Activity Report

Annual Report 2010

Download the Annual Report 2010

Executive Summary

HKU‐PRC is a joint partnership between The University of Hong Kong (HKU) and Institut Pasteur (IP), which has been established with the aim to develop a program of excellence in the study of infectious diseases. Since 2006 HKU‐PRC has been under a dual directorship, Professor Malik Peiris from HKU and Dr Roberto Bruzzone from IP, which has led to significant growth of the research output and international leadership. HKU‐PRC had 42 staff members at the end of 2010: 26 scientific (16 students), 12 technical and 4 administrative.

The year 2010 was marked by the demise of Dr James Z. Kung, our Chairman of the Board of Management and the driving force behind the establishment of HKU‐PRC. His contribution to our Centre cannot be simply expressed in words. The whole team is committed to honor his vision of a world‐class research center bringing together HKU and IP in the fight against infectious diseases. The achievements of 2010 are in line with these targets, as reflected by our scientific productivity and the pivotal role of HKU‐PRC in leading local and regional network project. 

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. More specifically, the mission of HKU‐Pasteur Research Centre is to foster an interdisciplinary approach to generate information on fundamental processes of infectious diseases that may be translated into clinical applications. This overarching goal is being implemented through a three‐pronged strategy.

Create a regional center to study the interactions between pathogens and host cells, which are the battlefields of infections, by applying cutting edge technology

The scientific output of HKU‐PRC has remained very strong, with 18 manuscripts published in 2010 and several publications having already appeared in 2011 or being under review. HKU‐PRC is an integral part of the Area of Excellence on Influenza and 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 projects of the International Network of Pasteur Institutes. The achievements of these network projects have been presented in several international forums. HKU‐PRC has been directly involved in the organization of two major international scientific conferences: Options for the Control of Influenza VII (Hong Kong, 3‐7 September 2010), which attracted more than 1,400 people from around the globe, and the Annual Scientific Meeting of the Institut Pasteur International Network (Hong Kong, 22‐25 November 2010), which was opened with a keynote lecture delivered by Professor Francoise Barre‐ Sinoussi, the 2008 Nobel Laureate in Physiology and Medicine. The final session of this meeting was co‐organized with the Centre for the Humanities and Medicine of HKU on the theme of altruism. To further expand our activities we are actively engaged in securing important endorsements through private donations. BNP Paribas Corporate & Investment Banking has decided to renew its partnership with HKU‐PRC and support our research projects on dengue virus.

Develop novel approaches to confront the challenges posed by infectious diseases to create basic knowledge that will be applied to human diseases

We have solidified our research focus on respiratory infections and on the mosquito borne disease of dengue by securing several independent extramural grants (6 approved for funding in 2010). HKU‐PRC will be a partner in the FLUPIG network of the European Union, a project that aims at a better understanding of the role of pigs in influenza pandemics. 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. The new group led by Dr Hui‐Ling Yen, who holds an appointment as Research Assistant Professor in the Department of Microbiology has grown in size and has developed in a short time a vigorous research program. Dr Beatrice Nal has left the Centre after 7 productive years in Hong Kong. A Group Leader will be recruited after the signing of the new Consolidated Agreement. Dr Chris Mok has joined HKU‐PRC in the Molecular Virology Team, as a postdoctoral fellow of the Area of Excellence. His research focus is on the molecular mechanisms of virulence of influenza virus; he has already submitted a grant to the Research Fund for the Control of Infectious Diseases.

Foster education through a Regional Center of Excellence for Teaching & Training in Biomedical Research that will nurture the next generation of leading scientists working on human diseases

The Teaching and Training Center of Excellence in Biomedical Research continues to offer an annual program of three courses for postgraduate students and young scientists, which is extremely competitive and comparable in quality to other international programs. We have pioneered advanced master classes for MPhil, PhD and young postdoctoral fellows in the region, creating a network of trainees across Asia and beyond, who seek our mentorship well after the course. The three courses have attained a very strong reputation, attracting a record number of applications from other countries. The number of local applications has also significantly increased, and we are now training 30‐40 HKU students every year. In addition, several lectures delivered by leading scientists (viz., EMBO members, Professors at College de France, members of the National Academy of Sciences USA) are organized together with other Centers and or Departments of the Li Ka Shing Faculty of Medicine, or as part of the Croucher‐Pasteur Seminar Series and are open to the public, attracting a wide audience including faculty members, postdocs and students who attended previous courses. We have been able to increase the involvement of HKU staff, making it possible to offer a choice of 2‐3 practical sessions for each course. Some of the best students of these courses have joined HKU‐PRC for their PhD studies. Furthermore, the Teaching Center of HKU‐PRC has also forged a strong partnership with the Faculty Core Facility and co‐organized two technical workshops in 2010.

In summary, the results obtained in 2010 are clearly in line with our strategic objectives and represent a solid foundation to consolidate a structure based on Young Group Leaders, fostering synergies between independent scientists at an early stage in their career, giving them the freedom to explore and tackle important questions.