HKU opens national laboratories

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 05 October, 2005, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 05 October, 2005, 12:00am

Better cross-border co-operation on infectious disease outbreaks is expected thanks to the opening of mainland-authorised laboratories at the University of Hong Kong.

Zhong Nanshan, of the Guangzhou Institute for Respiratory Diseases and president of the Chinese Medical Association, said the designation as a key national laboratories would make HKU a member of a laboratory network.

Dr Zhong made the remarks at the official opening yesterday of the laboratory of emerging infectious diseases at HKU.

The laboratory will be linked to those in Beijing, Shanghai, Wuhan and Guangzhou.

'Once an outbreak of an unknown virus happens, I am sure Hong Kong will get a share of the samples so we can try to find out as soon as possible what it is and how to prevent it,' Dr Zhong said.

Minister of Science and Technology Xu Guanhua yesterday opened the infectious diseases laboratory and also the key laboratory on brain and cognitive sciences - the only key national laboratories outside the mainland.

Dr Zhong said HKU was chosen based on the discoveries it made during the Sars epidemic. In 2003, the university's team of microbiologists discovered a type of coronavirus had caused Sars, which killed 299 people in Hong Kong.

'The university discovered the [Sars] coronavirus and the other was the discovery of the connection between the coronavirus and civet cats that led the [central] government to launch very strict controls on wildlife markets,' Dr Zhong said.

In January last year, three people were diagnosed with Sars in Guangdong, prompting provincial authorities to cull 10,000 cats.

Guan Yi, associate professor in microbiology, said the laboratory would allow collaboration in the international community. Siok Wai-ting, assistant research professor of the HKU's department of linguistics, said the brain and cognitive sciences laboratory would help understanding of the learning processes of Chinese people.