21 Jun 2018

The Institut Pasteur to Collaborate with HKU and the Hong Kong Science and Technology Parks Corporation on Biomedical Innovation

21 June 2018, Hong Kong
The Institut Pasteur, the University of Hong Kong (HKU) and the Hong Kong Science and Technology Parks Corporation (HKSTP) signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) at the Institut Pasteur in Paris today to set up a joint biomedical research centre. 
The signing was witnessed by a high-level delegation led by the Hon Mrs. Carrie Lam, Chief Executive of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region; Mr. Nichols Yang, Secretary for Innovation and Technology; Ms. Annie Choi, Commissioner for Innovation and Technology; Professor Gabriel Leung, Dean of Li Ka Shing Faculty of Medicine HKU; Mr. Leo Kung, Chairman of Pasteur Foundation Asia; in presence of Mr Eric Berti, Consul General of France in Hong Kong and Macau and Mr Stewart Cole, President of the Institut Pasteur. The Co-Directors of HKU-Pasteur Research Pole (HKU-PRP), Professor Malik Peiris and Professor Roberto Bruzzone, who had worked tirelessly to bring this collaboration to fruition were also present at the signing ceremony.
The Institut Pasteur, HKU and HKSTP will establish an interdisciplinary research centre for immunology, infection and personalized medicine within the HKSTP’s healthcare technologies research cluster, in response to the HKSAR Government’s call to turn Hong Kong into a centre of biomedical innovation and technology. The biomedical research centre will also provide a personalized patient management strategy to define immune “health”, taking into consideration population genetics, local endemic infections, diverse microbiota, and lifestyle and environmental factors. Other important pillars at the research centre, which will be equipped with the state-of-art laboratories, are the creation of innovative platform technologies to enhance preparedness and response to emerging and re-emerging viruses, immune therapies for viral infections and vaccine development.
The proposed new research centre will unite the Institut Pasteur and HKU, two world-class academic and research institutions which started their partnership since 2000 with the establishment of the HKU-Pasteur Research Pole (HKU-PRP), to create a unique platform that will deepen the understanding of human health and disease and formulate innovative solutions for public health challenges. With the support of the HKSAR Government, the Institut Pasteur and HKU will be able to further harness collaboration between East and West, across multiple disciplines and sectors, to advance the frontiers of biomedical technology in Hong Kong and beyond.
By combining the power of academia and industry, the tripartite partnership and research centre will create an open platform for multi-sectoral collaboration and facilitate the translation of biomedical innovations into commercial value and industrial impact and contribute to Hong Kong’s transformation into an international innovation and technology hub of the Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macau Bay area. Ultimately, its medical innovations are expected to have far-reaching benefits for humankind. The Pasteur Foundation Asia hails this new milestone in the long-term partnership between the Institut Pasteur, HKU and Hong Kong SAR and looks forward to contributing to the success of this new project at HKSTP.
About the Institut Pasteur and the Institut Pasteur International Network
The Institut Pasteur, a private foundation with officially recognized charitable status set up by Louis Pasteur in 1887 and inaugurated on November 14th, 1888, has been, for the past 130 years, an internationally renowned center for biomedical research with a network of 33 institutes worldwide. In the pursuit of its mission to prevent and fight against diseases in France and throughout the world, the Institut Pasteur operates in four main areas: scientific and medical research, public health and health monitoring, teaching, and business development and technology transfer.
More than 2,500 people work on its Paris campus. The Institut Pasteur is a globally recognized leader in infectious diseases, microbiology, and immunology. Its 130 units also focus their research on certain cancers, genetic and neurodegenerative diseases, genomics and developmental biology. This research aims to expand our knowledge of living organisms in a bid to lay the foundation for new prevention strategies and novel therapeutics. Since its inception, 10 Institut Pasteur scientists have been awarded the Nobel Prize for Medicine, including two in 2008 for the 1983 discovery of the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) that causes AIDS. www.pasteur.fr/en 
About HKU-Pasteur Research Pole
HKU-Pasteur Research Pole is a joint laboratory of The University of Hong Kong (HKU) and the Institut Pasteur, established in 2000 with the aim to developing programmes of excellence in research and education that will generate biological knowledge and advance the understanding and treatment of infectious diseases.  HKU-PRP benefits from the outstanding scientific environment offered by the School of Public Health of the Li Ka Shing Faculty of Medicine, with its significant contributions, both locally and internationally, to research on emerging viral diseases and improving health.  Moreover, HKU-PRP is part of the Institut Pasteur International Network, a unique model for health cooperation to further science, medicine and public health with more than 100 years of history. www.hkupasteur.hku.hk/
About Li Ka Shing Faculty of Medicine, The University of Hong Kong
HKU Li Ka Shing Faculty of Medicine is the oldest local institution of higher education in Hong Kong.  It was founded as the Hong Kong College of Medicine for Chinese in 1887, was renamed as the Hong Kong College of Medicine in 1907 and became the premier founding Faculty when the University was established in 1911.  From its modest beginnings, the Faculty has grown to become the largest faculty of the University, with over 400 full-time academic and academic-related staff and 800 research and research-related support personnel.  The undergraduate student population is about 2,900 and postgraduates number 1,500.  The Faculty is comprised of 14 departments, School of Biomedical Sciences, School of Chinese Medicine, School of Nursing, School of Public Health (home of HKU-Pasteur Research Pole) and a number of strategic centres of research excellence.  For more information about Li Ka Shing Faculty of Medicine, please visit www.med.hku.hk.
About Pasteur Foundation Asia
The Pasteur Foundation Asia is a charitable organization established in Hong Kong to raise awareness on infectious diseases and enhance health by supporting innovative programs of scientific excellence and the recruitment of new talent to foster the next generation of scientists in Hong Kong, and through Hong Kong to China, Asia and beyond.  Donations raised from the community enable the Pasteur Foundation Asia to allocate funds to the HKU-Pasteur Research Pole, in support of its research, teaching, public health initiatives and related actions, or the Institut Pasteur and the Institut Pasteur International Network, or to specific projects, chosen by the donors themselves, with the ultimate goal to enhance global health.
The Pasteur Foundation Asia will continue to support the HKU-Pasteur Research Pole  not only for the benefits of people living in Hong Kong but also neighboring countries and ultimately world-wide. For more information about Pasteur Foundation Asia, please visit www.pasteurfoundationasia.org.
For more details about the collaboration between the Institut Pasteur, HKU and HKSTP, please download the press release.
All photos: ©Institut Pasteur, François Gardy

