For the past two years, BNP Paribas Corporate & Investment Banking (CIB) Hong Kong has donated its end-of-year gifts budget to support research on the dengue virus at the HKU-Pasteur Research Centre.

The HKU-Pasteur Research Centre is a joint laboratory created in 1999 as a long-term collaborative project in Hong Kong between Institut Pasteur and the University of Hong Kong, with the goal of fighting infectious diseases through biological research and teaching.

To shed more light on the work being done by this institution, we spoke to Dr Roberto Bruzzone, the Chief Executive Officer of HKU-Pasteur Research Centre, and Dr Peigang Wang, a postdoctoral fellow at the centre. They shared their insights into the research project the bank helps sponsor.

What is the mission of the HKU-Pasteur Research Centre?

The mission is to foster an interdisciplinary approach to confront the challenges posed by viral infections, with a special focus on respiratory viruses and dengue. Our ambition is to maintain leadership as a regional centre to study the interactions between pathogens and host cells, which are the battlefields of infections, and to generate novel information on fundamental processes of infectious diseases that may be translated into clinical applications.

Could you tell us a little bit more about the role of the Pasteur Network in Asia?

Asia is a key region for new emerging diseases such as SARS, avian flu, dengue, drug-resistant malaria and tuberculosis, some of which have the potential to cause pandemics. The nine institutes of the Asia-Pacific Pasteur Network are based in six different countries and provide a regional coverage for research, training and public health activities. We have developed outstanding human skills, cutting-edge technical resources as well as strong ties with national and international authorities and organisations to conduct current and future investigations on pandemic and epidemic pathogens at the national and regional levels.

Of all infectious viruses in Asia, why have you chosen the dengue virus?

Dengue is the most prevalent mosquito-borne virus and its increasing incidence and severity make it a disease that could threaten increasing geographical areas. Dengue infection is endemic in more than 100 countries and about 50 to 100 million people are infected every year. Despite the increased health and economic impact of dengue, there are as yet no specific preventive or therapeutic interventions.

The sponsorship of BNP Paribas, together with other funds, has been crucial to support the dengue team, which is lead by Dr Peigang Wang.

Dengue fever is potential threat to almost half of the world’s population (2.5 billion people). Facing this endemic virus with no specific treatments, are there any measures we can take to prevent transmission?

Dengue viruses are transmitted mainly by Aedes mosquitoes. Therefore, the best measure to reduce dengue virus transmission, as indicated by WHO, depends entirely on control of the mosquito vectors or interruption of human–vector contact. More information on the measures on preventing mosquito-borne diseases can be found at the Centre for Health Protection.

This partnership in Hong Kong is part of  BNP Paribas CIB’s global sponsorship programme with Institut Pasteur – a nonprofit private Foundation which contributes to the prevention and treatment of infectious diseases. This sponsorship programme, namely “CIB for Health and Medical Research”, was established in 2008 and the total global donation to date amount to 1.3 million euros. Besides the study in Hong Kong, BNP Paribas CIB also supports the Institut’s research programmes across twenty countries including vaccines against measles and HIV (France), hepatitis C (Japan, Spain), malaria (Brazil), polio (Russia) and tuberculosis (The Netherlands).