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15 Sep 2021

20th Anniversary Closing Workshop: Know Thy Microbes

To conclude the celebrations of its 20th Anniversary, HKU-Pasteur Research Pole will organize a workshop on 21 October 2021: 

Know Thy Microbes
Living with the Unseen

Date: 21 October 2021
Time: 15:00 - 17:30 HKT / 09:00 - 11:30 CET

Online Registration:

Zoom link to join the Webinar:
https://hku.zoom.us/s/95456296670
 

Following on from the “Dangerous Liaisons” workshop held in Feb 2021 focusing on emerging viruses at the human, animal and environmental interface, this new event gathers local and worldwide public health experts to discuss how our relationship to the microbial world is being influenced by the current pandemic, and outline next steps for researchers and advisors in the field. 
 
The seminar features researchers from diverse scientific perspectives who will address the challenges to frame human cohabitation with microbes in the context of the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic, which has led to increased surveillance and travel restrictions.
 
Programme:

Keynote:
- Philippe Sansonetti, Institut Pasteur Paris and Center for Microbes in Development and Health, Institut Pasteur of Shanghai – Chinese Academy of Sciences
 
Pannel Discussion:
- Keiji Fukuda, Director, HKU School of Public Health (Moderator)
- Hein Min Tun, HKU-Pasteur Research Pole
- Sophie Valkenburg, HKU-Pasteur Research Pole
- Tommy Lam, School of Public Health and Centre for Immunology & Infection
- Zhiwei Chen, Department of Microbiology, HKU LKS Faculty of Medicine
 
 
Keynote:
Annelies Wilder-Smith, London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, Nanyang Technological University, Singapore and Heidelberg Institute of Global Health, University of Heidelberg, Germany
 
Pannel Discussion:
Leo Poon, Co-Director of HKU-Pasteur Research Pole (Moderator)
- Hui-ling Yen, HKU School of Public Health
- Ben Cowling, HKU School of Public Health
- Vijay Dhanasekaran, HKU-Pasteur Research Pole
- Christos Lynteris, University of St Andrews 
 
 

13 Sep 2021

Professor Malik Peiris Awarded the Future Science Prize in Life Sciences

Professor Malik Peiris, Managing Director of the Centre for Immunology & Infection and Honorary Director at HKU-Pasteur won the Future Science Prize in life sciences for the discoveries of SARS-CoV-1 as the causative agent for the global SARS outbreak in 2003 and its zoonotic origin, with impact on combating Covid 19!

>>> More on C2i website

About Malik Peiris: 
Professor Malik Peiris, Fellow of the Royal Society, Légion d’Honneur and Silver Bauhinia Star was born in Sri Lanka and studied medicine at the University of Ceylon. This was followed by the award of a PhD at the William Dunn School of Pathology, University of Oxford, U.K., where he made significant discoveries on the mechanism of dengue virus pathogenesis.
 
After further work in the U.K. and Sri Lanka, he joined the University of Hong Kong in 1995 and developed a multi-disciplinary research program with strong international collaboration that made a major impact in understanding the ecology, epidemiology, pathogenesis and control of animal and human influenza and coronaviruses. In 2003, he played a key role in the identification of a novel coronavirus as the cause of SARS and in its control. He serves as Co-Director of the WHO H5 influenza reference laboratory and the WHO SARS-coronavirus-2 reference laboratory at HKU. From 2007 to 2020, he has served as the Scientific Director of the HKU-Pasteur Research Pole before becoming the Managing Director of the Centre for Immunology & Infection. 
 

31 Aug 2021

In the Press: Professor Bruzzone Talks to SCMP and RTHK Radio About Pandemic Management

Roberto Bruzzone, Co-Director of HKU-Pasteur and the Centre for Immunology & Infection (C2i), was recently interviewed by the South China Morning Post (SCMP) and RTHK Radio 3 to give his views on the current pandemic, and more specifically the Hong Kong SAR Government’s goal to eliminate Covid-19

>>> Watch the SCMP interview on Youtube

>>> Listen to the RTHK Radio 3 interview online

 
 

19 Aug 2021

[Job Opportunity] HKU-Pasteur is looking for its new Laboratory Manager

Ref.: 504665
Work type: Full-time
Department: School of Public Health (22400)
Categories: Executive / Technical / Support

>>> Apply now

Laboratory Manager (at the rank of Assistant Technical Manager) in the HKU-Pasteur Research Pole of the School of Public Health (Ref.: 504665) (to commence in January, 2022 on a one-year temporary basis or two-year fixed-term basis, with the possibility of renewal subject to satisfactory performance).
 
Applicants should possess an MPhil degree or above in science or related disciplines, with at least 3 years’ research experience. They should have a good command of written and spoken English and Chinese (including Mandarin), in addition to excellent communication, organizational and laboratory skills. Knowledge of safety procedures and standards for infectious disease laboratories would be an advantage.
 
