Research Projects
Identification of molecular targets for herbal active compounds with special regard to the covalent conjugation

Programme(s) to which this project applies:

☑ MPhil/PhD ☒ MRes[Med] ☒ URIS

Herbal active compounds exhibit different pharmacological activities through covalent or non-covalent interactions with proteins. The therapeutic efficacy of herbal medicines is usually low due to less potent non-covalent interactions with specific proteins. By contrast, some active compounds exhibit better therapeutic efficacy for irreversible covalent interaction with specific proteins. The aim of the current project is to Identify molecular targets for herbal active compounds with special regard to the covalent conjugation. Our strategy is to introduce a biotin tag to the structure of herbal compounds by chemical biology approaches, pulldown the protein targets through affinity enrichment by magnetic streptavidin beads and identify the proteins by LC/MS/MS-based proteomics. We will further characterize the pharmacological activities of herbal compounds via covalent binding to specific proteins in animal models and cell culture systems.

Professor JH Rong, School of Chinese Medicine

Professor Jianhui Rong is currently an Associate Professor in molecular pharmacology on Chinese medicine at School of Chinese Medicine, University of Hong Kong. Professor Rong received his PhD in Medical Biochemistry from Uppsala University, Sweden, conducted postdoctoral research at University of Alberta, Canada and visiting scholar research at School of Medicine, Yale University, USA. Since 2005, he has served as Research Assistant Professor, Assistant Professor and Associate Professor at Li Ka Shing Faculty of Medicine and School of Chinese Medicine, University of Hong Kong. Professor Rong’s research focus on the research and development of drug candidates from Chinese medicines and the discovery of basic molecular mechanisms for the treatment of neurological diseases, myocardial infarction and obesity. Professor RONG mainly use modern transcriptomics, proteomics, cell signalling technology and biotin-labelling of small molecule probes to study the protein targets and biological activity of Chinese medicines. For example, Professor RONG has discovered specific Chinese medicine compounds for regulating heme oxygenase-1 (HO-1), leukotriene B4 12-hydroxy dehydrogenase (LTB4DH), arginase 2 (Arg2), and pyruvate kinase M2 (PKM2) and endoplasmic reticulum stress protein GRP78. He has chaired over or participated in more than 30 research grants from Hong Kong Research Grants Council, Hong Kong Health and Medical Research Fund, Hong Kong Science and Technology Innovation Fund, National Natural Science Foundation of China and the Seed Research Fund of the University of Hong Kong; obtained several international patents, US patents, Chinese patents; and published more than 70 SCI papers in internationally renowned journals such as Cell Chemical Biology, Chemical Science, Journal of Controlled Release, International Journal of Biological Sciences, Molecular Neurobiology, ACS Chemical Neuroscience, Journal of Nutritional Biochemistry, Molecular Immunology, Neuropharmacology and Biochemical Journal. Professor Rong also serves as the executive member or committee member for several academic organisations, and reviewer for several international academic journals.

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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.