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Academic Staff

Dr TANNER, Julian Alexander

Dr TANNER, Julian Alexander

  • BSc (Bristol); PhD (Imperial College London)
  • Associate Professor
  • Coordinator of Education Division of Biochemistry
L3-70, Laboratory Block, 21 Sassoon Road, Hong Kong
+852 3917 9472
+852 2855 1254
  • Nucleic Acid Nanotechnology
  • Applied Molecular Evolution
  • Inorganic Polyphosphates Function

Dr Julian A. Tanner is Associate Professor and Coordinator of the Education Division of Biochemistry in the School of Biomedical Sciences at the University of Hong Kong.

Cover image

Congratulations to Simon Shiu for latest DNA
nanotweezers publication.Cover of inaugural
February 2017 issue of Advanced Biosystems in
prestigious Advanced Materials series.

Julian's research field is nucleic acid nanotechnology and applied molecular evolution for biomedical application. The Tanner lab brings together interdisciplinary experimental approaches at the interface of science, medicine and engineering to tackle major challenges in global health. His highly internationalised research team have developed radical new approaches for the point-of-care diagnosis of malaria, bridging nucleic acid evolution to 3D printing to clinical application. Recent accomplishments include the development of innovative designs of DNA nanotweezers and DNA origami, enabling sensing and detection of biomolecules driven by triggers of conformational change at the nanoscale. In more basic research, his team is exploring the biological functions of the fundamental yet enigmatic long-chain inorganic polyphosphates. Julian also has experience in educational research, with particular interest in how to build the best environment for research excellence and student achievement at the nexus between research, teaching and innovation.

Nucleic Acid Nanotechnology: We are investigating new methods to incorporate aptamers into functionalized DNA origami and into 3D printed millifluidic channels for point-of-care diagnostics.

Applied Molecular Evolution: We are developing new approaches in nucleic acid aptamer evolution and application in particular for diagnostics. We are using aptamers in new point-of-care diagnostic approaches for malaria and infertility and researching innovative technologies for nucleic acid evolution.

Inorganic Polyphosphate Function: Inorganic polyphosphate (polyP) is present in every cell in nature and consists of chains of tens or hundreds of orthophosphate residues linked by high-energy phospoanhydride bonds. We are investigating inorganic polyphosphate function in higher eukaryotes.

Lab Photo 2016

Lab Photo: (from left to right) Andrew Kinghorn, Marco Tang, Mei Li Khong, Chandra Jinata, Shaolin Liang, Yee-Wai Cheung, Vanessa Choi, Julian Tanner, Simon Shiu, Charlie Lang, Lewis Fraser, Soubhagya Bhuyan, Alvin Wong, Emerald Ng

