THE INAUGURAL SYMPOSIUM OF THE

HKU-PASTEUR RESEARCH CENTRE

October 24, 2000


INFORMATION TECHNOLOGY, MEDICINE AND THE STOCK MARKET:

A PARADIGM FOR FUNCTIONAL GENOMICS


Organizing Committee

Dr James Kung (Chairman)

Mr Anthony Chaumuzeau

Professor A Danchin

Mrs Julita Kwan

Professor SK Lam

Mrs Mabel Lee

Mr Jean-Luc Maslin

Dr MF Saron

Professor G Tang

Professor KY Yuen


Programme

8h45 Registration

9h20 Opening Ceremony
9h30 Prof Zhu Chen (陈 • 竺, Director of the Shanghai Institute of Hematology and of the Chinese National Human Genome Centre at Shanghai, China)
Cancer Differentiation/Apoptosis Induction Therapy : from Clinics to Molecular Biology and from genes to genomics.
10h00 Dr. Daxi Li (李 • 大西, Founding Chairman of CASB, Chinese Association of Science and Business, and the key founder and Chairman of CASB Ventures, the Chairman of Bioinfo Tech Inc., China)
A view of genomics from the industrial side

10h30 Coffee break

11h00 Prof Charles Kurland (Uppsala, Coordinator of the Tularemia Program, Sweden)
Taming Bacteria and Cell Evolution
11h30 Prof Jingchu Luo (Manager of the EMBnet China node, Beijing)
Bioinformatics research and development
12h00 Prof Antoine Danchin (唐善 • 安東, Scientific director of the HKU-Pasteur RC, Hong Kong)
An example for a drug target
12h30 Prof Kwok Yung Yuen (袁 • 國勇, Scientific director of the HKU-Pasteur RC, Hong Kong)
An emerging disease for a future genome programme? Penicillium marneffei
13h00 Closing

Chairman of the symposium : Mr Olivier Postel-Vinay (Directeur of the science magazine La Recherche, Paris; France)

 


From left to right : Prof S.K. Lam, Chief of the Department of Medicine, member of the Board of directors of the HKU-Pasteur Research Centre, Mr O. Postel-Vinay, chairman of the inaugural symposium, Dr M.-F. Saron, master of ceremony of the inaugural symposium, Prof P. Kourilsky, Director General of the Institut Pasteur, Prof A. Danchin, speaker, Dr J. Kung, Chairman of the Board of directors of the HKU-Pasteur Research Centre, Prof G. Tang, Dean of the Faculty of Medicine, Prof Z. Chen, speaker, Dr W. Ho, Chief executive of the Hospital authority, Prof J. Luo, speaker, Dr R. Xu, President of the College of Medicine, Prof C. Kurland, speaker, Dr D. Li, speaker and Prof K.Y. Yuen, speaker.


Speakers

Chairman of the symposium : Mr O. Postel-Vinay

Master in logic and epistemology, graduate from the Institut d'Etudes Politiques de Paris, O. Postel-Vinay has been Cultural and Scientific Attaché to the French Ambassy in Copenhaguen (Denmark) and he is the author of three books. He began his carrier as a journalist at two major French daily newspapers then two scientific magazines. He has also been scientific chronicler to different economical and political magazines before successively he became the Director of monthly scientific magazines. Mr O Postel-Vinay, Director of the magazine "La Recherche" will be the chairman of this meeting consisting in 20 minutes conferences and 10 minutes discussions.

9h30

M.D. and PhD, Prof Zhu Chen, Director of the Shanghai Institute of Hematology and of the Chinese National Human Genome Centre at Shanghai, laureate of scientific awards and honours, Prof Zhu Chen is one of the two coordinators of the Human Genome Project in China. Prof Zhu Chen is going to speak about " The Human Genome Project in China ".

