HKBU Spin-off Company Highlight: Scientist as Entrepreneur? It’s All in the Mindset! - Dr Phyllis Tsang

Self Photos / Files - Phyllis_Tsang_1286x560


Dr Phyllis Tsang
Co-founder and President of Herbap Biotech Limited


Skin scars are the normal and inevitable outcome of wound healing. If a scar is not treated properly, it may turn into an elevated scar, or in more serious case, the elevated scar grows bigger and wider.


The mainstream topical scar care products found in the drugstores are silicone-based, which exert mechanical pressure and moisturise the affected area to improve the appearance of scars. However, to see results, silicone scar stickers need to be worn on the affected area for a relative long period of time, which may cause discomfort to the users. Meanwhile, these stickers may also hinder the movement of joints. Because of this, Dr Phyllis Tsang invented a series of phytonutrient-based remedial fluid for the management of elevated scars. This invention, involved the use of biomarker-oriented small molecules, was then developed into scar care products to help scar sufferers reduce the formation of elevated scars and improve skin conditions. It has also been granted patents in the US, China and Hong Kong.


Dr Tsang is a HKBU-born ‎entrepreneur‬, part-time lecturer in the Division of Nursing Education and former research assistant professor in the School of Chinese Medicine at HKBU. She was also a founding member of two HKBU spin-off companies, Gihon Biotech Limited and Herbap Biotech Limited.

Mindset determines action

“I want to know to what extent my research work could benefit people” Dr Tsang said. She has been doing research studies that focus on the pathophysiology of pancreatitis, diabetes and different types of cancers for nearly 20 years.

Being a scientist entrepreneur, Dr Tsang’s entrepreneurial mindset enabled her to think outside the “science lab”. One day she received an invitation about an entrepreneurship competition -“Nanshan Entrepreneurs Star Contest 2019” which was organised by the Shenzhen Municipal Government (Nanshan District), Dr Tsang immediately thought it would be a good opportunity for Herbap’s invention - “Nano Spray of Phytonutrients for Fibrous Skin” to get more feedback and gain more exposure. She took on the challenge without any hesitation. After a few rounds of judging, this innovative invention was awarded second prize which helped Dr Tsang move forward to the next stage.

This diagram shows how plant-based phytonutrients help elevated scars


Action changes the result

Supported by Technology Start-up Support Scheme for Universities (TSSSU)*, Herbap Biotech Limited, one of the HKBU spin-off companies, was established in 2019. Meanwhile, Dr Tsang leads the company reaching out for more resources. Herbap has not only joined different entrepreneurship competitions, but it is also successfully admitted to the Incubation Programme of Hong Kong Science and Technology Parks Corporation (HKSTP).

“The entrepreneurial journey is exciting though it’s challenging.” Dr Tsang sees every failure as an opportunity to learn and grow, here are some tips from her -


Tip 1: Learn from others

No one knows everything. Dr Tsang is eager to learn from others, especially in areas that she is not familiar with. During the product development stage, she seized every opportunity to meet people with different backgrounds and expertise. This gave her new insights and perspectives to the rules and regulation of skin care products in Hong Kong, various business models for skincare companies and popular marketing strategies in the skincare market.


Tip 2: Test the market

Dr Tsang values feedback from users. She sees users as the greatest teachers who can help her refine the product to better suit the needs of the wider market. To collect feedback, she gave away samples to potential customers. Dr Tsang would listen to customers’ pain points and their actual needs. This repetitive process helps Herbap improve their products to better satisfy the customers.


The entrepreneurial mindset is so powerful that allows Dr Tsang to see the bigger picture, recognise opportunities and learn from failures. It is exciting to see the transformation of her company.