Dr. Shuofeng Yuan from the Department of Microbiology wins the HKU Young Innovator Award
The HKU Young Innovator Award is a university-level award established to recognise young faculty members whose innovations demonstrate exceptionally high potential impact (legacy or projected legacy) with transformative results to foster development. Dr Shuofeng Yuan of the Department of Microbiology received the HKU Young Innovator Award.
Infectious diseases account for ~20% of global mortality, and viruses are responsible for about one-third of these deaths. In the past decades, emerging and re-emerging viruses such as coronaviruses, influenza A viruses, and Zika virus have posed significant global public health threat. By focusing on small-molecule drugs that can be delivered orally and are cheaper and easier for patients to access, Dr. Yuan’s efforts aim to help ensure the world is prepared to quickly develop and equitably deploy effective, accessible antiviral treatments when a pandemic threat emerges. Dr. Yuan’s pioneering work has derived new targets, new strategies, and novel lead compounds for antiviral therapy against SARS-CoV-2 and other infectious diseases. The in-silico and in-vitro high-throughput drug discovery platforms using high-performance computers and automatic screening robotics is a highly cost-effective approach. Together with the application of cutting-edge technologies such as RNAi and multi-omics analyses, Dr. Yuan and his team identified novel pathogenic mechanisms and therapeutic targets of COVID-19, including viral helicase and proteases, as well as host sterol regulatory element-binding proteins (SREBP) and diacylglycerol acyltransferase (DGAT). Concepts established in these projects are harnessed to design and develop new strategies, methods and leads for early and rapid diagnosis, immunization with live attenuated and synthetic vaccines, as well as therapeutic treatment targeting either SARS-CoV-2 or the host.