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HKU-PRP News

25 Mar 2021

HKU-Pasteur’s Project Awarded With A Gold Medal At The 2021 Inventions Geneva Evaluation Days

The University of Hong Kong (HKU) reaped a total of ten awards at the Special Edition 2021 Inventions Geneva Evaluation Days. Amongst the awarded, the  multidisciplinary “Innovative Sewage Testing Tool for SARS-CoV-2” project, of which HKU-Pasteur is a part, received a prestigious Gold Medal. 
 
Sponsored by the Health and Medical Research Fund (HMRF) under the Food and Health Bureau, this project allowed the collection of hundreds domestic sewage samples from sewage collection systems in different areas for nucleic acid tests of the new coronavirus SARS-CoV-2. 
 
Since the beginning of the project in October 2020, the team has been able to demonstrate that sewage surveillance could provide early warning of COVID-19 outbreaks, reflecting the overall spread of virus in the community. It also helps tracking the development trend of community outbreak.
 
The team includes Professor Leo Poon, Co-Director at HKU-Pasteur, Doctor Hein Min Tun, Principal Investigator at HKU-Pasteur, and is led by Professor Tong Zhang of Department of Civil Engineering.
 
This year’s competition was a first-ever special virtual-only edition of The International Exhibition of Inventions of Geneva (“IEIG”), one of the most significant global annual events devoted exclusively to inventions. Around 600 inventions from about 20 countries were evaluated on virtual platforms by the international jury of specialists from 10 to 14 March 2021.
 
 

24 Mar 2021

Sophie Valkenburg: “If we understand how strong and long lasting our immune response is as a result of infection and vaccination, we can then design vaccine programs that use boosters or give life-long immunity”

HKU-Pasteur celebrates its 20th anniversary this year, it is the occasion to show you a little bit more about the people who make this lab a major research pole on infectious diseases, an innovative teaching center and a very special place for us all.

Today, meet Dr Sophie Valkenburg, Principal Investigator at HKU-Pasteur Research Pole, specialized in the study of adaptive immune response to influenza infection and other viruses:

"I never set out to be a ‘scientist’ but always followed my interest, and I have been lucky with opportunities along the way. As a woman in science I was lucky to have mentors and leaders who are working mothers and strong women and it was inspiring to have them early in my studies, something I hope I can show the students and researchers around me too.

My group mostly looks at vaccine responses, and how people who have recovered from infection look in comparison to vaccine responses. We need to identify and enumerate the responses that protect individuals from infection and which vaccines give these types of responses. This work can be used to make better vaccines in the future and determine who might be infected in the future.

The influenza virus can mutate and change, and drugs lose their action and vaccines become outdated. So we need better vaccines and drugs that can cope with these changes. For SARS-CoV-2, a lot of quick research results have leveraged existing infrastructure for patient samples, animal models, and epidemiology that were developed to study viruses like influenza, MERS and SARS-CoV.

If we understand how strong and long lasting our immune response is as a result of infection and vaccination, we can then design vaccine programs that use boosters or give life-long immunity.”

To know more about the research she conducts at HKU-Pasteur and other researchers from the Pole, browse the HKU-Pasteur Research Pole 20th Anniversary Book, 60 pages tracing back 20 years of  research, teaching, activities and more!

10 Mar 2021

Athena Li: “Participating in HKU-Pasteur Courses really broadened my horizons on research occurring worldwide.”

HKU-Pasteur celebrates its 20th anniversary this year, it is the occasion to show you a little bit more about the people who make this lab a major research pole on infectious diseases, an innovative teaching center and a very special place for us all.

Today, meet Athena Li, Student of the 14th HKU-Pasteur Virology Course and the 15th Immunology Course:

"Participating in HKU-Pasteur Courses really broadened my horizons on research occurring worldwide. I learnt some valuable skill sets for my PhD during the courses, especially during the practical sessions.

I was lucky enough to have very good role models that tutored me during my Bsc/Msc. I aspire to become resourceful and a creative problem solver like them. I now work on immunology and influenza vaccination strategies, and I am very happy to be part of an international team like we have at HKU-Pasteur.

We really benefit from this multicultural, diverse environment!”

08 Mar 2021

International Women’s Day: “Don’t be shy and be confident!”

