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[Press Release] C2i & HKU lead the way to benchmark immune health

First participants recruited in the Healthy Human Global Project - Hong Kong

Partners in the Healthy Human Global Project - Hong Kong attended the launch, such as Professor Malik Peiris, Managing Director, Centre for Immunology & Infection (C2i), Professor Roberto Bruzzone, Co-Director, C2i, Professor Leo Poon, Principal Investigator, C2i, Professor James Di Santo, Principal Investigator, C2i, Darragh Duffy, Principal Investigator, C2i, Professor Gabriel Leung, Dean of Medicine, The University of Hong Kong (HKU), Professor Lau Chak Sing, Chairperson, Department of Medicine, School of Clinical Medicine (HKU), Doctor Michael Ni, Clinical Associate Professor, Programme Director, FAMILY Cohort (HKUMed), Doctor Michael Tse, Director, Centre for Sport and Exercise, Doctor Victoria Wong, Director, HKU Health System.

The Centre for Immunology & Infection (C2i) is launching the Healthy Human Global Project - Hong Kong (HHGP - Hong Kong) in collaboration with the FAMILY Cohort (School of Public Health, LKS Faculty of Medicine of The University of Hong Kong (HKUMed)) and the Centre for Sports and Exercise (The University of Hong Kong) to help improve local and global public health and create the next generation of personalized care and precision medical interventions.

HHGP - Hong Kong ( is a research study aiming to define the variability of a healthy immune system. The variability of individual immune responses are related to genetic and environmental determinants but these are yet undefined. Knowledge of these parameters is essential to establish personalized and precision medical care because the immune system determines outcome from many diseases ranging from cancer to infectious diseases.

HHGP - Hong Kong is based on the success of the Milieu Intérieur consortium which was established by the Institut Pasteur in Paris in 2011.

C2i is applying the technological platform of this research study to provide understanding that will permit future personalized patient management strategies that take into account individual genetics, previous infection history, resident microbiota (“microbiome”), as well as personal lifestyle and environmental factors that together define immune health.

To help investigate further and create the next generation of public health interventions, HHGP - Hong Kong is recruiting volunteers selected amongst FAMILY Cohort participants aged between 20 and 79. The study consists of scheduled research clinical visits for eligible volunteers where health assessments, questionnaires, and biological specimen investigations will be performed. 1,000 volunteers will join the study by answering a questionnaire and attend a series of clinical visits at the HKU C2i Research Clinic, specifically designed for the study.

About the research team

The research is led by Dr Darragh Duffy, Principal Investigator, C2i, Director of the Translational Immunology Unit and Co-coordinator of the LabEx Milieu Interieur project and Professor James Di Santo, Principal Investigator, C2i and Director of the Innate Immunity Unit, Université de Paris, Inserm U1223, both at Institut Pasteur, Paris. The study recruitment is coordinated by Dr Michael Ni, Clinical Associate Professor and Programme Director of the FAMILY Cohort in the School of Public Health, HKUMed. The clinical implementation is executed by Dr Rex Hung, Principal Medical Consultant, C2i and Honorary Assistant Professor of the FAMILY Cohort in the School of Public Health, HKUMed. Other research team members of this study include Dr Michael Tse, Director of Centre for Sports and Exercise, HKU and Mr Glen Joe, Exercise Physiologist of Centre for Sports and Exercise, HKU.

About the Centre for Immunology & Infection (C2i)

The Centre for Immunology & Infection is the fruit of a long-standing partnership of more than 20 years between the LKS Faculty of Medicine of the University of Hong Kong and the Institut Pasteur, two major institutions combining their expertise to establish this centre of excellence. Within the InnoHK initiative, C2i adopts innovative strategies to identify and contain emerging infectious diseases and transform Hong Kong and the Greater Bay Area into a global hub of knowledge and research.

C2i’s work is centered around four major research programs to face public health challenges and make Hong Kong a global center of excellence for precision medicine population strategies and innovative interventions targeting emerging infectious diseases. They aim to characterise immune responses to infectious agents and their components in a healthy Asian population and develop new vaccine platforms for influenza, new strategies for mosquito-borne viruses and new treatments for lethal respiratory virus infections.

About the FAMILY Cohort (School of Public Health, HKUMed)

The FAMILY Cohort is a territory-wide longitudinal cohort study that seeks to understand the physical, mental and social wellbeing at the individual, household, and neighbourhood level in Hong Kong by the School of Public Health, LKS Faculty of Medicine of The University of Hong Kong. The Cohort has sampled 20,279 households and 46,001 participants that are representative to the Hong Kong population and the other subsamples of interest.

About Milieu Intérieur (the Institut Pasteur)

The Milieu Intérieur (MI) project, coordinated by Dr Darragh Duffy and Prof Lluis Quintana-Murci at the Institut Pasteur, Paris was established in 2011 with the aim to define the parameters that characterise a healthy immune response and its natural variation across individuals, and in doing so, inform clinical strategies for managing disease. For this, 1000 healthy volunteers (1:1 sex ratio; stratified across 5 decades of life from 20 to 69 years of age) were recruited. For each individual, a detailed eCRF of lifestyle and demographic variables, whole blood for immune phenotyping, immune stimulation and genomic analysis, as well as faecal samples and nasal swabs for metagenomic studies of microbiota, were collected. Punch skin biopsies were also taken to generate primary fibroblast lines and iPSc (from selected donors) to enable mechanistic studies. The MI project has provided a definition of protein and transcriptional immune signatures for healthy immune responses. The project also revealed new insights into the genetic and non-genetic factors driving immune response variation. In addition to key fundamental insights, the MI project has established a rich sample repository and data-warehouse, supporting ongoing integrative research in systems immunology.

About the Centre for Sports and Exercise (The University of Hong Kong)

The Centre for Sports and Exercise (CSE) manages the University’s sports facilities and promotes physical activity for health and wellbeing for HKU staff, students, alumni, and the wider community. The CSE operates two main sports complexes for the university which house indoor sports facilities at the Flora Ho Sports Centre on Pokfulam Road and outdoor facilities at the Stanley Ho Sports Centre in Sandy Bay. CSE also operates two other fitness facilities: ‘CSE Active’ located at the Centennial Campus and ‘HKU B-Active’ situated right next to the HKU B-1 MTR exit in Shek Tong Tsui. CSE’s overarching aim is to improve the health and wellbeing of students, staff and community of all ages and physical abilities with regards to their physical, mental, and social health whether through service programs or academic collaborations that support service. CSE is also responsible for providing support to our university athletes in their quest to strive for sporting excellence as well as good achievements at inter-university competitions.

Media enquiries:

Centre for Immunology & Infection (C2i)

Simon Muller (Tel: 6194 7531 | Email:


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