14 Jun 2018

[Interview] Hein Min Tun, new group leader at HKU-Pasteur

Hein Min Tun joined HKU-Pasteur Research Pole recently as a team leader, and brought with him two new members, Kanchana Poonsuk, Postdoctoral Fellow from Thailand, and Darren Chan, Research Assistant and local graduate. This new team’s mission will be to survey antimicrobial resistance (AMR) in the human-animal-environment interface, and to study the composition and function of human and animal microbiomes in health and diseases.

Can you introduce yourself and tell us about your studies and your career path? 

I am a public health veterinarian originally from Myanmar. I studied my veterinary degree at the University of Veterinary Science and received the prestigious Gold Medal by the Minister of Livestock and Fisheries for academic excellence. Then, I joined with an international NGO for rural livestock development for a year.

Subsequently, I enrolled the MSc Veterinary Public Health program at Chulalongkorn University (CU) in Thailand. During my MSc program, I also joined the National Public Health Laboratory, Singapore, for the outbreak investigation during the 2009 pandemic flu outbreak. In early 2010, I was awarded a scholarship by the University of Hong Kong (HKU) to pursue a doctoral degree in Molecular Microbiology. During my PhD program, I received several awards and fellowships including the Dik Zwart Award. In 2011, I was selected for the Utrecht University (UU) fellowship to join Prof. Peter Rottier’s lab. In 2013, I was nominated by HKU to join the Global Yong Scientists Summit, where I was inspired by eminent international science and technology leaders and Nobel laureates.

After the completion of my PhD, I joined the Gut Microbiome Laboratory of the University of Manitoba as a postdoctoral fellow and also served the Canadian Association of Postdoctoral Scholars (CAPS) as an elected Vice-Chair (External). I decided to expand my interest to human microbiome epidemiology in a developmental origins of diseases research setting and joined the SyMBIOTA (Synergy in Microbiota) research team at the University of Alberta and the Canadian Healthy Infant Longitudinal Development (CHILD) cohort. In May 2018, I joined the School of Public Health at the University of Hong Kong as a Research Assistant Professor (RAP) and the HKU-Pasteur Research Pole as a group leader.

Why did you decide to join HKU-Pasteur lab in Hong Kong? 

I have been recently recruited by the School of Public Health of HKU to lead the laboratory component of a new research program on Antimicrobial Resistance (AMR).  This is part of an ambitious initiative that has been launched by the School of Public Health of HKU under the leadership ofProfessor Keiji Fukuda, who developed the Global Action Plan on AMR at WHO in 2015. Together with my RAP appointment at the School of Public Health, I took up a group leader position at the HKU-Pasteur research pole in May 2018. 

After spending a few years in Canada, I have decided to come back to Hong Kong to contribute back to my alma mater as well as to live closer to my aging parents. In addition, I am very interested to be part of Professor Fukuda’s ambitious initiative on AMR research.

You were one of HKU-Pasteur course students 10 years ago, can you tell us about your experience?

I am an alumnus of the HKU-Pasteur Virology course of 2010. It was my first experience attending an international course and it was nice meeting with a number of international friends. I still keep in touch with most of them. Actually, it was my privilege to join a course where I could learn scientific knowledge from eminent scientists in the field of virology, as well as an opportunity to enlarge my circle of friends. This is my honour to come back to HKU-Pasteur as a group leader to contribute back to the institute.

Can you talk about your projects and expectations here at HKU-Pasteur?

My group uses conventional microbiology and molecular biology techniques, cutting-edge sequencing technologies, coupled with bioinformatics, statistical and epidemiological approaches 1) to survey antimicrobial resistance (AMR) in the human-animal-environment interface using holistic One Health approach, and 2) to study the composition and function of human and animal microbiomes in health and diseases.

I do expect that our group can generate robust and evidence-based scientific knowledge in regards to development and spread of antimicrobial resistance. In addition, we also anticipate to deliver more mechanistic information of microbiome in and on our bodies and their functions in related to health and diseases.