(Hong Kong, 25 February 2005) A new impetus has been added to the international efforts in the fight against avian influenza with the donation of 3 million (HK$30 million) by the Li Ka-shing Foundation to fund a cooperation programme between one of the worlds leading research institute Institut Pasteur of France and the Joint Influenza Research Center of Shantou University Medical College and Faculty of Medicine, the University of Hong Kong.
Avian flu has become the most threatening influenza virus in the world, and any large-scale outbreak would lead to a devastating outcome. Flu experts have warned that the reassortment of different H5N1 viruses over the past seven years greatly increases the potential that the viruses could now be transmitted more easily from individuals to individuals. Medical practitioners have discovered several new avian viruses that can be transmitted among human beings. It is estimated that once a pandemic occurs, millions of people can die of this disease. However, medical and health officials over the world have yet to find effective means of dealing with this threat.
The donation will support the collaborative programme between Institut Pasteur of Shanghai and the Joint Influenza Research Center on health programmes combating avian influenza and other respiratory diseases. Priority of the collaboration will be given to rapid and specific detection of known or novel agents and to the understanding of the interaction of viruses with the innate immunity of the host.
The Joint Influenza Research Center was established in November 2001 to enhance Mainland Chinas surveillance and prevention of influenza pandemics with worldwide implications. The Center, endorsed by the World Health Organisation, focuses research on influenza viruses, in particular avian influenza. The Center has made significant achievements, including the discovery of the direct transmission of avian flu virus from ducks to humans and that the avian flu caused by the H5N1 virus has become an endemic disease in Southeast Asia. These findings were published in the top international science journal Nature in 2003 and 2004 (Vol 423 and Vol 430).
Foundation Chairman Mr Li Ka-shing has always been supportive of advanced medical research. In view of the imminent threat posed by avian flu, Mr Li hopes this joint research effort will advance breakthroughs in the prevention and containment of this highly infectious and threatening disease.
President of Institut Pasteur Professor Philippe Kourilsky thanked Mr Li for his continuous support of medical research and he is appreciative of Mr Lis commitment for humanitarian and public health causes.
Professor Kourilsky said Institut Pasteur of Shanghai had been recently set up by Institut Pasteur, the Chinese Academy of Sciences and the Shanghai Municipal Government as a response to the wishes for more cooperation expressed by both French and Chinese Presidents Mr Jacques Chirac and Mr Hu Jintao last year.
Professor Kourilsky said the cooperation between the institute and the Joint Influenza Research Center would aim at bringing about concrete and fast responses to the emergence of new respiratory pathogens.
Special efforts will be implemented to develop research discoveries into manufactured products, such as innovative diagnostic tools, vaccines or drugs, he said.
To oversee progress of the collaboration programme, a management committee will be formed, with members comprising representatives from Institut Pasteur, Institut Pasteur of Shanghai, the Joint Influenza Research Center and the Li Ka-shing Foundation.
About Institut Pasteur
Institut Pasteur is a private non-profit making foundation registered in France since 1887. Institut Pasteur is one of the worlds most prestigious private institutes for the study of infectious diseases and is a cradle for the fields of microbiology, immunology and molecular biology, with eight fellows of the institutes having been awarded Nobel Prizes since 1900. Its contribution to infectious diseases can be tracked from the early days of the first vaccination against rabies to the discovery of HIV and many other novel findings which have improved the health of mankind.
Institut Pasteur of Shanghai was established in 2004 by Institut Pasteur, the Chinese Academy of Sciences and the Shanghai Municipal Government to operate as a research institute focusing on infectious diseases, and in particular viral diseases, in order to meet Chinese public health priorities. Institut Pasteur of Shanghai adopts the three key principles of Institut Pasteur worldwide: highest quality research, active role in public health and a commitment to scientific education and training.
For more information, please visit http://www.pasteur.fr/english.html and http://www.shanghaipasteur.ac.cn
About the Joint Influenza Research Center of Shantou University Medical College and Faculty of Medicine, the University of Hong Kong
The Joint Influenza Research Center of Shantou University Medical College and Faculty of Medicine, the University of Hong Kong was established in November 2001 to strengthen scientific collaborations and to enhance Mainland Chinas surveillance and prevention of influenza pandemics with worldwide implications. The Centre, endorsed by the World Health Organisation, conducts research on influenza viruses, in particular avian influenza.
For more information, please visit http://www.med.stu.edu.cn/ky/threebr/index2.htm