Research Achievements

With a strong research base, the Faculty has made tremendous contributions to the study and treatment of various diseases. The high quality of work that our researchers produce and publish has resulted in 48 of them being listed among the top 1% of scientists in their fields, according to the ISI's Essential Science Indicators. The Faculty has 279 highly cited papers which are among the top 1% in the world according to ISI's Essential Science Indicators.

Highlights of Research Achievements

Below are some highlights of our research achievements:


  • Conducted leading research on adipokines and adipose-derived hormones, and developed new drugs for the treatment of obesity and diabetes mellitus.
  • Leading research on adipokines and adipose-derived hormones.
  • Research on metabolic diseases: identification of novel biomarkers for risk prediction and drug development in prevention and management of diabetes mellitus, obesity, cardiovascular diseases and thyrotoxic periodic paralysis.
  • Pioneered cell-based therapy in the treatment of human heart diseases.
  • Homoharringtonine (omacetaxine mepesuccinate) as an adjunct for FLT3-ITD acute myeloid leukaemia.


  • Developed an oral arsenic preparation to treat leukaemia, the first patented prescription drug developed entirely in Hong Kong
  • Identified and characterised cancer stem cells responsible for metastasis in colorectal cancer, and the development of liver cancer
  • Discovered a new mechanism causing Lynch Syndrome that has become a diagnostic test adopted worldwide
  • Hepatitis B virus infection and hepatocellular carcinoma: from diagnosis and treatment of chronic carrier status, mechanisms of hepatocellular carcinogenesis, to development of novel treatment modalities including live-donor liver transplantation
  • Comprehensive genomic study of gastric and liver cancers

Development and Growth

  • Critical insights into the disease mechanisms of premature ageing, deafness, and digit development, through functional genomics and genetics
  • Generation of a mouse model for Brachydactyly type A1 by the TCF providing new insights into the development and formation of joints
  • Genetic and sequence analyses in the identification of a novel risk factor linked to degeneration of the spine and back pain
  • RNF43 germline and somatic mutation in serrated neoplasia pathway and its association with BRAF mutation

Infection and Immunology

  • Discovered the SARS coronavirus in 2003; pivotal in the fight against SARS.
  • Influenza and other emerging viruses: from pathogen evolution, mode of transmission, clinical presentation, to drug development and prevention through national and global policy formulation and evaluation.
  • Discovered the H5N1 virus (avian influenza) outbreak in migratory birds, through the Joint Influenza Research Centre of Shantou University and HKU.
  • Discovered the source of human inflection and virus genesis of the H7N9 influenza, and confirmed that the closure of live poultry markets was effective in the control of human risk of H7N9 virus infection.
  • Fractional dosing of yellow fever vaccine to extend supply.
  • Co-circulation of three camel coronavirus species and recombination of MERS-CoVs in Saudi Arabia.

Public Health

  • Extensive cohort studies using a theoretical perspective and cutting edge methods to explicate etiology and evaluate contextually specific prevention strategies
  • Defined the risk and predictors of relapse in patients with early psychosis in remission; ensuring favourable clinical outcome
  • Quantifying influenza virus diversity and transmission in humans

Research Assessment Exercise 2014

The Faculty has been adjudicated by the panel of Research Assessment Exercise (RAE) to have the highest relative percentage as well as the highest absolute number of world leading (4*) and internationally excellent (3*) research outputs, external peer-reviewed grants and esteem measures under the Health Sciences Panel in RAE conducted by the Hong Kong Research Grants Council in 2014.

State Key Laboratories

The Faculty currently has four State Key Laboratories (SKLs) recognised by the Ministry of Science and Technology, which are partnered with and work closely alongside SKLs in Mainland China

WHO H5 Reference Laboratory

The Centre of Influenza Research at HKU is one of 12 laboratories worldwide designated as a WHO H5 reference laboratory. Its mandate is to provide international reference laboratory services and training on H5 and other animal influenza viruses with zoonotic potential, to provide WHO with data and risk assessment relevant to such zoonotic threats and advice on selection of relevant viruses for pre-pandemic vaccine development.

WHO Collaborating Centre for Infectious Disease Epidemiology and Control

The School of Public Health has been designated as a WHO Collaborating Centre for Infectious Disease Epidemiology and Control. The designation of HKU School of Public Health as a WHO CC is the first of such kind at the University.