29 July 2015

CUHK Professor Dennis Lo as the First Chinese Honoured with AACC Wallace H. Coulter Lectureship Award

Prof. Dennis Y.M. Lo, Director of the Li Ka Shing Institute of Health Sciences, Li Ka Shing Professor of Medicine and Professor of Chemical Pathology of The Chinese University of Hong Kong (CUHK), has been honoured with the 2015 Wallace H. Coulter Lectureship Award. This most prestigious award, presented by the American Association for Clinical Chemistry (AACC), is for Professor Lo’s pioneering and revolutionary work in the use of plasma DNA for developing a new generation of molecular diagnostics. In particular, Professor Lo has been internationally recognized for his contributions to the development of non-invasive prenatal diagnostic testing. As the first ever Chinese awardee, he was recognized during the 2015 AACC Annual Meeting and Clinical Lab Expo held in Atlanta in July. In addition, a research project on circulating fetal nucleic acids led by Professor Lo has recently been granted a HK$48 million funding from the Research Grants Council (RGC) under the Theme-based Research Scheme. The amount of funding is the highest among all funded projects in the fifth round of the scheme. 

Professor Lo remarked, ‘I feel most honoured in being selected for this prestigious award. I would strive to work to further push forward the field, and to create new tests that are more accurate and robust for serving the needs of patients.’ 

Professor Lo joined CUHK in 1997. In the same year, he discovered the presence of cell-free fetal DNA in maternal plasma. He and his colleagues are instrumental in making non-invasive DNA-based prenatal testing a clinical reality. His team has developed a Down syndrome test that has been adopted in over 60 countries and has been used by over a million pregnant women. With the use of massively parallel sequencing and the development of novel bioinformatics strategies, Professor Lo’s group succeeded in deciphering a genome-wide genetic map of the fetus through the analysis of traces of fragmented DNA floating in the blood of pregnant women. This scientific achievement lays the foundation for developing non-invasive prenatal diagnostic tests for multiple genetic diseases. 

In his project titled ‘Centre for Research into Circulating Fetal Nucleic Acids’ recently funded by the RGC, Professor Lo will lead a multidisciplinary team of pathologists, laboratory scientists, obstetricians, bioinformaticians and public health specialists to solve the key unmet diagnostic needs in prenatal medicine. Specifically, he plans to develop the next generation tools for the analysis of cell-free nucleic acids and to study the biology and pathological characteristics of cell-free fetal nucleic acids that have not been unravelled to date. The novel tools and new biological insights will be directed towards the overall goal of developing approaches for the assessment of pregnancy-associated pathologies, such as single gene diseases, fetal demise and preeclampsia.           

In recognition of his work, Professor Lo has been the recipient of numerous awards, including the 2005 State Natural Science Award from the State Council of China, the 2006 International Federation of Clinical Chemistry and Laboratory Medicine (IFCC) – Abbott Award for Outstanding Contribution to Molecular Diagnostics, the 2006 US National Academy of Clinical Biochemistry Distinguished Scientist Award, the 2006 Croucher Senior Medical Research Fellowship, the 2007 AACC Sigi Ziering Award, the 2012 AACC-NACB Award for Outstanding Contributions To Clinical Chemistry in a Selected Area of Research, Fulbright Distinguished Scholar 2009 and the 2014 King Faisal International Prize for Medicine. He was elected as a Fellow of the Royal Society in 2011 and as a Foreign Associate of the US National Academy of Sciences in 2013. 

About the Wallace H. Coulter Lectureship Award 

The Wallace H. Coulter Lectureship Award recognizes an outstanding individual who has demonstrated a lifetime commitment to, and made important contributions that have had a significant impact on education, practice and/or research in laboratory medicine or patient care. It is named after Mr. Wallace H. Coulter, an engineer, inventor, and entrepreneur who applied engineering principles to solve biomedical problems. So far there are only eight awardees in the world, and Prof. Dennis Lo is the only Chinese scholar receiving this honour.

Prof. Dennis Lo is the only Chinese scholar receiving the Wallace H. Coulter Lectureship Award.
Prof. Dennis Lo is the only Chinese scholar receiving the Wallace H. Coulter Lectureship Award.

Professor Lo gives a lecture during the 2015 AACC Annual Meeting and Clinical Lab Expo held in Atlanta.
Professor Lo gives a lecture during the 2015 AACC Annual Meeting and Clinical Lab Expo held in Atlanta.

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