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Areas of Excellence Scheme - 4th Round

Fourth Round Exercise

  • Centre for Research into Circulating Fetal Nucleic Acids
    • Total Funding Approved : HK$31.28M (1st Phase : HK$11.28M (2008-2011) + 2nd Phase : HK$20M (2012-2015))
    • Indicative Project Time-Frame : 2008 - 2015
    • Co-ordinating Institution : The Chinese University of Hong Kong (Prof Dennis Lo)

    Prenatal diagnosis is an indispensable component of health care. Definitive diagnostic methods in current use, e.g. amniocentesis, are invasive and pose a risk to the unborn child. In 1997, the project coordinator and his research team discovered, for the first time in the world, the presence of cell-free fetal DNA in the plasma of pregnant women, offering new possibilities for non-invasive prenatal diagnosis. The project team has further pioneered many diagnostic applications, a number of which are now used clinically by many centres globally. To maintain Hong Kong at the forefront in non-invasive prenatal diagnostic research, a Centre consisting of a multidisciplinary conglomerate of local and international researchers is formed under this Area of Excellence project, coordinated by The Chinese University of Hong Kong. The Centre will address a number of high-profile unsolved questions in the field of circulating fetal nucleic acids, including non-invasive molecular methods for the diagnosis of fetal Down syndrome. Our ultimate goal is to make safe prenatal diagnosis available to citizens around the world and to promote the development of expertise in molecular diagnostics in this region.


  • Control of Pandemic and Inter-Pandemic Influenza
    • Total Funding Approved : HK$76M (1st Phase : HK$40M (2008-2011) + 2nd Phase : HK$36M (2012-2015))
    • Indicative Project Time-Frame : 2008 - 2015
    • Co-ordinating Institution : The University of Hong Kong (Prof JSM Peiris)

    Influenza pandemics are unique in spreading world-wide to affect over one-third of the global population within months of their emergence. If, for example, the H5N1 "bird-flu" virus acquires capacity for efficient transmission in humans, it could give rise to devastating consequences for human health. Furthermore, in today's globalised world, such an event will have unprecedented economic and social consequences. In addition to influenza pandemics which arise from animals and occur at irregular intervals, "human" influenza viruses cause outbreaks every year contributing to over 1000 deaths, many more hospital admissions and significant economic loss through absenteeism within Hong Kong. However, many key questions about the emergence and spread of these viruses and how they cause disease remain unanswered. This AoE program brings together researchers at The University of Hong Kong, The Chinese University of Hong Kong, The Hong Kong University of Science and Technology and Hong Kong Baptist University working in close partnership with relevant Hong Kong government organizations, with the aim of identifying novel options to control influenza. Furthermore, through knowledge transfer, the development of trained scientists and generation of intellectual property, this AoE will contribute to Hong Kong's development as a regional hub for bio-medical education, research and biotechnology.