China is the most populated country in the world (accounting for 22% of world's total) and the Chinese population is composed of many ethnic groups, which represents a precious genetic resource for studies on human genome diversity and evolution, as well as for hunting of human disease related genes. The Human Genome Project (HGP) in China was launched in 1994, and has been supported by the National Natural Science Foundation of China, The Chinese High Tech Program (863), and the National Key Research Program (973). In view of the actual situation, the emphasis has been laid on genomic diversity and isolation of disease genes while taking advantage of human genetic resources. Over the last 5 years, through effort of the whole scientific community, a number of centers of excellence were organized, a nationwide network for collection and preservation of genetic materials established, and a comprehensive genomic research technology system implemented. Among the new technologies introduced and further developed, one can list those for genetic and physical mapping, cloning of human genes, large scale DNA sequencing, mutation detection and bioinformatics. Meanwhile, important achievements have been made in research projects. In the area of genomic diversity, a large number of DNA samples were collected form different populations. A study on the genetic relationship between 30 ethnic groups in Southern and Northern China has been performed and the results were compared with 15 reference populations in the world. It was found through this study that Chinese population could be divided into Southern and Northern ones, that the two populations may originate from the South and that the gene pool of East-Asian population is likely to be derived from Africa. On the other hand, the study on disease genes has made some progress, including the cloning of a gene responsible for hereditary high frequency hearing loss and the characterization of structure and function of genes associated with leukemias and solid tumors. An initiative has also been made in the mapping of polygenic disease loci. In addition, several groups have made breakthrough in large scale cloning of human functional genes. Over 500 full-length cDNA of novel genes were obtained from hematopoietic precursors, neuro-endocrine tissues and cardio-vascular system. Recently, attention has been paid to the sequencing of human genomic DNA. Significant progress has been made in sequencing 1% of the human genome (a 30Mb region on chromosome 3P), as a part of the international human genome sequencing consortium. Moreover, the study on some pathogenic microbes such as Leptospira is now being carried out at the National Human Genome Centers and it is estimated that the full genomic sequencing of Leptospira will be finished by the end of 2000. In the future, the analysis of genotype-phenotype correlation should be strengthened to uncover the interaction between genetic and environmental factors underlying human diseases. Multidisciplinary collaborations will be encouraged to promote the study on functional genomics. Finally, the HGP in China should be more integrated into the international efforts and the mutually beneficial collaborations will be further promoted.

10h00

PhD in high-energy physics, postdoctoral fellow at the McGill University, City University of New York and former Assistant Professor at the New York Institute of Technology, Dr. Daxi Li has also been working in financial industry. He was a Senior Analyst at Salomon Brothers Inc and Assistant Vice President at Lehman Brothers. Dr. Li is at present the founding Chairman of CASB (Chinese Association of Science and Business) and the key founder and Chairman of CASB Ventures, the Chairman of Bioinfo Tech Inc. He is going to speak about " Biotech and IT ".

Biotech and IT, an investor's point of view about Biotechnology will be at the center of the stage in the 21st Century. However, attracting more investments to biotechnology remains a problem. The combination of biotechnology with advanced information technology may help make investing in biotechnology more profitable, or more hopeful, and thereby attract more capital to this field.

10h30 Coffee break

11h00

Pr Charles Kurland: BA in Zoology (Cornell University) and PhD in Biochemistry (Harvard University); specialist in molecular evolution and currently Professor of Molecular Biology at Uppsala University in Sweden. Past chairman of many domestic and international committees. Presently, the chair of the Science and Society Committee of EMBO. Pr Kurland will speak about "Taming Bacteria and Cell Evolution".

The energy producing organelles of our cells, mitochondria are the descendents of bacteria. These bacteria were captured roughly two billion years ago. In the intervening time they have been profoundly modified by the loss of most of their original coding capacity. Proteins that evolved in the nuclei of cells have replaced the lost genes and imposed nuclear control over the mitochondria. Thus, the proteins of mitochondria are the descendents of two kinds of genomes, each with a separate and a distinct history. By exploiting the protein import machinery of mitochondria it may be possible to engineer desirable cellular properties in crops or repair genetic damage in the cells of patients.

11h30

Associate Professor of the College of Life Sciences of Beijing University, Manager of the EMBnet China node, laureate of many research grants and beneficiary of visiting experiences, Pr Jingchu Luo is a prominent member of the very much sought-after community of bioinformaticians. He is going to speak about " Bioinformatics research and development "

