3 December 2017

CUHK Vice-Chancellor and President Prof. Joseph Sung Receives the Prestigious International Herbert Falk Award



Prof. Joseph Sung, Vice-Chancellor and President of The Chinese University of Hong Kong (CUHK), has been honoured with the international Herbert Falk Award 2017, in recognition of his excellent achievement in the field of gastroenterology.  The prestigious award was presented at the Falk Foundation e.V. Symposium 209 in Berlin, Germany in October 2017.  

Prof. Sung said, “I feel very honoured to be selected for the Award.  The goal of the research is to find out why there is a continuously increasing number of chronic inflammatory bowel diseases (IBD) cases, particularly in Asia.  As a gastroenterologist, I hope this research can eventually help in improving the health conditions of mankind globally by giving us clues to where to dig out the risk factors leading to IBD and eventually to what kind of preventive measures or primary care interventions we should take.”

Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis are the two main subtypes of IBD which could lead to inflammation and ulceration of the gut.  Prof. Sung leads a research team examining the role the microbiome plays in both Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis.  As Prof. Sung indicated during his presentation in the Symposium, the occurrence and prevalence of IBDs are continuing to increase in Asia. This may be due to the fact that more and more people in Asian countries are having western lifestyles as this increase in IBDs is more prominent in the cities, with much fewer diagnosed cases in rural areas. The research team believes that a change in the microbiome has been triggered by the change in lifestyle making it responsible for the increasing amount of IBD cases.  The ‘rural microbiome’ may play a protective role. There has been a remarkable increase in the consumption of fast food and ready-made meals, primarily in the cities.  These food contains high levels of fat and sugar and would appear to foster the development of IBDs.

The role of the microbiome as a field of research

The research team led by Prof. Sung is currently investigating the following topics: how significant is bacterial colonization in the intestine during early childhood, which factors are specifically responsible for changing the microbiome, how do these factors affect the development of IBD and how can the microbiome itself trigger the occurrence of a metabolic syndrome. The researchers are also examining the question of how certain diets may induce microbial selection and whether it would be of any significance if microbiomes were to interact with viruses, fungi or even intestinal worms.

Prof. Sung is a renowned researcher in gastroenterology and hepatology. He led a group of experts from 15 Asia-Pacific countries to launch colorectal cancer screening research in 2004, and has laid down clear guidelines and promoted colorectal screenings in the region. For his work in cancer screening and prevention, Prof. Sung was honoured by the Prevent Cancer Foundation of the United States with the Laurel Award in 2008. In 2009, his seminal lectures on peptic ulcer bleeding won him the Marshall and Warren Lecture Award. In the same year, he was also awarded the Endoscopy Award of the German Society of Gastroenterology. In 2013, he received the Master of the World Gastroenterology Organization Award from the World Gastroenterology Organization (WGO) & WGO Foundation.

The international Herbert Falk Award

The international Herbert Falk Award was created by the Falk Foundation e.V. Freiburg in memory of Dr. Herbert Falk and is intended for candidates who have made outstanding contributions in diagnosis, treatment and prevention in the field of gastroenterology. Previous prize winners were Prof. Dr. Paul Rutgeerts from Belgium (2010) and Prof. Dr. Claudio Fiocchi from the USA (2013).

Herbert Falk (1924 – 2008) was born in Müllheim. The Falk Foundation e.V. training concept devised and implemented by Herbert Falk continues to be one of a kind even today. There have been 209 international scientific symposia on the topics of gastroenterology and hepatology and the Foundation holds numerous annual workshops, seminars and regional advanced training events.

(From left) Prof. Jürgen Schölmerich, co-ordinator of the prize-giving committee, Prof. Joseph Sung and Dr. Roland Greinwald from the Falk Foundation
(From left) Prof. Jürgen Schölmerich, co-ordinator of the prize-giving committee, Prof. Joseph Sung and Dr. Roland Greinwald from the Falk Foundation

Prof. Sung makes a presentation in the Falk Foundation e.V. Symposium 209 in Berlin, Germany
Prof. Sung makes a presentation in the Falk Foundation e.V. Symposium 209 in Berlin, Germany