The appointee will:
  • manage BSL2 virus and cell culture laboratories;
  • provide effective solutions to support research objectives and improve technical activities;
  • establish and maintain a calibration program for testing equipment to ensure quality results;
  • advise on technical procedures, techniques and equipment;
  • train new personnel on the correct use of lab equipment;
  • ensure conformance with specific operational standards and regulatory requirements;
  • administer budgets, schedules, and supplies;
  • compile and prepare reports setting forth progress, adverse trends, and appropriate recommendations and conclusions; and
  • provide support to the Co-­Directors and the Administration Manager as necessary.
Shortlisted candidates will be invited to attend an interview.
 
A highly competitive salary commensurate with qualifications and experience will be offered, in addition to annual leave and medical benefits. The appointment on fixed terms will attract a contract-end gratuity and University contribution to a retirement benefits scheme totalling up to 10% of basic salary.
 
The University only accepts online application for the above post. Applicants should apply online and upload an up-to-date C.V. Review of applications will start on August 5, 2021 and continue until September 30, 2021, or until the post is filled, whichever is earlier.
 
Advertised: Jul 22, 2021 (HK Time) 
Applications close: Sep 30, 2021 (HK Time)
 
 

17 Aug 2021

Congratulations to Máiréid Bull!

The whole HKU-Pasteur team wishes to congratulate Dr Máiréid Bull!
 
She has successfully defended her PhD thesis, under the supervision of Sophie Valkenburg and Leo Poon, on T cell immune pressure Influenza Virus genome within a universal vaccination model. A good occasion to ask her a few questions about the 5 years she has spent here with us in Sophie's team.  
 
HKU-Pasteur Research Pole: Can you tell us about yourself in a few sentences? 
Máiréid Bull: I came to Hong Kong and joined HKU-Pasteur Research Pole in 2016 and I am now a PhD graduate from Dr Sophie Valkenburg’s team. 
 
I myself am Irish/British but born in Zimbabwe. My family moved around a lot when I was younger and I was lucky to have the chance to grow up in a lot of different countries like Jamaica and Nepal. I have absolutely loved studying and living in Hong Kong, it’s been a great adventure! 
 
HKU-PRP: Can you describe your professional path so far and why you choose to engage in a scientific career? 
MB: I’ve always loved Biology from a young age but in my final years of secondary school, a close friend lost her father to cancer. Seeing the pain her and her family went through made me want to go into medical research with a hope to being able to contribute to the improvement of human health.
 
This interest led me to pursue a BSc in Immunology at the University of Glasgow where I developed an interest in infectious diseases and to explore this further undertook an MSc in Immunology of Infectious Diseases at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine.
 
HKU-PRP: What is the title of you PhD thesis and why did you choose this topic?
MB: My PhD thesis was titled “Investigation of T cell Immune Pressure on the Influenza Virus Genome within a Universal Vaccination Model”. I found it to be an exciting research area with potential for real-world implications and could build upon the previous work done by my supervisor Dr Sophie Valkenburg so it was a great opportunity. 
 
Next generation universal influenza vaccines are fast becoming a reality so it’s important to investigate how they might further interact with our immune system so we can inform future vaccine design. 
 
HKU-PRP: What is/was the most challenging?
MB: My project required a lot of troubleshooting as it was a novel approach to a novel question. And I think the hardest thing about this was keeping up morale, but failure can also be a great teacher. It’s a phase that most PhD students go through and after a lot of persistent effort things will work out in the end. 
 
HKU-PRP: Any advice you would like to share for future PhD students?
MB: Building a support network is really important. I was lucky to have two very supportive supervisors, but it was also important to support my fellow students and in turn receive support from them.
 
HKU-PRP: You have spent 5 years in HKU-Pasteur now. What is it that you particularly like about this place, in and outside the lab, that you will take with you?
MB: I think my favourite thing about HKU-Pasteur is the sense of community. Even though we are multiple teams working in very diverse areas, we all feel connected as Pasteurians. I would hope to contribute to that sense of community in research groups I join in the future, while maintaining the connections I have made here.
 
HKU-PRP: What is the next step for you now?  
MB: I will be heading back to the UK to be closer to family and joining University of Oxford as a Postdoctoral Immunologist, where I will be assisting with the ongoing COVID-19 vaccine research.
 
HKU-PRP: Thank you Máiréid, and we wish you all the best for your next adventure back in UK! 
 
