Professor Roberto Bruzzone Co-Director
I was born in Italy and studied medicine at the University “La Sapienza” in Rome. After postdoctoral work at the University of Geneva and Harvard Medical School, I joined in 1995 the Institut Pasteur, where I am a Professor in the Department of Cell Biology and Infection. My research has focused for many years on the cell biology of direct cell-cell communication through connexins and their associated human diseases.
In 2006, I moved to Hong Kong, where I am the Co-Director of the HKU-Pasteur Research Pole, with a joint appointment as Visiting Professor in the Li Ka Shi Faculty of Medicine of the University of Hong Kong. Since coming to Hong Kong my research has shifted to the investigation host-pathogen interactions. I was the Scientific Coordinator of Surveillance and Investigation of Epidemics in South East Asia (SISEA), a public health project funded by the French Development Agency in People's Republic of China, Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia. I was appointed to serve as Chair of the International Severe Acute Respiratory and Emerging Infection Consortium (ISARIC) at the end of 2019, after being a Member of its Executive Committee since its inception in 2012. I have been decorated as Officer of the National Order of Merit in France and Knight of the Order of Merit in Italy.
Professor Leo Poon Co-Director
Professor Leo Poon received his doctoral training in Sir William Dunn School of Pathology in University of Oxford (1996-1999). After his graduation, he returned to Hong Kong and worked as a postdoctoral fellow in the Chinese University of Hong Kong (1999-2001). He joined the University of Hong Kong as a Research Assistant Professor in 2001. He currently serves as a Professor in the School of Public Health, HKU.
Professor Poon involves in influenza research for over 20 years. He studied the replication and transmission of this virus. He developed several molecular tests for emerging avian influenza viruses (e.g. H5N1, pandemic H1N1/2009 and H7N9). In 2009, he played an active role in the H1N1 pandemic and identified the first reassortant of pandemic H1N1/2009 virus in pigs. Currently, he focuses on researching the molecular biology and vaccinology of influenza virus.
In 2003, Professor Poon involved in the discovery of a novel coronavirus as the aetiological cause of SARS. He is one of the firsts who decoded the first SARS coronavirus sequence. These findings allowed him to develop several useful molecular tests for the diagnosis of SARS. The identification of SARS coronavirus in humans and animals also prompted him to hunt for novel viruses in wildlife and this leaded to the discovery of the first and many others coronaviruses in bats. He currently also actively involves in studies related to MERS and SARS-CoV-2.
Malik PEIRIS Honorary Director
Professor Malik Peiris, Fellow of the Royal Society, Légion d’Honneur and Silver Bauhinia Star was born in Sri Lanka and studied medicine at the University of Ceylon. This was followed by the award of a PhD at the William Dunn School of Pathology, University of Oxford, U.K., where he made significant discoveries on the mechanism of dengue virus pathogenesis.
After further work in the U.K. and Sri Lanka, he joined the University of Hong Kong in 1995 and developed a multi-disciplinary research program with strong international collaboration that made a major impact in understanding the ecology, epidemiology, pathogenesis and control of animal and human influenza and coronaviruses. In 2003, he played a key role in the identification of a novel coronavirus as the cause of SARS and in its control. He serves as Co-Director of the WHO H5 influenza reference laboratory and the WHO SARS-coronavirus-2 reference laboratory at HKU. From 2007 to 2020, he has served as the Scientific Director of the HKU-Pasteur Research Pole.
Vijaykrishna Dhanasekaran Associate Professor
Dr Vijaykrishna (Vijay) Dhanasekaran is an infectious disease scientist, and faculty in the HKU School of Public Health since 2020. Vijay has a BSc MSc and MPhil from University of Madras, India and a PhD (2005) in Microbial ecology and evolution from University of Hong Kong. In 2006, he joined HKU Li Ka Shing Faculty of Medicine as a Postdoctoral Fellow in Virology with Professor Yi Guan, and was promoted to Research Assistant Professor in 2009.
In 2010, Vijay joined Duke-NUS Graduate Medical School Singapore as Assistant Professor, before joining Monash University, Australia as Associate Professor in 2016 to establish a group in computational biology, build capacity in infectious disease research and computational biology within the Monash Biomedicine Discovery Institute; and held an adjunct faculty position in the Melbourne WHO Collaborating Centre for Reference and Research on Influenza in the Victorian Infectious Diseases Reference Laboratory(VIDRL).
Sooksan Wong Assistant Professor
Dr. Wong obtained her PhD in molecular virology, working on dengue virus, from the Department of Microbiology and Immunology at the University of Melbourne, Australia. She subsequently completed her postdoctoral training at the St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital in Memphis, TN, which was also the World Health Organization (WHO) Collaborating Center on the study of the ecology of influenza in lower animals.
Her laboratory’s research interest is focused on understanding the immunological and virological determinants of robust antibody responses after respiratory virus infection and vaccination at a population as well as at the individual level. This includes studying the immunological principles that govern antibody recall of rapidly evolving and antigenically-variable viruses using clinical or human cohort samples, or in animal models. This research area is critical to our understanding of respiratory viruses’ vaccine efficacy and pathogenesis and how that affects the population’s susceptibility to these viruses.
Dr. Wong is a full member of the American Society of Virology, American Society of Immunology and a council member of the International Society for Influenza and Other Respiratory Viruses.