Department of Microbiology

Research Questions

  • How do pathogens emerge to cause epidemics?
  • How do pathogens cross the host species barrier?
  • How do pathogens cause different diseases?
  • How does our immune system react to pathogens?
Research student in a lab
Research Areas

1. Novel Diagnostics, Antimicrobials, and Vaccines for Emerging Infectious Diseases

Discovery and genomic characterization of novel and emerging pathogens and pathogenic forms, including coronaviruses, influenza viruses and other novel viruses and bacteria, through a range of molecular techniques, immunological techniques, animal models, and bioinformatics tools, to gain new insights in microbial genomics, and potential diagnostic, therapeutic and vaccine targets.


Professor KY Yuen

Dr JFW Chan

Dr S Sridhar


2. Novel and Emerging Antibiotic Resistance

  • One-Health approach for investigation of antimicrobial resistance (AMR)
  • Genomic investigation of resistant bacteria from humans and animals
  • Metagenomic investigation of resistome in humans and animals
  • Application of machine learning and artificial intelligence in AMR investigation
  • AMR in Streptococcus pneumoniae, enterococci, Staphylococcus aureus, Gram negative, non-fermentors, and Enterobacteriaceae
  • Clinical relevance of AMR
  • Rapid methods for diagnosis of emerging resistance mechanisms
  • Evaluation of new antibiotics

Dr PL Ho


3. Emerging Viral Infections (Influenza, Coronavirus, Enterovirus)

  • Identification and characterization of viral host adaptation markers and host restriction mechanisms for cross-species transmission of emerging viruses
  • Development of novel vaccine system for seasonal and pandemic influenza, and other emerging respiratory viral pathogens


4. Novel Antiviral and Vaccination Strategies against Influenza Viruses


Professor HL Chen



5. Molecular Studies of Emerging Pathogens

  • Application of chemical genetics and conventional genetic approaches (including cloning, site-directed deletions) to dissect microbial pathogenesis and identify microbial targets of important diagnostic and therapeutic value
  • Determination of the structures and functions of identified microbial targets using bioinfomatics, molecular modelling, Nuclear Magnetic Resonance spectroscopy, X-ray crystallography and other biophysical methods
  • Development of computational and experimental methods for efficient drug screening and design

Dr RYT Kao

Dr ML Yeung


6. Molecular Virology of Coronavirus and Influenza A Virus

  • Virus-host interaction
  • Interferon signaling and Interferon-stimulated genes
  • Synthetic defective interfering virus and its potential uses as intradermal vaccine
  • Molecular virology of MERS-CoV and SARS-CoV-2

Dr RKH Kok


7. HIV/AIDS Mucosal Vaccine and Pathogenesis

  • Targeting dendritic cells PD1-based vaccine for the functional cure of HIV infection
  • Engineering of recombinant neutralising monoclonal antibodies against HIV/AIDS
  • Understanding the evolution of the HIV epidemic in Hong Kong and in the region
  • Elimination and cure of tumour by active vaccination and oncolytic virus

Professor ZW Chen

  • Molecular mechanism of innate immunity
  • RLR/TLR adjuvant for PD1-based vaccine

Dr RKH Kok

  • HIV immune evasion by suppressing host B cell and T cell response
  • Vaccine design and innate immune response in shaping potent T cell immunity
  • Immunopathology of SARS-CoV infection

Dr L Liu

Next Step?

For more information or to express interest to join the research areas, please email the supervisor or the specified contact point in the description. Interested candidates are advised to enclose with your email:

  1. your CV,
  2. a brief description of your research interest and experience, and
  3. two reference letters (not required for HKUMed UG students seeking MRes[Med]/URIS projects).

Research postgraduate studies enquiries specific to the department/school’s research should be directed to the Chairman of the Departmental Research Postgraduate Committee:

Dr RKH Kok

Information on the research programme, funding support and admission documentations could be referenced online at the Research Postgraduate Admissions website.

General admission enquiries should be directed to

Our Students

Bowie Cheng

Place of Origin: Hong Kong
Progress: Graduated in 2019
Supervisor: Professor AYH Leung

Third-year PhD student Bowie Cheng lights up whenever she talks about the zebrafish she uses in her cancer research. “Zebrafish are great animal models because 70% of their genes are the same as ours. They have a fast growth cycle - developing from egg to fish in just 12 hours - so we get the experiment results pretty quickly. The transparency of their body is also an asset for researchers,” she says.

Bowie has been studying how the combinations of different mutated genes affect patients of acute myeloid leukemia, one of the most fatal cancers. “I hope to learn more and eventually apply my knowledge to the study of other types of cancer,” she adds.

August 2019