 
Abstract of the thesis: Investigation of T cell Immune Pressure on the Influenza Genome within a Universal Vaccination Model
 
Improved vaccination strategies are needed against influenza which affects millions of people annually and causes a substantial health burden in many countries. Current strategies are vulnerable to seasonal adaptations caused by mutations within the influenza genome which are generated in response to selection pressure and offer little to no protection against newly emerging pandemic influenza strains. Next generation vaccines aim to provide universal protection against current circulating viruses and future arising variants. Universal vaccination can be achieved through multiple approaches, but a prevailing theory is augmenting T cell responses to leverage T cell recognition of conserved viral epitopes of influenza viruses. While T cells are essential for viral clearance and reducing severity during influenza infection, they can also exert increased immunological pressure which can lead to viral variants which adapt to circumvent the immune response. The capacity of T cell-activating vaccines to inadvertently cause viral escape mutants is one of the biggest questions still facing next generation vaccine design.
 
This study characterises mutational rates of the influenza genome and immunological responses to a next generation vaccine, Wyeth/IL-15/5Flu within a mouse challenge model. It was observed that this universal vaccine candidate leads to an increased incidence and frequency of significant mutations across multiple influenza genes when compared to mock vaccinated or seasonal inactivated influenza vaccines. However, the nature of these mutations appears to be stochastic, as few variants arose directly within T cell epitope regions. No high frequency T cell escape mutants were identified during this study, but potentially beneficial mutations were seen to arise in non-epitope regions after Wyeth/IL-15/5Flu vaccination, such as in polymerase genes and HA glycosylation positions. T cell depletion of Wyeth/IL-15/5Flu vaccinated mice reduced the incidence of significant mutations and the overall mutational frequency across multiple genes, indicating that this increased mutational rate is T cell mediated. This suggests that universal influenza vaccination may provide an increased opportunity for adaptations to arise within the influenza genome. This study also further characterised effects of mild immunopathology of increased weight loss associated with universal vaccination. Wyeth/IL-15/5Flu vaccination skewed the response to an inflammatory Th1 response compared to an anti-inflammatory Th2 response upon group 2 virus challenge. It is possible this occurred due to a mismatch between humoral group 1 influenza-specific vaccine immunity and heterosubtypic cellular immunity during group 2 influenza infection.
 
This study provides a novel examination of the effects of next generation T cell-activating vaccines on the influenza genome and host responses. This project used an interdisciplinary approach combining both next generation sequencing techniques and immunological approaches to determine the impact of universal vaccination against the influenza genome. These findings can help inform future vaccine design and aid in the generation of improved influenza vaccination strategies. 
 

21 Jul 2021

Roberto Bruzzone and HKU-Pasteur as a centre of excellence for teaching and training

HKU-Pasteur celebrates its 20th anniversary this year, it is the occasion to show you a little bit more about the people who make this lab a major research pole on infectious diseases, an innovative teaching center and a very special place for us all!

Today, meet Professor Roberto Bruzzone, Co-Director of HKU-Pasteur Research Pole since 2006. Prof Bruzzone is a cell biologist widely recognized for his work on direct cell-cell communication through connexins and their associated human diseases.

On this occasion, discover more about HKU-Pasteur centre of excellence for teaching and training in biomedical research:

The HKU-Pasteur Research Pole has pioneered an advanced life sciences teaching program to train a highly select group of students, who will be at the forefront of biomedical research in their countries. The program, based in Hong Kong, offers courses and international workshops every year that feature lectures from world-leading scientists. All HKU-Pasteur courses have also been approved by the Research Postgraduate Committee of the University of Hong Kong for inclusion in the curriculum of MPhil/PhD students.

The program was launched in 2004 with a Virology course, which received applications from students mainly originating from Hong Kong and Mainland China. Since then, recruitment has progressively widened to include applicants from most Asian countries and all over the world.

HKU-Pasteur courses are extremely competitive and are a benchmark of training in biomedical research. Topics are selected taking into account their importance in the scientific community, recent breakthroughs, exceptional circumstances (pandemics, emerging pathogens), and technical developments, and leading scientists on each topic participate in the course. A special feature of our courses is the combination of lectures with practical workshops under the supervision of local and guest teams. The practical workshops offer the possibility to understand conceptual and technical challenges in the selected field by tackling an experimental question. This approach also has the advantage of promoting teamwork and strong interactions between students and tutors.

HKU-Pasteur courses promote the fundamental Pasteurian value that science belongs to humanity, and we strive to share it with altruism. We welcome students from a diversity of backgrounds and from countries with markedly different resources, and we bring them together to provide an inclusive environment for a unique Master Class experience. This training program has enhanced the visibility and international reputation of Hong Kong for higher education and research, intensified productive interactions between visiting scientists and the local scientific community and contributed to knowledge exchange initiatives that engage the public and promote scientific culture.

To know more about the research he conducts at HKU-Pasteur and other researchers from the Pole, browse the HKU-Pasteur Research Pole 20th Anniversary Book, 60 pages tracing back 20 years of  research, teaching, activities and more!

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