Citation: For their discoveries of SARS-CoV-1 as the causative agent for the global SARS outbreak in 2003 and its zoonotic origin, with impact on combating COVID-19 and emerging infectious diseases.
During the outbreak of severe acute respiratory syndrome (SAR) in 2003, Kwok-Yung Yuen, Joseph Sriyal Malik Peiris and their team treated the first patients in Hong Kong and isolated SARS-CoV-1 from their clinical specimens, which was critical to the design of diagnostic tests and disease characterization (Lancet April 19, 2003). In addition, Kwok-Yung Yuen’s continued studies on SARS-like viruses in wild bats greatly increased our knowledge of zoonotic reservoirs, barriers to cross-species transmission, pathogenesis, and clinical diagnosis of these viruses. Because of the high prevalence of SARS-like coronavirus in bats, the discovery predicted the potential re-emergence of a SARS-like epidemic and stressed the importance of public health preparedness. As predicted, the bat coronavirus HKU4/5 was found to be closely related to MERS-CoV that caused the epidemic Middle East respiratory syndrome.
In summary, Kwok-Yung Yuan and Joseph Sriyal Malik Peiris have made seminal contributions to our understanding of emerging infectious diseases from SARS in 2003 to COVID-19, which led to more effective responses and strategies in controlling these diseases.
About Malik Peiris:
Professor Malik Peiris, Fellow of the Royal Society, Légion d’Honneur and Silver Bauhinia Star was born in Sri Lanka and studied medicine at the University of Ceylon. This was followed by the award of a PhD at the William Dunn School of Pathology, University of Oxford, U.K., where he made significant discoveries on the mechanism of dengue virus pathogenesis.
After further work in the U.K. and Sri Lanka, he joined the University of Hong Kong in 1995 and developed a multi-disciplinary research programme with strong international collaboration that made a major impact in understanding the ecology, epidemiology, pathogenesis and control of animal and human influenza and coronaviruses. In 2003, he played a key role in the identification of a novel coronavirus as the cause of SARS and in its control. He serves as Co-Director of the WHO H5 influenza reference laboratory and the WHO SARS-coronavirus-2 reference laboratory at HKU. From 2007 to 2020, he has served as the Scientific Director of the HKU-Pasteur Research Pole before becoming the Managing Director of the Centre for Immunology & Infection.