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3 Questions to Professor Roberto Bruzzone, Director of the Pasteur Foundation Asia


Learn more about the foundation's mission in the COVID 19 crisis with Professor Roberto Bruzzone. 


PFA: Why launching this fundraising campaign right now? 

Roberto Bruzzone: We all know that novel viruses emerge constantly and that we are under the threat of new pandemics. We need to prepare ourselves for the long run and scientific knowledge is the answer. And for that, our goal is to raise HK$5,000,000 during this campaign.


The past months have illustrated how critical it is to gather knowledge on viruses for a strong response. The extensive work carried out at HKU-Pasteur Research Pole, the whole Institut Pasteur International Network and elsewhere on SARS, MERS and other coronaviruses has been invaluable in the current pandemic.


That is why researchers around the world were able to move quickly in developing tests: we had previous knowledge of coronaviruses and their mechanism that allowed the scientific community to react fast. 


PFA: How will the PFA use the donations? 

RB: PFA has prioritized two main allocations. First, we are in contact with many institutes of the Pasteur Network to send material and share protocols with institutes in low and middle income countries where they are urgently needed.


Second, funding current research on SARS-CoV-2 is an absolute priority. We are collaborating with teams around the world and working together to better understand the virus. 


This is a global crisis and the Institut Pasteur International Network is uniquely positioned to contribute discoveries from different parts of the world, where the pandemic is in a different phase. Here, in Hong Kong, the HKU-Pasteur Research Pole has developed sensitive and specific serological assays for SARS-CoV-2 to study the immune response to the virus. The Institut Pasteur Korea has already identified FDA approved drugs that inhibit the virus. Our colleagues in Institut Pasteur in Shanghai are working on the early evolutionary mechanism of the virus. In Africa, the teams from Institut Pasteur de Dakar, Senegal, have trained staff from 15 other African countries in the diagnostics of COVID-19. In Europe, teams have done some promising epigenetic and immunologic work. Everyone is contributing. In Hong Kong, in Asia, in the world.


We are also starting to think about the future and what lessons we can learn from this crisis.


PFA: Can you tell us more about this?  

RB: Providing knowledge to future generations of scientists if one of our most important missions. With more than 15 years of expertise in teaching, and more than 1,000 students trained from all over the world, HKU-Pasteur Research Pole is a privileged partner of the PFA, which has supported over the years the world class courses in Cell Biology, Immunology and Virology, the last of which was actually dedicated to the origin, evolution, transmissibility,  and the epidemiological and clinical features of coronaviruses! 


PFA has  also supported international courses in the Asia-Pacific region, such as the annual workshop organized at the Pasteur Institute in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam. 


These young scientists will be the ones generating biological knowledge to advance the understanding and treatment of infectious diseases. We need to provide them with all the tools and knowledge we can. We need to keep looking ahead and sustain our effort in the long run.



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