Prestigious Award for CUHK ScholarProfessor Dennis Lo Bestowed the Cheung Kong Achievement Award
Professor Dennis Lo Yuk-ming, Li Ka Shing Professor of Medicine and Professor of Chemical Pathology of The Chinese University of Hong Kong was bestowed the 2006 Cheung Kong Achievement Award today. The presentation ceremony took place at the Great Hall of the People. Ms Chen Zhili, State Councilor, attended the ceremony and presented the awards.
Professor Lo, who is also Associate Dean (Research) and Director of Li Ka Shing Institute of Health Sciences of the Faculty of Medicine, was the only recipient from Hong Kong.
The Cheung Kong Scholars Programme was jointly established in 1998 by the Ministry of Education and the Li Ka Shing Foundation to enhance the competitiveness of China’s higher education sector, groom outstanding talents and promote the country’s development. Beginning in 2005, the award has expanded beyond Mainland China to include tertiary institutions in Hong Kong and Macau, as well as research institutions under the Chinese Academy of Sciences. The Cheung Kong Achievement Award honours outstanding Chinese scientists under the age of 50 who have a high standard of scientific ethnics and have attained important breakthrough or internationally recognized achievement in natural sciences. This year, Academician Zhang Ya-ping from Kunming Institute of Zoology of The Chinese Academy of Sciences and Professor Zhai Wan-ming from the Southwest Jiatong University, were awarded the first prize; Professor Lo and Professor Fang Jing-yun from Beijing University, were each bestowed the second prize.
Professor Dennis Lo is a leading authority of international renown in the new research area involving the study of DNA and RNA molecules which exist outside of cells, in the blood plasma of human subjects. Professor Lo has done pioneering and highly original work in this area. Over the past 10 years, he has discovered the presence of cell-free fetal DNA and RNA in the plasma of a pregnant woman. With this, Professor Lo has opened up new possibilities for the non-invasive and safe prenatal detection and monitoring of pregnancy-associated disorders, including pregnancy-associated high blood pressure (preeclampsia) and fetal Down syndrome.
Apart from circulating fetal DNA and RNA, Professor Lo has studied other types of plasma nucleic acids, including those which are derived from a cancer. Over the past 5 years, Professor Lo and his colleagues have shown that plasma DNA is a powerful prognostic marker for survival following radiation therapy for nasopharyngeal cancer (NPC). This discovery is of particular significance as NPC is a common cancer in southern China. Using such a prognostic marker, it is envisioned that patients at particular high risk of recurrence after treatment could be identified early, and additional salvage treatment might be given. With data from future clinical trials, it is hoped that this development would ultimately reduce the mortality of NPC.