HKU is becoming a centre of innovation in drug discovery, particularly drugs derived from metal compounds and natural products in Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM).
Building on a strong track record that includes identifying a number of anti-cancer active compounds, the SRT on Drug will expand the interdisciplinary nature of this research in the coming years.
The SRT team to date has secured several big research grants, published more than 150 papers on their drug leads and other findings, and filed 10 patent applications, 5 of which have already been granted.
They have also established infrastructure and facilities for drug discovery at HKU, developed new technologies for drug synthesis, and implemented biological mass spectrometry platforms which are playing a crucial role in understanding drug leads. Examples of the drug leads include anti-cancer gold(III) medicines which have promising anti-tumour activities to overcome drug resistance and saponins from Chinese medicines or natural products with therapeutic applications for the treatment of cancers and/or neurodegenerative diseases.
Taking this work forward, scholars in chemistry, medicine and biology are collaborating to try to convert these leads into potential patentable therapies for human diseases. They have identified several priorities:
- Anti-cancer drugs remain a primary target and they are planning to test their leads on cell- and animal-based models, and identify potential new drug leads.
- Pharmacologists are working on the design or modification of these and other leads, and will suggest how they can be delivered to the target.
- Biological mass spectrometry facilities are being strengthened to support work to profile proteins and metabolites and study the interactions between proteins and drugs.
- Greater emphasis is also being placed on developing natural products from TCM and inorganic medicines – an area where HKU, with its deep understanding of Western and Chinese medical traditions, and its strength in scientific investigations, has potential to be a world leading centre.
Their work will help to advance their objectives of advancing drug research at HKU and contributing to the cure of human diseases through interdisciplinary drug research involving the basic sciences and medicine.
Related major work at the University includes a Partner State Key Laboratory on Synthetic Chemistry.
Our interdisciplinary work will open opportunities for discovering new drug leads which may circumvent the problem of current chemoresistance and enhance the success of drug development to the clinical stage.
Professor C.M Che, Convenor