Research Projects
Risk Assessment of Influenza Virus and Coronavirus Using Experimental Models Derived from Human Respiratory Tract


Programme(s) to which this project applies:

☒ MPhil/PhD ☑ MRes[Med] ☒ URIS
About the Project

Objective and Significance:

Influenza A viruses cause annual human seasonal epidemics and pandemics at unpredictable intervals. While the 2009 H1N1 pandemic was relatively mild, previous pandemics in 1957 and 1968 caused substantial morbidity and mortality and the pandemic of 1918 was associated with 40-50 million deaths worldwide. Influenza pandemics arise from influenza viruses of animals and spread globally within weeks or months. In addition, the recent COVID-19 pandemic, alarm the importance of novel coronavirus that may cause global public health risk. Vaccine development for novel emerging infectious viruses, in particularly for the recent COVID-19pandemic, initiated after pandemic emergence will not be in time to prevent or mitigate the first pandemic wave. Thus there is an urgent need to be able to better risk-assess animal viruses of both influenza and coronavirus for pandemic threat so that candidate vaccine strains can be developed in advance.

This project aims at investigating the tropism and viral replication competence of influenza A virus and coronavirus isolated from surveillance program in Hong Kong from avian and swine species. In addition, the innate immune responses and pathogenesis of influenza A virus and coronavirus will be monitored using physiological-relevant in vitro models of human respiratory epithelial cells in the laboratory.

Research Plan and Methodology:

Various subtypes of influenza A virus isolated from surveillance program in Hong Kong will be propagated to generate the virus stocks for the project. Coronavirus virus of various disease severity, e.g., OC43, 229E, SARs-CoV-1 and SARS-CoV-2 will be included. The tropism and viral replication competence of influenza A virus and coronavirus will be assessed using human airway organoids and human respiratory explants. The innate immune responses and pathogenesis of influenza A virus and coronavirus will be monitored using in vitro cultures of human alveolar epithelial and human macrophagees. This project involves a variety of virology protein chemistry and molecular techniques from culturing virus, infection of various models to measurement of viral replication competence and innate immune responses.

About the Supervisor

Dr MCW Chan, School of Public Health

Biography
mchan@hku.hk

Next Step?

For more information or to express interest for this project, please email the supervisor or the specified contact point in the project 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).

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 rpgmed@hku.hk.

HKUMed MBBS students interested in the Master of Research in Medicine (MRes[Med]) programme may visit the programme website for more information.  

HKUMed UG students interested in the Undergraduate Research Internship Scheme (URIS) may visit the scheme’s website for more information.