The Department of Microbiology at the University of Hong Kong (HKU) and Shanghai Institute of Infectious Disease and Biosecurity (SIIDB) have entered into a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) today (October 31) in Shanghai.

The MoU sets the foundation for the establishment of the United Research Center of Innovative Drugs for Major Infectious Diseases at SIIDB, focusing on innovative drug development for infectious diseases. This collaboration aims to strengthen the strategic partnership between the parties and enhance cooperation through joint research projects, seminars, academic conferences, and various student exchange and experiential learning activities.

Under the MoU, Professor YUEN Kwok-yung, Chair of Infectious Diseases in the Department of Microbiology at HKU is appointed as Honorary Dean of SIIDB for a three-year term in accordance with the agreement. Professor Yuen also serves as the Henry Fok Professor in Infectious Diseases and Co-Director of the State key Laboratory for Emerging Infectious Diseases at HKU.

The MoU was signed by Professor Kelvin TO, Clinical Professor in the Department of Microbiology at HKU, and Professor Daisong LIU, Deputy Dean of SIIDB. The signing was witnessed by Professor Fan WU, Dean of SIIB; Mr Hao ZHANG, Vice Director of the Shanghai Municipal Health Commission; Professor Yuen and Professor Vivian LIN, Executive Associate Dean of HKUMed. An unveiling ceremony for the research center was held concurrently.

Professor Yuen Kwok-yung is pleased with the new appointment and views the joint research center in Shanghai as strategically important for tackling emerging infectious diseases. This initiative builds on the Department of Microbiology’s collaboration with the HKU-Shenzhen Hospital in combating diseases like COVID-19, generating an impact in the Greater Bay Area.

Professor Yuen commented: “Judging from the increasing trajectory of emerging infectious disease outbreaks from H5N1 Avian Flu in 1997, Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) in 2003, H1N1 Pandemic Flu in 2009, H7N9 Avian Flu in 2012, Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) in 2013, Zika in 2015, and COVID-19 in 2019, it is more likely than not that more such outbreaks will come in the next ten years, of which one of them will cause another pandemic.

The Pearl river delta and Yangtze River delta are two of the fastest growing economic regions of the Mainland. The rapidly growing population, traffic and wealth have led to increasing demand for animal protein and risk of emerging infectious diseases. This is well illustrated by the outbreaks of H5N1 Avian Flu A in Hong Kong during 1997 and H7N9 Avian Flu in Shanghai during 2012. This is a tale of two cities which demonstrates the importance of this collaboration between HKU and SIIDB. “

As the Honorary Dean of SIIDB, Professor Yuen looks forward to working alongside the exceptional talents of SIIDB and HKU.

“Our collective expertise, shared through research collaboration, joint project applications, scholar and student exchanges, and academic conferences, will undoubtedly help us tackle the global challenges posed by infectious diseases.” Professor Yuen added that the establishment of the United Research Center is particularly exciting, which marks a crucial step in finding innovative solutions for combating major infectious diseases and represents a significant milestone in the collaboration of the two institutions.

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