News and Events
Back to News Index


Prof. Rosie YOUNG (front row) poses for a group photo with Prof. Rossa Chiu (the fifth left, back row); Prof. Joseph SUNG (the fifth right, back row), Vice-Chancellor and President of CUHK; Prof. Jun YU (the forth right, back row); and Prof. Dennis LO (the third right, back row), Director of the Li Ka Shing Institute of Health Sciences.

Principal Investigators of the Institute Receive Croucher Senior Research Fellowship and Senior Medical Research Fellowship Awards 2016

Two top research academics from the Li Ka Shing Institute of Health Sciences, were presented with the prestigious Senior Research Fellowship and Senior Medical Research Fellowship Awards 2016 of The Croucher Foundation on 13 April, for their excellent scientific research achievements.  Prof. Rossa Chiu, Choh Ming-Li Professor of Chemical Pathology and Assistant Dean (Research) at the Faculty of Medicine; and Prof. Jun Yu, Professor of the Department of Medicine and Therapeutics, Director of the Research Laboratory of Institute of Digestive Disease, and Associate Director of the State Key Laboratory of Digestive Disease; were awarded a Croucher Senior Medical Research Fellowship and a Croucher Senior Research Fellowship respectively.  

Blood Test that Detects Cancer’s Location 

Prof. Rossa Chiu is known for her contributions in the successful development of non-invasive prenatal testing for Down syndrome and other fetal diseases by maternal blood analysis. The clinical use of non-invasive prenatal testing for Down syndrome has since been implemented worldwide, reducing the chance of fetal miscarriage associated with conventional invasive prenatal diagnostic procedures, such as by amniocentesis. 

Recently, Professor Chiu and her research team have achieved another breakthrough in blood based cancer detection. The latest approach, termed plasma DNA tissue mapping, is akin to performing a computerized tomography (CT) scan using blood samples.  The new technology is not only able to detect abnormal DNA associated with cancer, it also locates which organ the abnormal DNA is coming from.  For instance, it is able to identify that more abnormal DNA is coming from the liver in patients with liver cancer or, in expectant mothers, that a proportion of plasma DNA is coming from the placenta. 

Since every cancer is very different, it is difficult to find a single marker targeting a specific type of cancer.  Previously, when cancer symptoms were observed, after doing a blood test, the medical personnel would still have to do a radiological imaging examination to see if there were shadows in any parts of the body. Now, the latest blood test developed by Professor Chiu and her research team can map out normal and abnormal distribution of DNA and their locations. The ultimate goal of this research is to enable early cancer detection and treatment. 

Professor Chiu has received a number of awards including the ‘14th World Outstanding Chinese Award’ (2015), ‘Science and Technology Award for Chinese Youth’ (2013), ‘Outstanding Scientific Achievements by a Young Investigator’ of the American Association of Clinical Chemistry (2013), and ‘APEC Science Prize for Innovation, Research and Education’ (2012). Further to her research achievements, Professor Chiu also excels in teaching. She won the annual Teaching Award from the Faculty of Medicine for five consecutive years from 1999 and was awarded the title of Master Teacher by the Faculty of Medicine at CUHK in 2005.  As of today, Professor Chiu has published more than 140 peer-reviewed research articles and holds 150 patents or patent applications. 

Pathogenetic Mechanisms of NAFLD 

In the past 10 years, the prevalence of non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) has grown dramatically by between two to four times.  NAFLD has a high prevalence of over 27% of the population in Hong Kong.  According to clinical research, before a healthy liver turns into a liver cancer, it will progressively change into steatosis, non-alcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH) and fibrosis. 23% of patients with steatosis would have NASH or fibrosis within three years. Recently, Prof. Jun Yu and her research team have demonstrated some major discoveries in the pathogenetic mechanisms of NAFLD, which will comprehensively depict the molecular landscape of NAFLD by using unbiased systems biology approaches, thereby finding out the preventative and curative treatments. 

Professor Yu joined the Department of Medicine and Therapeutics, CUHK in 2005.  She was a post-doctoral fellow under Prof. Joseph Sung.  Gastrointestinal cancers (stomach, colon, liver) constitute about 40% of all malignancies diagnosed in China and are the top killer in Hong Kong.  Over the years, she has made new findings in the areas of gastrointestinal cancers in relation to the genomic and epigenomic molecular mechanisms, cancer biomarkers, cancer therapy, fatty liver disease and liver cancer.  She has discovered over 10 new genes that suppress stomach cancer, and revealing for the first time the genomic and epigenomic alterations in EBV-associated stomach cancer by integrated genome sequencing.  All these discoveries are crucial to understanding the pathogenetic mechanisms of stomach cancer.  In recent years, the prevalence of colon cancer has increased greatly in Hong Kong.  Professor Yu has discovered genes that facilitate and suppress colon cancer; discovered driver mutations for the implementation of personalized cancer therapy, the biclonal origin of colon cancer and survival associated mutation signature in colon cancer; pioneered the non-invasive diagnostic biomarkers for colon cancer. These findings open up a new class of molecular mechanisms and diagnosis for colon cancer pathogenesis. 

Professor Yu’s contributions to the advancement of medical sciences have been recognized with many prestigious awards such as the Research Excellence Award CUHK (2010); First-class of the Ministry of Education (MOE) Higher Education Outstanding Scientific Research Output Awards (Natural science) (2010); First-class of MOE Higher Education Outstanding Scientific Research Output Awards (Scientific and Technological Progress Award) (2012); National Award for Science and Technology Progress 2012 (2012); First-class of MOE Higher Education Outstanding Scientific Research Output Awards (Natural science) (2014), and Outstanding Fellow of the  Faculty of Medicine, CUHK (2015). Professor Yu has published over 280 publications in international peer-reviewed journals. 

The Croucher Senior Research Fellowships/ Croucher Senior Medical Research Fellowships 

The Croucher Senior Research Fellowships scheme was first introduced in 1997. The value of the awards are about HKD900,000 for the Senior Research Fellowship and HKD1,000,000 for the Senior Medical Research Fellowship, each includes a personal grant of HKD60,000 to the recipient for research expenses. It is awarded to local academics who have excelled in scientific research work as judged by leading international scientists invited to provide confidential reviews of candidates nominated in a competitive exercise. Funds are awarded to the universities of the fellowship recipients, enabling the university to recruit replacement teachers to take over the award winner’s duties for the period of the fellowship. This enables the awardees to devote more time and effort to research work. 

A total of 10 scholars from the Faculty of Medicine have been awarded the Croucher Senior Research Fellowships since its inception, including Prof. CHAN Hsiao-chang and Prof. HUANG Yu of Biomedical Sciences, and Prof. YU Jun of Medicine and Therapeutics. Among them, seven scholars have been awarded the Croucher Senior Medical Research Fellowship. They are: Prof. Joseph SUNG Jao-yiu, Vice-Chancellor, Prof. Jean WOO, Prof. Francis CHAN Ka-leung, Prof. Henry CHAN Lik-yuen and Prof. Lawrence WONG Ka-sing of Medicine and Therapeutics, Prof. Dennis LO Yuk-ming and Prof. Rossa CHIU of Chemical Pathology, as well as Prof. James LAU Yun-wong of Surgery.

[Original source: Press Release on 13 April 2016, CUHK Communication and Public Relations Office Website]

Back to News Index