Activity Report

Annual Report 2012-2013

Download the Annual Report 2012-2013

Executive Summary

HKU-Pasteur Research Centre (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. Ongoing research projects are dealing with infectious diseases that may have devastating effect on public health and the economy of the community. Our vision is to generate biological knowledge to better understand and treat infectious diseases by bringing together scientists with an interdisciplinary mind.

Research. The scientific output of HKU-PRC has been of the highest quality, with 28 papers published over this period. We have re-organized the structure of the lab, which now consists of three Group Leaders – one of which has been recruited in 2013, and have secured several independent extramural grants to continue our research focus on respiratory infections and the mosquito borne disease of dengue. With respect to influenza research, we have continued our exploration of virus-host interaction and host response to viral infection and have uncovered the role of cell cycle regulators, innate immune sensors and viral proteins as determinants of avian influenza pathogenesis, including the novel influenza A that was first detected in China in 2013 . We are actively engaged in research on the newly identified Middle East respiratory syndrome coronavirus (MERS-CoV) and have developed a novel, spike pseudoparticle neutralization assay for seroepidemiological studies on MERS-CoV. The newly developed assay does not require Biosafety Level 3 containment and is thus a relatively high-throughput assay, well suited for large-scale seroepidemiology studies which are needed to better understand the ecology and epidemiology of MERS-CoV. With respect to dengue research, we have identified a crucial cellular factor that is necessary for the virus to exit from the infected cell. This is the first characterization of a host intracellular receptor that is necessary for trafficking and secretion of progeny virus.

Teaching. Our program of courses for postgraduate students and young scientists has become a reference beyond the Asia region, drawing an increasing number of highly qualified applications from around the world. This educational program has established a worldwide network of trainees, who seek our mentorship well after the course. A Scientific Symposium to celebrate the 10th anniversary of the Virology Course was held in 2013, with participation of alumni from over 12 countries. In addition, we have started in 2012 collaboration with the Pasteur Institute of Ho Chi Minh City (Vietnam) to establish an annual international course on epidemiology and public health.

Perspectives. HKU-PRC has developed a strong identity that is contributing to promote the presence and image of HKU, as well as of IP and its international network, in the region through research, teaching and public health activities. In order to ensure a long-term continuation of this successful partnership HKU-Pasteur Research Centre Limited will be transformed into the HKU-Pasteur Research Pole (HKU-PRP), a laboratory integrated into the new Center of Influenza Research (CIR) of the School of Public Health in the Li Ka Shing Faculty of Medicine. HKU-PRP will continue its focus on the Cell Biology of Infections and will expand its current strength on respiratory diseases by developing programs that will tackle neglected tropical diseases, such as arboviroses, as well as basic cell biology that is relevant to the advancement of our understanding of pathogenetic mechanism. HKU-PRP will also maintain its position as a regional reference for postgraduate training and will be firmly engaged also in undergraduate reaching with the School of Public Health and the new Bachelor in Biomedical Sciences launched in 2012.

In summary, the results obtained over the past two years are clearly in line with our strategic objectives and represent a solid foundation to develop the new HKU-Pasteur Research Pole as a cluster of excellence within the Center of Influenza Research of the School of Public Health.