Research Projects
Mechanism of immune control against COVID-19

Programme(s) to which this project applies:

☑ MPhil/PhD ☒ MRes[Med] ☒ URIS

The Coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic was suspected to be zoonotic and originated from a novel beta-coronavirus (CoV) that has now been officially named as SARS-CoV-2. The rapid dissemination of SARS-CoV-2 was related to highly efficient person-to-person transmission in both hospital and community settings. SARS-CoV-2 has been globally spread by travellers, and often by contacts with asymptomatic carriers. It remains unclear why host immune responses are insufficient in controlling early pathogenesis and transmission of COVID-19. It is, therefore, crucial to dissect the immune mechanisms of SARS-CoV-2 pathogenesis to promote the control of the pandemic and the development of an effective vaccine against COVID-19. Several elegant studies demonstrated that SARS-CoV-2 and SARS-CoV use the same cellular entry receptor angiotensin-converting enzyme 2 (ACE2) to initiate infection, despite that only 40% of amino acid are identical in the receptor binding domain (RBD) external subdomain. Since some coronaviruses also use ACE2 as the cellular receptor but they have not caused any major outbreaks, it is suspected that other host factors may contribute to the highly efficient zoonotic and person-to-person transmission besides ACE2. Currently, the mechanism underlying early immunopathogenesis of COVID-19 remains unclear and is yet to be fully determined.


To define the role of host immune responses in acute SARSCoV-2 pathogenesis.

Research Plan and Methodology:

-To determine mechanism underlying rapid dysfunction of dendritic cells (DC)
-To determine the role of anti-spike IgG/MAb-mediated acute lung injury
-To determine T cell responses essential for cell-mediated immune protection

Prof ZW Chen, Department of Microbiology

Professor Zhiwei Chen, Department of Microbiology/ AIDS Institute

HKU Scholars Hub

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

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.