settled in Zhangjiang to safeguard the market.