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).
Sophie Valkenburg Assistant Professor
Dr Sophie Valkenburg has joined the lab as Research Assistant Professor following an international call. Sophie is an immunologist who trained in Australia at the Peter Doherty Institute for Infection and Immunity, where she obtained a PhD in Viral Immunology in March 2012. She then joined the Center of Influenza Research at HKU, working in the laboratory of Leo Poon.
Sophie studies the adaptive immune response to influenza infection in mouse and human models, by looking for universal immune correlates of protection to develop broadly reactive vaccines. Her contributions have already been recognized with multiple awards and successful grant applications. Postgraduate positions in her lab are available.
Hein Min Tun Assistant Professor
Dr Hein Tun is a public health veterinarian and received his Ph.D. degree from the University of Hong Kong. He then moved to Canada to pursue his postdoctoral research at the Gut Microbiome Laboratory of the University of Manitoba where he held an additional role as a lab manager. After 2 years working for microbiome and resistome research in food animals, human and the environment, he joined with the SyMBIOTA research team at the Department of Pediatrics in the University of Alberta to study roles of infant gut microbiome in health and diseases using the Canadian Healthy Infant Longitudinal Development (CHILD) birth cohort.
His research interests range from studies on the role of human and animal microbiome in health and diseases to surveillance of antimicrobial resistant bacteria (resistome) in the interface of human, animals and the environment. His research findings have been frequently featured in major international media and also highlighted in Nature Outlook.
Dr Tun received several awards, scholarships, and fellowships including the Dik Zwart Award during his Ph.D. study. He is also the winner of two prestigious fellowship awards of Canada including the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR) fellowship and the Alberta Innovates (AI) Postdoctoral Fellowship.
Prathanporn Kaewpreedee Post-doctoral Fellow
Dr. Kaewpreedee obtained her PhD in Medical Microbiology from Chulalongkorn University, Thailand in 2018. During her PhD, she was working on immune correlates to protection particularly on T cell in HIV patients. She also has experience on adoptive T cell therapy in virus-associated malignancies. Dr. Kaewpreedee joined the University of Hong Kong in 2019. Her research focus involves in immunological correlates of influenza transmission potential.
Xi Zhang Post-doctoral Fellow
Dr. Zhang received her bachelor’s degree from Zhejiang University majoring in Veterinary Medicine, and then she obtained her PhD degree from the Department of Microbiology, the University of Hong Kong in 2021. Her thesis studied the coronavirus-host interactions and the host dependency factors for MERS-CoV pathogenesis. She joined the HKU-Pasteur Research Pole, School of Public Health, as a Post-doctoral Fellow in 2021. Her current research focus concerns the impact of antibiotic administration and microbiota determinants in association with the development of metabolic illnesses.