Activity Report

Annual Report 2009

Download the Annual Report 2009

Executive Summary

The Research Programs developed by HKU‐PRC are dealing with infectious diseases that may have devastating effect on public health and the economy of the community. The key aspect of our research approach is to bring together the cutting edge developments in the cell‐biology of infectious disease, which is the strength of Institut Pasteur, with the expertise in the clinical virology and immunology of infectious disease, which is the strength of HKU. This concept allows maximizing synergies between the founding partners with the objective to maintain a vigorous, top quality research and teaching programs, while taking advantage of the exceptional and complementary network of collaborators. The results obtained in 2009 are clearly in line with these targets, which were presented by the new directorate team to the Board of Management and to the Scientific Advisory Board. These achievements are reflected in the pivotal role of HKU‐ PRC in leading local and regional network projects.


We have solidified our research focus on respiratory infections and on the mosquito borne disease of dengue by securing several independent extramural grants, which have allowed strengthening several research teams and also attest to the quality of the Group Leaders. These programs are developed through several key collaborations with Institut Pasteur, HKU, the International Network of Pasteur Institutes and many leading laboratories worldwide. The scientific output of the Center has remained very strong, with 25 manuscripts published in 2009 (up from 10 in 2008) and several publications having already appeared in 2010 or being in the final stages before submission. The Center is an integral part of the Area of Excellence on Influenza and has a number of research programs related to this program. Professor Peiris serves as the Scientific Coordinator of this multi‐departmental and multi‐institutional program. Dr Bruzzone is the Scientific Coordinator of the RESPARI/SISEA programs of the International Network of Pasteur Institutes. Finally, HKU‐PRC is directly involved in the organization of several international scientific meetings (including a Keystone Conference) that will take place in the second half of 2010 and in 2011.


The common denominator of our research programs is to emphasize interdisciplinary approaches to confront the challenges posed by pathogens and we wish to pursue this orientation by linking the Center to several departments at HKU. As a first step toward a more complete integration with the Li Ka Shing Faculty of Medicine of HKU, Dr Beatrice Nal‐Rogier has been appointed Research Assistant Professor in the Department of Anatomy to be seconded to the Center. We have strengthened our team with the addition of another group led by Dr Hui‐Ling Yen, who holds an appointment as Research Assistant Professor in the Department of Microbiology. Dr Yen leads the Molecular Virology team that uses reverse genetics to study the pathogenesis of influenza in by combining cellular (in vitro) and animal (in vivo) models. The Yen lab moved to the Center in August, and has already established solid contacts with the other Group Leaders. Dr Yen’s expertise in applying animal models and plasmid‐based reverse genetics technique to study the biology of influenza virus will be a great asset to achieve our goals in research and teaching, having already resulted in new collaborative projects and her involvement in the organization of the HKU‐Pasteur Immunology Course. This strategy of joint appointments, which we have discussed with Professor Sum‐Ping Lee,the Dean of the Li Ka Shing Faculty of Medicine, will be pursued to facilitate the interactions of the Center with the Faculty, the career development of Junior Group Leaders and the gradual involvement of the Center in undergraduate teaching.


The Teaching and Training Center of Excellence in Biomedical Research has become operational and we have achieved our goal to offer an annual program of courses for postgraduate students and young scientists that is extremely competitive and comparable in quality to other international programs (EMBO, Cold Spring Harbor). HKU‐Pasteur courses in Cell Biology, Virology and Immunology are gaining a strong reputation in Hong Kong and the Asia‐Pacific region. The Teaching Center of HKU‐PRC has provided the necessary bench space for the practical sessions of the 1st International Course on Stem Cell Biology and Regenerative Medicine (August 23 ‐ August 29, 2009), which was co‐organized by the University of Toronto, The Hospital for Sick Children Research Institute, Mount Sinai Hospital (Canada), and the Strategic Themes of Development and Reproduction, Cancer and Healthy Ageing (HKU).


The research programs of HKU‐PRC have received in 2009 important endorsements through private donations. The French Chamber of Commerce and Industry in Hong Kong chose again our Center as the charitable organization to which proceeds of the Annual Gala Dinner have been donated. This allowed a brief presentation of the mission and activities of the Centre in front of a strong audience of executives and businessmen. In addition, BNP Paribas Corporate & Investment Banking (CIB) has decided to renew its partnership with Institut Pasteur and to help again this year in the global fight against infectious diseases. BNP Paribas CIB offers financial aid across 26 countries to research teams of the International Network of Pasteur Institutes, as well as to laboratories working in collaboration with the Institut Pasteur in Paris. The donation to HKU‐PRC will be used to fund our studies to fight dengue virus, with a focus on achieving a complete understanding of the molecular mechanisms of regulating assembly, budding, trafficking and egress of the virus.


HKU‐PRC has joined the Department of Cell Biology and Infection of Institut Pasteur as an "Associated Unit" with the support of the Board of Management and the Scientific Direction of Institut Pasteur. This association will strengthen the already existing ties (viz., in teaching and imaging) and favor scientific exchanges between Paris and Hong Kong. HKU‐PRC has participated to the annual retreat of the Department (next one coming up on October 12‐14) with several presentations and will continue hosting several investigators from the Department of Cell Biology and Infection during the annual courses and Croucher‐Pasteur seminar series.


The continuous improvement of our performance validates the overall strategy developed over the past three years and, in turn, constitutes a solid foundation to ensure the long‐term sustainability, as well as the full participation of HKU‐PRC in the academic life of HKU and Hong Kong. We envisage that the Center will be able to expand its scope and output by targeting an interdisciplinary approach and recruiting talented Group Leaders who will contribute to forge strategic partnerships with other departments, as well as with the Area of Excellence on influenza.