The rapid progress of genome projects has brought about a vast accumulation of molecular biology information in the past decade. Millions of nucleic acid sequences with billions of bases have been deposited at the EMBL, GenBank and DDBJ DNA sequence libraries. Protein sequence databases such as SwissProt with high quality annotation have added value to study the mechanism and function of protein molecules. Comprehensive genome databases with mapping, sequence, structure and function information have been constructed based on the resource of completed genome projects. Hundreds of specialized databases have been derived from the primary sequence databases.
As the national node of the European Molecular Biology Network (EMBNet) and the Database Centre of China Hi-tech Program, we provide bioinformatics resource to domestic users at the Centre of Bioinformatics (CBI), Peking University. In addition to service and training, CBI also carries out bioinformatics research and development. Databases of protein loop classification and protein domain assignment have been developed in collaboration with UK scientists. Cytomer, a relational database of gene regulation and expression at the tissue and cell specific level was constructed collaboratively with German bioinformaticians. The Rice Dwarf Virus database with information from genes to proteins is now open to public. Specialist database information systems in protein disulphide bridge, as well as China's ethnic genome diversity are under construction.

12h00

PhD and D Sci, Antoine Danchin started in 1985 a collaboration with computer scientists which convinced him that it was time to sequence whole genomes, provided that an important effort in computer sciences was initiated in parallel. In collaboration with a European-Japanese team of scientists led by Drs F. Kunst, N. Ogasawara and Pr H. Yoshikawa, he has been the scientific coordinator of the Bacillus subtilis genome programme (complete sequence published in 1997). As an unexpected outcome, important for biotechnology, this led to discover that genomes are highly ordered structures, and that there exists a strong correlation between the organisation of the genes in the genome and the cell's architecture. Prof Danchin, acting as Scientific Director of the HKU-Pasteur Research Centre, will give a brief account of the pathway from genome sequence to identification of the function of molecules of interest : " An example for a drug target ".

This brief account of the pathway from genome sequence to identification of the function of molecules of interest, emphasizes how the study of the "neighborhood" of a gene or its products can be used to help discovery. Neighborhood here does not simply means that one studies the genes in the vicinity of the gene of interest in the genome sequence, but all types of proximities, including kinship through evolution, chemical composition, coding usage bias and mining scientific literature for association between genes made in the course of scientific studies. Promoting an effort for mining Chinese literature will be suggested as a likely fruitful endeavour.

12h30

MD, personal chair in infectious diseases, honorary consultant of different hospitals, author of more than 200 papers mainly about emerging and re-emerging deseases, Prof K Y Yuen co-Scientific Director of the HKU-Pasteur Research Centre will speak about " An emerging disease for a future genome programme?: Penicillium marneffei ".

Genome sequencing of microbes contribute enormously to the understanding of genomic principles of gene arrangement, phylogeny, and the control of infectious diseases caused by the microbe or its family. More than 50 bacterial species are or being sequenced but only a few fungi are on the list, including Saccharomyces cerevisiae (14Mb), Schizosaccharomyces pombe (14Mb), Candida albicans (15Mb), Aspergillus fumigatus (35Mb) and Aspergillus nidulans (31Mb). S. cerevisiae and A. nidulans are prototype yeast and mould of general biological importance in the understanding of fungal structure, metabolism and genetics, whereas C. albicans and A. fumigatus are respectively the most important yeast and mould that cause life threatening diseases in human especially those who undergo immunosuppression for transplant or chemotherapy for cancer. A missing link is a dimorphic fungus that can bridge the genomic information amongst the yeast, the mould and the dimorphic fungi. We propose a genomic sequencing project of Penicillium marneffei ( ca 30Mb) which is a dimorphic fungus whose yeast form divide, not by budding but by fission like Schizosaccharomyces pombe. At room temperature, its characteristics are similar to other members of the non-pathogenic genus Penicillium which is very close to the genus Aspergillus whereas it exists at the body temperature as a highly pathogenic yeast. P. marneffei was discovered in the liver of a Chinese bamboo rat (Rhizomys sinensis) in 1956 by a Pasteurian (Dr Capponi). The fungus is a rare cause of disease in normal host residing in South East Asia, however, it emerges as the top 3 indicator disease of AIDS with the increasing incidence of HIV infection in this region. 10% of our AIDS patients suffered from this disease. Our group has been actively working on the molecular biology of this fungus and has found and characterise the first antigenic mannoprotein which is useful in diagnostic tests and immunisation. An international collaborative effort on this fungal genomic project would quickly close up this gap both in biology and the control of dimorphic fungal diseases.

 


The Inaugural Symposium was sponsored by

Sun Hung Kai Properties