Professors Guan Yi and Joseph Sriyal Malik Peiris, both distinguished scholars of the Li Ka Shing Faculty of Medicine, The University of Hong Kong, and members of SJCEIRS, have been awarded the prestigious John Dirks Canada Gairdner Global Health Award. They were awarded for “significantly contributing to understanding the origins and options for control of newly emerging infectious disease outbreaks in Asia, notably zoonotic influenza and severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS).”
Following the 1997 avian influenza outbreak in Hong Kong, Drs. Peiris and Guan began collaborating to investigate pathogenicity and evolution of H5N1 viruses as well as establishing a monitoring and surveillance program for avian and swine influenza strains. They have made major contributions towards understanding the emergence, transmission, epidemiology, and pathogenesis of avian influenza and have developed evidence-based options for control of these viruses.
In 2003, Dr. Peiris led the team that first identified SARS-CoV-1 coronavirus, elucidated its pathogenesis and transmission, and developed a diagnostic test which was shared internationally. Concurrently, Dr. Guan’s team identified the zoonotic interface of SARS-CoV-1 in animal markets in Guangdong, China. Dr. Guan’s team later identified the infectious source of Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) in Saudi Arabia in 2015 and advocated for the closing of game markets to control the spread of infection.
Drs. Guan and Peiris’ previous investigations led to comprehensive strategies for surveillance, monitoring, and identifying zoonotic sources of human viral pandemic species. These strategies continue to provide critical guidance and insight for countries throughout the world, including response to the 2009 swine flu pandemic, MERS, and the COVID-19 pandemic.