How is it to conduct research at HKUPRP? - Testimony from Tomas Lyu, PhD student

Tomas first joined our research pole as a MPhil student, before starting a PhD a few months later, all of that under the guidance of Professors Roberto Bruzzone and Chris Mok. He has now completed both programs in only 3 years! Tomas looks back on this great achievement and unique experience at HKU-Pasteur.

Can you tell us a bit about your background before joining HKUPRP?

I was a master student in the State Key Lab of Respiratory Disease in Guangzhou, mainland

China and my research project consisted in screening functional monoclonal antibodies against influenza virus. Within those three years, I learned the basic concepts and techniques about infectious disease (Influenza) and human immune response (antibody response).

What is your topic of research?

Within my PhD. study, I focus on the investigation of the cross-reactive humoral responses to SARS-CoV-2 in human and mice model. At the early stage of the SARS-CoV-2 pandemic, we were interested in the scientific questions about the cross-reactive antibody response between SARS-CoV-1 and SARS-CoV-2 after infection or immunisation, and we searched for evidence of antigenic imprinting between these two Sarbecoviruses. Our study not only addresses a fundamental question regarding antigenicity differences between SARS-CoV-2 and SARS-CoV-1 but also has implications for immunogen design and vaccine development.

Can you tell us a bit about your supervisors and team at HKUPRP?

My supervisors are Dr. Chris Mok and Prof. Roberto Bruzzone. Roberto is a kind supervisor and his breadth of knowledge filled me with admiration. I liked to discuss with him about my scientific questions and his comments always gave me additional useful ideas. Chris is a nice supervisor and he always shared his experiences with me about his PhD. study and sometimes we could discuss some interesting topics till midnight. I am extremely grateful for the constant support from all the members in Chris’s lab who have created such a good and joyful research environment.

What are your plans for the near future?

According to the research I did during my PhD, I would like to explore more about the antibody cross-reactivity topic, like what kind of antibody can be cross-reactive (special sequence? shared motif?). I am planning to join a lab as postdoc so that I can learn the unique technique that aims to study human antibody sequence and function.

Tomas alongside his supervisor, Dr. Chris Mok (on the left)