Croucher Fellow ranked among world’s “Top 20 Translational Researchers”

14 December 2020

Professor Dennis Lo (Croucher Senior Medical Research Fellow 2006) has been named among the “Top 20 Translational Researchers of 2019” by leading science journal Nature Biotechnology for his achievements in cancer and foetal diagnostics.

Lo, Director of the Li Ka Shing Institute of Health Sciences, at the Chinese University of Hong Kong, is known as “the Father of Non-invasive Prenatal Testing” for his invention of a ground-breaking test for Down syndrome during pregnancy. The test has now been adopted in over 90 countries and is used by over seven million pregnant women globally every year.

Lo’s work has also laid the foundation for developing non-invasive tests for cancer detection. His research team completed a 20,000-person study in 2017, discovering that plasma Epstein-Barr virus (EBV) DNA analysis was useful for screening early asymptomatic nasopharyngeal carcinoma.

The finding evolved into a second-generation test with sequencing analysis a year later, which meant large-scale cancer screening was possible with higher efficiency and accuracy.

Nature Biotechnology highlighted Lo’s work on the development of a new class of prenatal and cancer diagnostic markers based on DNA methylation, which refers to a type of biochemical change enabling the tissue of origin of a DNA molecule to be traced.

In prenatal diagnostic testing, such tracing helps identify if a DNA molecule is from the foetus or the mother. In cancer, DNA methylation is altered or disrupted and therefore methylation patterns provide hints that a tumour may be present.

Lo said he was honoured to be named a top translational researcher for the fourth consecutive year, and the accolade was a great recognition and encouragement to him and his team.

“It is most rewarding to see our work in non-invasive screening having a global impact in prenatal care and heading in a similar direction in oncology,” he said. “We hope that biotechnology will become a pillar in the [technological] future of Hong Kong.”

The ranking was compiled based on total patents granted for the year. It also includes the researcher’s top-cited patent over the past five years, and H-index, a measurement of impact for published work over time.

Topping the list this year was biochemist Professor Jennifer Doudna, who won the 2020 Nobel Prize in Chemistry. Other named scholars included translational researchers from institutions such as the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and Harvard University.

Professor Dennis Lo Yuk-ming received his Bachelor of Arts degree from the University of Cambridge and Doctor of Medicine and Doctor of Philosophy degrees from the University of Oxford, where he was subsequently appointed University Lecturer in Clinical Biochemistry and Honorary Consultant Chemical Pathologist at the John Radcliffe Hospital. He joined the Chinese University of Hong Kong (CUHK) in 1997, where he is now Director of the Li Ka Shing Institute of Health Sciences, Li Ka Shing Professor of Medicine, and Professor of Chemical Pathology. He is also Associate Dean (Research) of the Faculty of Medicine at CUHK. He received his Croucher Senior Medical Research Fellowship in 2006.

To view Professor Lo’s Croucher profile, click here.