March 8 is the International Women's Daya global day celebrating the social, economic, cultural and political achievements of women. The day also marks a call to action for accelerating gender parity. Significant activity is witnessed worldwide as groups come together to celebrate women's achievements or rally for women's equality. 
 
A great occasion to talk to Hilda On, one of the many inspiring and hard working women here at HKU-Pasteur.
 
HKU-PRP: What is your educational background and training?
Hilda On: I graduated with a Higher Diploma in Biotechnology from the Hong Kong Institute of Vocational Education (IVE), a local institution offering vocational education to post-secondary students in Hong Kong. 
 
I have chosen to study in a scientific field because I think science can explain almost everything and I was always a very curious person. It's very magical world that was always very attractive to me. 
 
HKU-PRP: How do you feel about being a “woman in science”?
Hilda On: I think in Hong Kong there is a lot of women working in science. I have always supported the idea that both male and female can perform the same, do the same work and execute the same tasks. In my direct environment at work in HKU-Pasteur I am surrounded by women in science!
 
Gender never was a problem for me in the area that I work so far. Everyone I have been working here was always very nice here, no matter where you come from or how successful you are. 
 
HKU-PRP: As a female young scientist, do you have some tips to share with the younger generation/students?
Hilda On: Don't be shy and be confident. You should believe in yourself to achieve your goals! 
 
HKU-PRP: When did you join HKU-Pasteur and why did you choose to come here?
Hilda On: I joined HKU-Pasteur as an intern in 2018 summer to work in Dr Hein Tun’s team. After this great experience I have decided to pursue the experience and I came back again as a Research Assistant, after I graduated from IVE in the summer 2019.
 
HKU-PRP: Can you explain the different projects you have been working on at HKU-Pasteur so far? 
Hilda On: I worked on many projects since I arrived here. One of them, which has been already published, was to apply an epidemiological approach to prospectively study AMR acquisition in healthy Hong Kong travellers, in order to gain insight into the emergence and dissemination of antimicrobial resistance (AMR) and to identify targets for prevention. I mostly do the very preliminary parts of the project, like sample collection, bacterial identification, and Antimicrobial Susceptibility Testing. 
 
And since last October, I am working on a sewage project that aims to find the COVID19 virus in sewage collection systems. It is a multidisciplinary project from HKU, involving colleagues from the Department of Civil Engineering, that study sewage samples collected in different areas around Hong Kong to perform nucleic acid tests of the new coronavirus SARS-CoV-2. The project is already a great success and has been widely covered by media. 

 
If you want to read more motivating stories from the women at HKU-Pasteur, have a look at Qiwen Teo and Carolyn Cohen's interviews!
 
 

02 Mar 2021

HKU-Pasteur Research Pole Dangerous Liaisons Workshop

Thanks to our local and international experts as well as the audience, this workshop was a great success!

 

We would like to thank all participants as well as the public present and online for these two days of engaging discussions on the up-to-date topic of emerging viruses at the human, animal and environmental interface.

 

On the first day, speakers have outlined the state of research on the origin & spread of coronaviruses. The workshop was kick started by Professor Marion Koopmans (Erasmus University MC) keynote lecture on the insights that can be brought by genomic epidemiology to research on SARS-CoV-2. This was followed by a panel discussion with local and regional speakers. Dr Shi Zhengli (Wuhan Institute of Virology) has outlined the state of research on SARS, MERS and Covid-19 in order to evaluate the preparedness of researchers in the field, echoed by Professor Malik Peiris, the Honorary Director of the HKU-Pasteur Research Pole, talk. Dr Veasna Duong (Institut Pasteur du Cambodge) focused on the risk of emerging infectious diseases in Southeast Asia taking specifically the cases of SARSCoV-2 and Nipah virus. Dr Huiling Yen (HKU School of Public Health) and Dr Nancy Leung (HKU School of Public Health) focused on the control and transmission mechanisms of human respiratory viruses.

 

Watch Day 1 live session

 

These discussions have been pursued on Day 2 with a focus on the need and the tools to enhance virus surveillance. Firstly, Dr Véronique Chevalier (Institut Pasteur du Cambodge & CIRAD) and Dr Anna-Bella Failloux (Institut Pasteur) detailed the surveillance processes implemented by the Institut Pasteur and its network. An anthropological perspective was added to the reflection with talks from Dr Frédéric Keck (French National Research Center, CNRS) and Dr Christos Lynteris (University of St Andrews).

Watch Day 2 live session

 

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