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[Interview] Hein Min Tun, new group leader at HKU-Pasteur

Hein Min Tun joined HKU-Pasteur Research Pole recently as a team leader, and brought with him two new members, Kanchana Poonsuk, Postdoctoral Fellow from Thailand, and Darren Chan, Research Assistant and local graduate. This new team’s mission will be to survey antimicrobial resistance (AMR) in the human-animal-environment interface, and to study the composition and function of human and animal microbiomes in health and diseases.

Can you introduce yourself and tell us about your studies and your career path? I am a public health veterinarian originally from Myanmar. I studied my veterinary degree at the University of Veterinary Science and received the prestigious Gold Medal by the Minister of Livestock and Fisheries for academic excellence. Then, I joined with an international NGO for rural livestock development for a year. Subsequently, I enrolled the MSc Veterinary Public Health program at Chulalongkorn University (CU) in Thailand. During my MSc program, I also joined the National Public Health Laboratory, Singapore, for the outbreak investigation during the 2009 pandemic flu outbreak. In early 2010, I was awarded a scholarship by the University of Hong Kong (HKU) to pursue a doctoral degree in Molecular Microbiology. During my PhD program, I received several awards and fellowships including the Dik Zwart Award. In 2011, I was selected for the Utrecht University (UU) fellowship to join Prof. Peter Rottier’s lab. In 2013, I was nominated by HKU to join the Global Yong Scientists Summit, where I was inspired by eminent international science and technology leaders and Nobel laureates.

After the completion of my PhD, I joined the Gut Microbiome Laboratory of the University of Manitoba as a postdoctoral fellow and also served the Canadian Association of Postdoctoral Scholars (CAPS) as an elected Vice-Chair (External). I decided to expand my interest to human microbiome epidemiology in a developmental origins of diseases research setting and joined the SyMBIOTA (Synergy in Microbiota) research team at the University of Alberta and the Canadian Healthy Infant Longitudinal Development (CHILD) cohort. In May 2018, I joined the School of Public Health at the University of Hong Kong as a Research Assistant Professor (RAP) and the HKU-Pasteur Research Pole as a group leader. Why did you decide to join HKU-Pasteur lab in Hong Kong? I have been recently recruited by the School of Public Health of HKU to lead the laboratory component of a new research program on Antimicrobial Resistance (AMR). This is part of an ambitious initiative that has been launched by the School of Public Health of HKU under the leadership ofProfessor Keiji Fukuda, who developed the Global Action Plan on AMR at WHO in 2015. Together with my RAP appointment at the School of Public Health, I took up a group leader position at the HKU-Pasteur research pole in May 2018.

After spending a few years in Canada, I have decided to come back to Hong Kong to contribute back to my alma mater as well as to live closer to my aging parents. In addition, I am very interested to be part of Professor Fukuda’s ambitious initiative on AMR research.

You were one of HKU-Pasteur course students 10 years ago, can you tell us about your experience? I am an alumnus of the HKU-Pasteur Virology course of 2010. It was my first experience attending an international course and it was nice meeting with a number of international friends. I still keep in touch with most of them. Actually, it was my privilege to join a course where I could learn scientific knowledge from eminent scientists in the field of virology, as well as an opportunity to enlarge my circle of friends. This is my honour to come back to HKU-Pasteur as a group leader to contribute back to the institute.

Can you talk about your projects and expectations here at HKU-Pasteur? My group uses conventional microbiology and molecular biology techniques, cutting-edge sequencing technologies, coupled with bioinformatics, statistical and epidemiological approaches 1) to survey antimicrobial resistance (AMR) in the human-animal-environment interface using holistic One Health approach, and 2) to study the composition and function of human and animal microbiomes in health and diseases.

I do expect that our group can generate robust and evidence-based scientific knowledge in regards to development and spread of antimicrobial resistance. In addition, we also anticipate to deliver more mechanistic information of microbiome in and on our bodies and their functions in related to health and diseases.


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