Non-invasive prenatal testing pioneer receives Fudan-Zhongzhi Science Award

21 January 2020

Professor Dennis Lo (Croucher Senior Medical Research Fellowship 2006) has been honoured with the prestigious Fudan-Zhongzhi Science Award for his pioneering contributions to non-invasive prenatal testing (NIPT), along with other ground-breaking advances.

The award scheme was jointly established by Fudan University in Shanghai and Zhongzhi Enterprise Group in 2015 to recognise global scientists who have made fundamental and remarkable achievements in the fields of mathematics, physics, and biomedicine,

Lo’s discoveries changed conventional wisdom that foetal DNA only existed inside the cells of the foetus, and led to the breakthrough invention of NIPT, which has benefited tens of millions of women, according to a report in the Shanghai Daily’s online news outlet SHINE.

NIPT offers a safer approach than traditional invasive detection methods, such as the painful and risky amniocentesis that inserts a needle into a pregnant woman’s womb and may cause a miscarriage. NIPT only requires a blood sample.

In addition, such blood tests can tell a baby’s gender, blood type, and whether it carries genetic abnormalities such as Down’s syndrome, Edwards’ syndrome, and Patau’s syndrome. NIPT has been found to be 99.7 per cent accurate in detecting Down’s.

Together with NIPT, Lo’s award citation highlighted his fundamental research on cell-free DNA molecules and his leadership in the development of new diagnostic testing methods to detect circulating tumour DNA, making cancer diagnosis possible in pre-symptomatic patients. His work paves the way for an entirely new generation of research on liquid biopsy.

Samuel Ting, a Nobel laureate in physics and chairman of the prize committee, said Lo was one of the world’s most distinguished clinical molecular biologists and had impacted clinical applications worldwide.

“His research laid the foundation for an entirely new generation of research concerning cell-free DNA, work now being pursued by researchers across the world. His creativity, expertise, and devotion to clinical work, as well as his vision for serving human health have established Lo as the world leader in his field,” Ting said.

Professor Dennis Lo is Director of the Li Ka Shing Institute of Health Sciences and Li Ka Shing Professor of Medicine and Professor of Chemical Pathology at the Chinese University of Hong Kong (CUHK). He is also Associate Dean (Research) of CUHK’s Faculty of Medicine. Lo 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. Following his training at Oxford, he was appointed University Lecturer in Clinical Biochemistry and Honorary Consultant Chemical Pathologist at the John Radcliffe Hospital, which serves as the teaching hospital of the University of Oxford Clinical School. He also held a Fellowship at Green College, Oxford. Lo received a Croucher Senior Medical Research Fellowship in 2006.

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