Top scientific honor for leading flu expert

Local | Amy Nip 5 May 2017

Renowned flu expert Malik Peiris has received one of the highest honors for a scientist.

The University of Hong Kong professor has been elected one of the 21 new foreign associates of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States, HKU announced yesterday.

Peiris, chair professor of virology at the HKU School of Public Health, is a clinical and public health virologist, with a particular interest in emerging viral diseases at the animal-human interface, including flu and coronaviruses, such as SARS and MERS.

In collaboration with colleagues, his research has provided understanding on the emergence and pathogenesis of the 2009 pandemic H1N1 virus, and on flu viruses H5N1, H9N2 and H7N9, offering options for the control of these viruses in poultry and humans.

In 2003, he played a key role in the discovery that a novel coronavirus was the cause of SARS, its diagnosis and pathogenesis. His current research focuses on epidemiology of flu viruses in humans and animals - poultry, swine and wild birds.

Lately, he has been researching the MERS coronavirus, and was one of the Hong Kong experts invited to South Korea in 2015 to offer advice during the country's MERS outbreak.

The 67-year-old Sri Lankan is co- director of the World Health Organization H5 Reference Laboratory at HKU, and received the Silver Bauhinia Star from the government in 2007, and the Officer de la Legion d'Honneur from France this year.

"It is truly my honor to be elected a foreign associate of the National Academy of Sciences," said Peiris, an investigator in the Centers of Excellence for Influenza Research and Surveillance program, of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, US National Institutes of Health.

"It is recognition of work done with many others at HKU over the years, and it is really an honor for our whole research group."

HKU Li Ka Shing Faculty of Medicine dean Gabriel Leung Cheuk-wai said: "We are absolutely thrilled that Professor Peiris' pioneering work in public health virology has once again gained global recognition through his election to the pinnacle of scientific learned societies - the US National Academy of Sciences.

"Professor Peiris' achievement is testament to the faculty's leading role in generating impactful original research towards global health security."

The academy is a private, nonprofit institution established in 1863 that provides independent, objective advice on matters related to science and technology.

The total number of active members and foreign associates of the NAS is now 2,290 and 475 respectively. About 200 members have received Nobel prizes.

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