HKU School of Public Health to Coordinate a Theme-based Research Grant worth $75.06m


*adapted from the contents published by Research Services Section of the University at

HKU researchers have achieved outstanding results in the 4th round of the Research Grants Council’s (RGC) Theme-based Research Scheme (TRS), which aims to focus academic research efforts on themes of strategic importance to the long-term development of Hong Kong.

A project coordinated by Professor JSM Peiris, School Director, Chair Professor and Tam Wah Ching Professorship in Medical Science and with team members from the School including Professor Guan Yi, Daniel CK Yu Professorship in Virology, Director of the Centre of Influenza Research and of the State Key Laboratory of Emerging Infectious Diseases, Dr Benjamin Cowling, Associate Professor and Head of the Division of Epidemiology and Biostatistics, Dr Leo Poon, Associate Professor and Head of the Division of Public Health Laboratory Sciences and other faculty members of the School on Viral, Host and Environmental Determinants of Influenza Virus Transmission and Pathogenesis has been awarded a grant of $75.06m in the said exercise.

A brief description of the project is as below:

  • Project Co-ordinator: Professor J.S.M. Peiris, School of Public Health; Approved funding: HK$75.06M
  • Influenza is a major threat to global public health. Pandemic influenza can spread worldwide within weeks. Being a travel-hub situated in a region of infectious disease emergence, Hong Kong is under particular threat. “Our project aims to identify the viral, host and environmental factors that determine the transmission of influenza viruses from animals-to-humans and from humans-to-humans. We will also investigate the pathogenesis of influenza and the immunological responses of humans to influenza infection,” Professor Peiris said. “Understanding these will help us develop evidence-based interventions to reduce transmission within the community and hospitals, provide better risk assessment of the human health threat from animal influenza viruses, and provide vaccine candidates as well as novel therapeutic strategies for the disease.”
  • The research team spans the animal-human-environmental interfaces and is composed of basic scientists in virology and molecular biology as well as community-based researchers, public health practitioners, clinicians, computational biologist and engineers. “The team, through a related Areas of Excellence project previously funded by the government, has contributed to public health locally and globally and has been recognised by international agencies such as the World Health Organisation and Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations,” Professor Peiris explained. “We now build upon that success to deal with these big research questions of today that require a multi-disciplinary approach.”
  • “The Theme-based Research Scheme is the only local source of research funding for such large-scale multi-disciplinary projects,” Professor Peiris said. “We look forward to using the award to address these grand challenges of relevance to both local and global public health and to strengthen Hong Kong’s position in the knowledge-based economy of the 21st century.”

For further details about the TRS projects coordinated by HKU, please refer to