Chris Mok

“In the Covid-19 pandemic, our previous knowledge on MERS and other viruses has definitely been an asset”

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 Chris Ka Pun Mok, Principal Investigator at HKU-Pasteur Research Pole in a research group aiming at understanding the interplay between the host and the viral determinants of respiratory viruses such as influenza viruses and coronaviruses:

"I was originally trained as a chemist, and I developed a strong interest for virology when completing my MPhil. I have then decided to complete a PhD on the molecular mechanisms underpinning viruses’ pathogenicity in Prof. Malik Peiris’ team.

This is him who introduced me to HKU-Pasteur Research Pole: I have attended the 2nd Cell Biology Course organized by the pole, before doing my postdoc there, and becoming a group leader in 2013, so I have seen many of the evolutions of the Pole!

The H7N9 outbreak in 2013 in China marks a turning point for my career as a researcher. At that time, I was introduced to clinicians working in the First Affiliated Hospital of Guangzhou Medical University, in order to conduct research on this specific outbreak by observing how the virus behave in humans. A collaboration agreement was signed with the hospital in 2015, and, since then, I have expand my research scope to clinical studies related to different infectious diseases such as dengue, MERS and others.

Within our team, we are trying to understand why zoonotic viruses infect humans and how humans manage to establish an immune response to these new viruses. In order to explore in depth this question, we have to build interdisciplinary collaborations with diverse research fields such as structural biology with the SCRIPPS Institute in the United States, or epidemiology with the School of Public Health at HKU. Interdisciplinary is key to understand an issue from multiple angles.

In the Covid-19 pandemic, our previous knowledge on MERS and other viruses has definitely been an asset. For instance, a decisive study completed in 2019 on MERS and camel owners in Nigeria has enabled us to understand the impact of asymptomatic patients on an infection landscape, which shows us the importance of massive testing in this new outbreak."