The University of Hong Kong

The School of Biomedical Sciences may be the newest School in both the Faculty of Medicine and The University of Hong Kong but it has more than a century of pioneering history in the development of modern medicine in Hong Kong and the scientific excellence that supports it. In 2012, the Faculty of Medicine launched the Bachelor of Biomedical Sciences programme, the first of its kind in tertiary education in Hong Kong. This programme is exemplary in the efforts to transcend departmental boundaries by encouraging collaboration in the delivery of teaching. This followed 15 years of focused efforts to integrate basic science disciplines into the system-based modules of the Bachelor of Medicine, Bachelor of Surgery (MBBS) curriculum.   The benefits of greater collaboration in talent and use of resources have become increasingly apparent in order for the Faculty to focus on research strengths and to support the teaching of basic sciences at undergraduate and postgraduate levels. This led to decisions by the Faculty Board and University Council to endorse the amalgamation of the pre-clinical Departments of Anatomy, Biochemistry and Physiology into the School of Biomedical Sciences, as of July 1, 2015. The new School assumes a matrix organisation. “Research Themes” focus the research strengths of members towards interdisciplinary synergies and research excellence at the frontiers of biomedical sciences. “Education Divisions” delineate platforms of teaching expertise for the efficient dissemination of core knowledge in biomedical sciences so that learners develop into biomedical professionals, ready to contribute to the progress and delivery of medicine and healthcare in Hong Kong, Greater China and internationally.   Prof. Danny Chan, together with other colleagues (Prof. Kathryn Cheah, Prof. Kenneth Cheung, and Prof. Pak Sham) in the Faculty of Medicine has built an Area of Excellence in “Developmental genomics and skeletal research” and a theme base programme on “Functional analyses of how genomic variation affects personal risk for degenerative skeletal disorders” with a focus on spinal defects and intervertebral disc degeneration. This is a unique team that combines basic scientists, clinicians, geneticists, and tissue engineers addressing a common problem. Prof. Chan has lead and or act as co-leader in all the major projects in this programme. We have published extensively together in the field of intervertebral disc degeneration with expertise from developmental biology providing a better understanding of the cellular origin and contributions to the maintenance of the intervertebral disc, and the differentiation changes occurring in the mouse and human discs. We are currently using single cell transcriptomics to understand the developmental progression in mice to inform key molecular signals necessary for the differentiation lineage from notochord to notochondal-like cells (NCLs) in the nucleus pulposus. Similar single cell analyses are been performed for normal and degenerated discs; molecular information that will have a significant contributing to the in vitro generation of human NCLs from iPS cells, the main focus of iPSpine.