Research

Researches

Activity Report

Annual Report 2017

SUMMARY

Mission

The HKU-Pasteur Research Pole (HKU-PRP) is a joint laboratory, established by the University of Hong Kong (HKU) and the Institut Pasteur (IP), under the School of Public Health of the Li Ka Shing Faculty of Medicine of the University of Hong Kong. As one of the hubs of the Institut Pasteur International Network, HKU-PRP aims to improve global health through research and education by confronting the challenges posed by viral infections and provide solutions to treat infectious diseases.

Research

HKU-PRP supports innovative research programs that promote a “One-Health” approach to understand basic mechanisms of virus biology and mitigate the impact of infectious diseases. We have organized our activity around Group Leaders who are engaged in competitive research projects on respiratory viruses (influenza and coronaviruses) and mosquito borne viruses (dengue and Zika). With respect to influenza research, we have extended our exploration of virus-host interaction and host response to viral infection by combining clinical studies and basic research investigations to gain insight into the mechanistic aspects of disease pathogenesis and adaptive immunity for improved protection. A molecular understanding of host cellular factors involved in virus infections is crucial not only to provide novel insights into pathways hijacked by them, but also for development of effective antimicrobials against such pathogens. Collaboration with the First Affiliated Hospital of Guangzhou Medical University, where laboratory space has been made available to HKU-PRP, has also led to very significant findings on the viral evolution of H7N9 avian influenza and the newly identified Middle East respiratory syndrome coronavirus. In addition, we have begun to explore the consequences of respiratory virus infections on skeletal muscles and muscle stem cells in vivo. We are studying both the innate and adaptive immune response to viral infection with a broad objective to investigate the underlining mechanisms relevant to disease pathogenesis and how this could be harnessed and optimized by vaccination to improve protection from diverse influenza virus infection. With respect to arboviruses, we are investigating newly identified host factors that are exploited to facilitate virus replication, biogenesis, trafficking, and egress. As propagation of dengue and Zika viruses appears to involve extensive membrane and lipid remodeling, we have designed a functional screening strategy and a set of proteins in lipid metabolism that are differentially modified upon infection by dengue and Zika viruses. HKU-PRP has published over than 20 papers in 2017 and 10 are currently submitted or in preparation.

Teaching

Our educational program has been further expanded in 2017, drawing an increasing number of highly qualified applications from around the world. We have continued our course series in Immunology and Virology, and have co-organized the second edition of the Croucher Summer School on Advanced Imaging. In collaboration with the C3BI at the Institut Pasteur and the Center for Genomic Sciences at HKU, we have held a hands-on course on Next Generation Sequencing. The 2017 edition of our Public Health Workshop series at the Pasteur Institute of Ho Chi Minh City (Vietnam), which is primarly aimed at public health professionals and academics in the region, has covered for the first time the topic of “Health Economics”. HKU-PRP courses have generated a worldwide network of trainees.

Perspectives

We have developed a strong identity to promote the agenda of HKU, IP and the Institut Pasteur International Network, through research, teaching and public health activities. In recognition of our achievements, HKU and IP have signed a10-year extension of their collaborative agreement. Together with the School of Public Health a new Group Leader will join HKU-PRP to develop a research program on anti-microbial resistance. The interdisciplinary nature of our research and teaching will facilitate synergies with the new School of Biomedical Sciences, established by HKU to integrate basic science departments. Dr Sumana Sanyal has received a career development award from the Croucher Foundation that carries a joint affiliation to the School of Biomedical Sciences and Professor James Di Santo’s appointment as Visiting Professor from IP for the period 2016-8 will further strengthen collaborations and innovative projects in the field of basic immunology. In summary, the results obtained in 2017 are clearly in line with our strategic objective to position HKU-PRP as a cluster of excellence within the School of Public Health.

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