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?
  • How to treat or prevent pathogens?
Department of Microbiology
Research Areas

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

  • Discovery and genomic characterisation of novel and emerging pathogens and pathogenic forms, including coronaviruses, influenza viruses and other novel viruses and bacteria
  • To gain new insights in microbial genomics, and potential diagnostic, therapeutic and vaccine targets through a range of molecular techniques, immunological techniques, animal models, and bioinformatics tools
  • Identification and characterisation of viral host adaptation markers and host restriction mechanisms for cross-species transmission of emerging viruses
  • Investigation on defects in immune system predisposing to unusual infectious disease presentations, including unbalanced immune responses, autoantibodies against cytokines, genetic susceptibility, and effect of therapeutic agents
  • Studies on the regional significance of emerging pathogens
Supervisor(s)

Professor KY Yuen

Professor ZW Chen

Dr KKW To

Dr JFW Chan

Dr S Sridhar

Dr X Li

  

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
  • Investigation of AMR in Streptococcus pneumoniae, enterococci, Staphylococcus aureus, Gram negative, non-fermentors, and Enterobacerales
  • Establishing rapid methods for diagnosis of emerging resistance mechanisms
  • Evaluation of new antibiotics
  • Studies on the clinical relevance of AMR
  • Discovery and development of novel antibiotics
  • Tackling AMR with alternative strategies, including anti-virulence, antibiotics sensitizer, bacterial phage, etc.
  • Study of antiviral resistance
Supervisor(s)

Dr PL Ho

Dr RYT Kao

Dr HJ Zhao

Dr P Gao

  

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

  • Development of novel vaccine systems for emerging respiratory viral pathogens including influenza viruses and coronaviruses
  • Synthetic defective interfering virus and its potential uses as intradermal vaccine
  • Development of broad-spectrum antivirals against emerging viruses including coronaviruses, influenza A viruses, and enteroviruses
  • Development of host-targeting antivirals with a focus on metabolic/lipidomic reprogramming
  • Development of virus-targeting antivirals targeting viral protease and polymerase
  • Studies on viral defective interfering genes against emerging respiratory viruses
  • Studies on broad-spectrum antiviral peptides targeting virus and host to inhibit viral entry or release
  • Investigation on the mechanism and potential therapeutics for viral-bacterial co-infection
  • Development of computational and experimental methods for efficient drug screening and design
  • Exploring the novel host factors essential for virus infection and host target for antiviral therapy in organoids
Supervisor(s)

Professor HL Chen

Professor ZW Chen

Dr KKW To

Dr RYT Kao

Dr RKH Kok

Dr JFW Chan

Dr SF Yuan

Dr H Chu

Dr HJ Zhao

Dr P Gao

Dr C Li

  

4. Novel Antiviral and Vaccination Strategies against Influenza Viruses

  • Cloning of antigen-specific antibodies to define their function in modulating viral pathogenesis
  • 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
  • Pathogenesis of emerging viruses including coronaviruses, influenza viruses, flaviviruses, and enteroviruses
  • Studying viral pathogenesis in organoids using genetic (CRISPR) and proteomics approaches
  • Identification of chemical and genetic mechanisms of interaction between species of bacteria, which are the foundation of the bacterial communities that shape the environment and human health
  • Immunopathology of coronavirus infection
  • Molecular mechanism of innate immunity
Supervisor(s)

Professor ZW Chen

Professor HL Chen

Dr RYT Kao

Dr RKH Kok

Dr PML Yeung

Dr JJ Zhou

Dr SF Yuan

Dr H Chu

Dr L Liu

Dr P Gao

Dr C Li

  

5. Molecular Studies on Emerging Pathogens Including Coronaviruses and Influenza Viruses, and Epstein-Barr virus

  • Molecular mechanism of innate immunity
  • Molecular virology of MERS-CoV and SARS-CoV-2
  • Host factors involved in the entry and replication of highly pathogenic coronaviruses
  • Organoid-based investigation of virus-host interaction
  • Role of long coding RNA (lnc-RNA) of Epstein-Barr virus in oncogenesis of EBV associated tumours
Supervisor(s)

Professor HL Chen

Dr RKH Kok

Dr PML Yeung

Dr JJ Zhou

Dr H Chu

  

6. HIV/AIDS Mucosal Vaccine, Pathogenesis, and Functional Cure

  • 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 PD1-based vaccination and oncolytic virus
  • HIV immune evasion by suppressing host B cell and T cell response
  • Vaccine design and innate immune response in shaping potent T cell immunity
  • RLR/TLR adjuvant for PD1-based vaccine
Supervisor(s)

Professor ZW Chen

Dr RKH Kok

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
khkok@hku.hk

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.

Our Students

WANG Yixin

Place of Origin: China
Progress: PhD Year 3
Supervisor: Dr H Chu

在新冠病毒的研究中,王怡心作為港大微生物學系研究團隊的一員,真切感受到醫學研究的意義。在她負責的研究項目中發現,新冠病毒在人體肺部的複製能力是非典病毒的3.2倍,但新冠肺炎患者的發炎癥狀及免疫系統反應更為緩慢。王怡心感受到發現的樂趣,她表示以前認為基礎研究離生活很遠,也很少主動與家人分享,如今切身體會到科研的價值,以及自己為社會做出的貢獻。

王怡心表示,70%的實驗都會以失敗告終,每天遇到的問題也不盡相同。但這並不影響她的科研之心,她享受每次發現問題帶來的新鮮感。她認為所有解決不了的難題,源自於思維的局限性,總能有方法繞着走過去,尋找問題的突破口。她不斷查閱文獻,與老師以及身邊的同學積極溝通、分享困惑,在查閱和交談之中發現新的靈感,幫助自己從困境尋找新的方向。

November 2020