25 Jan 2016

Dr Ndongo Dia from Institut Pasteur Dakar hosted by HKU-Pasteur Research Pole to be trained on pseudoparticle virus neutralisation assays method

Dr Ndongo Dia from Institut Pasteur Dakar, Senegal, arrived in Hong Kong on Monday 18th January 2016 for a 8 weeks training on pseudoparticle virus neutralisation assays method. This method was developed here in HKU-Pasteur Research Pole by Drs Mahen Perera and Pei-gang Wang as a sensitive and specific assay for detecting antibodies to Middle East Respiratory Syndrome coronavirus (MERS-CoV) based on the production of pseudotyped particles. It has been published in 2013 (you can find the publication here).

Ndongo Dia is member of the Virology Pole group at Institut Pasteur Dakar directed by Dr Amadou Alpha Sall. His research focuses on respiratory viruses, mainly influenza, and non-influenza respiratory  viruses (respiratory syncytial virus, rhinoviruses, coronaviruses,  enteroviruses, adenoviruses, bocaviruses…). Ndongo Dia is also involved in the National Influenza Center activities in Dakar.

This training will lead to a collaboration with HKU-Pasteur Research Pole to conduct serological surveillance of emerging respiratory viruses in the West Africa region.

19 Jan 2016

Mr Thierry Mariani, French member of parliament for French residents overseas, visited HKU-Pasteur Research Pole

On Monday January 18, 2016, Mr Thierry Mariani, French member of Parliament for French residents overseas, visited HKU-Pasteur Research Pole.
Today designated as the Asian hub of the Institut Pasteur International Network and the Pasteur Center for Global Health to promote the One-Health approach of infectious diseases, HKU-Pasteur Research Pole is a significant example of fruitful scientific cooperation between France and Hong Kong.
Accompanied by Dr Isabelle Saves, Attaché for scientific and academic affairs at the Consulate General of France in Hong Kong and Macau which supports the Pole, Mr Thierry Mariani was welcomed by the research team leaders, Dr Sumana Sanyal, Dr Suki Lee and Dr Chris Mok, and invited to visit the laboratory facilities. The researchers presented the missions of HKU-Pasteur Research Pole, their research projects and the ongoing scientific collaborations. Dr Barbara Gayraud-Morel, recently arrived in HKU-PRP also attended the visit as visiting scientist from Institut Pasteur Paris. The meeting ended with the presentation of the position of HKU-Pasteur Research Pole as a premier regional hub for educational programs.

From left to right: Drs Mok, Lee, Sanyal, Mr Benet, Mr Mariani, Drs Saves and Gayraud-Morel

18 Jan 2016

Publication: promising therapeutic target to reduce Influenza A viruses infection

On January 8, 2016, Chris Mok - principal investigator at HKU-Pasteur Research Pole - and co-workers published a study in the American Journal of Physiology - Lung Cellular and Molecular Physiology: "Targeting host calpain proteases decreases influenza A virus infection". This research was a collaboration led by Mustapha Si-Tahar (Research Centre for Respiratory Diseases, Inserm, Université de Tours) and conducted between Institut Pasteur Paris, Université Paris 6, Inserm (French National Institute of Health and Medical Research), Hong Kong University and HKU-Pasteur Research Pole.

The development of new strategies aiming at reducing the severity of Influenza A viruses is still a major public health challenge today. Vaccines and antiviral drugs are available, yet treatment of influenza faces limitations. Vaccines have reduced immunogenicity and efficacy in high-risk populations (elderly and immunocompromized individuals), the constant antigenic drift requires annual updating of the vaccine, and antiviral drugs do not interfere with immunopathology. Thus, looking for innovative therapies targeting host cellular molecules and not only viral factors can broaden and improve the efficiency of the therapeutic arsenal of influenza.

Such molecules could include the calpains, ubiquitous calcium-dependent proteases. This study provides new insight into the role of this protein family in influenza A viruses pathogenesis and shows that targeting calpains-dependent signaling pathways with calpain inhibitors has a protective effect in influenza A viruses infection, reduces viral replication, leukocyte infiltration and expression of pro-inflammatory mediators in bronchial epithelial cells. Regarding the treatment of influenza-induced acute pneumonia, this novel approach targeting calpains could then offer a new therapeutic option.

"Hyperactivation of the immune system observed in patients is considered as one of the mechanisms of the pathogenicity of avian influenza virus (H5N1) infection. The discovery of using calpain inhibitor, a potent inflammation inhibitor, could pave the way to a new therapeutic strategy for the treatment of H5N1 disease" sumarizes Chris Mok.