  1. Tang, M.S.L., Shiu, S.C.C., Godonoga, M., Cheung, Y.W., Liang, S., Dirkzwager, R.M., Kinghorn, A.B., Fraser, L.A., Heddle, J.G. & Tanner, J.A. An aptamer-enabled DNA nanobox for protein sensing. Nanomedicine, (accepted in press) (2018)
  2. Tucker, W.O., Kinghorn, A.B., Fraser, L.A., Cheung, Y.W. & Tanner, J.A. Selection and characterization of a DNA aptamer specifically targeting human HECT ubiquitin ligase WWP1. Int J Mol Sci (accepted in press) (2018)
  3. Cheung, Y.W., Dirkzwager, R.M., Wong, W.C, Cardoso, J., Costa, J.D.N. & Tanner, J.A. Aptamer-mediated Plasmodium-specific diagnosis of malaria. Biochimie, 145, 131-136 (2018)
  4. Fraser, L.A., Kinghorn, A.B., Dirkzwager, R.M., Liang, S., Cheung, Y.W., Lim, B., Shiu, S.C.C., Tang, M.S.L., Andrew, D., Manitta, J., Richards, J.S. & Tanner, J.A. A portable microfluidic Aptamer-Tethered Enzyme Capture (APTEC) biosensor for malaria diagnosis. Biosens Bioelectron, 100, 591-596 (2018)
  5. Miranda, F.M., Feng, L., Shiu, S.C.C., Dirkzwager, R.M., Cheung, Y.W., Tanner, J.A., Schoning, M.J., Offenhauser, A. & Mayer, D. Aptamer-based electrochemical biosensor for highly sensitive and selective malaria detection with adjustable dynamic response range and reusability. Sens Actuators B Chem, 255, 235-243 (2018)
  6. Kinghorn, A.B., Fraser, L.A., Liang, S., Shiu, S.C.C. & Tanner, J.A. Aptamer Bioinformatics. Int J Mol Sci, 18, 2516 (2017)
  7. Kinghorn, A.B. & Tanner, J.A. Selective Phenome Growth adapted NK model: a novel landscape to represent aptamer ligand binding. Complexity, 6760852 (2017)
  8. Wang, W.X., Cheung, Y.W., Dirkzwager, R.M., Wong, W.C., Tanner, J.A., Li, H.W. & Wu, Y. Specific and sensitive detection of Plasmodium falciparum lactate dehydrogenase by DNA-scaffolded silver nanoclusters combined with an aptamer. Analyst, 142(5), 800-807 (2017)
  9. Shiu, S.C.C., Cheung, Y.W., Dirkzwager, R.M., Liang, S., Kinghorn, A.B., Fraser, L.A., Tang, M.S.L. & Tanner, J.A. Aptamer-mediated protein molecular recognition driving a DNA tweezer nanomachine. Adv Biosys, 1, 1600006 (selected as a cover for inaugural issue) (2017)
  10. Lui, E.L.H., Ao, C.K.L., Li., L., Khong, M.L. & Tanner, J.A. Inorganic polyphosphate triggers upregulation of interleukin 11 in human osteoblast-like SaOS-2 cells. Biochem Biophys Res Commun, 479(4), 766-771 (2016)
  11. Kinghorn, A.B., Dirkzwager, R.M., Liang, S., Cheung, Y.W., Fraser, L.A., Shiu, S.C.C., Tang, M.S.L. & Tanner, J.A. Aptamer affinity maturation by resampling and microarray selection. Anal Chem, 88(14), 6981-6985 (2016)
  12. Dirkzwager, R.M., Liang, S. & Tanner, J.A. Development of aptamer-based point-of-care diagnostic device for malaria using 3D printing rapid prototyping. ACS Sensors, 1(4), 420-426 (2016)
  13. Godonoga, M., Lin, T.Y., Oshima, A., Sumitomo, K., Tang, M.S.L., Cheung, Y.W., Kinghorn, A.B., Dirkzwager, R.M., Zhou, C., Kuzuya, A., Tanner, J.A. & Heddle, J.G. A DNA aptamer recognising a malaria protein biomarker can function as part of a DNA origami assembly. Sci Rep, 6, 21266 (2016)
  14. Dirkzwager, R.M., Kinghorn, A.B., Richards, J.S. & Tanner, J.A. APTEC: Aptamer-Tethered Enzyme Capture as a novel rapid diagnostic test for malaria. Chem Commun, 51, 4697-4700 (2015)
  15. Lai, Y.T., Chang, Y.Y., Hu, L., Yang, Y., Chau, A., Du, Z.Y., Tanner, J.A., Chye, M.L., Qian, C., Ng, K.M., Li, H. & Sun, H. Rapid labeling of intracellular His-tagged proteins in living cells. Proc Natl Acad Sci USA, 112(10), 2948-2953 (2015)
  16. Cheung, Y.W., Kwok, J., Law, A.W.L., Watt, R.M., Kotaka, M. & Tanner, J.A. Structural basis for discriminatory recognition of Plasmodium lactate dehydrogenase by a DNA aptamer. Proc Natl Acad Sci USA, 110(40), 15967-15972 (2013)
  1. Bevan, S.J., Chan, C.W.L. & Tanner, J.A. Diverse assessment and active student engagement sustain deep learning: a comparative study of outcomes in two parallel introductory biochemistry courses. Biochem Mol Biol Edu42(6), 474-479 (2014).
  2. Miller, A. D. & Tanner, J.A. Essentials of Chemical Biology: Structure and Dynamics of Biological Macromolecules. John Wiley & Sons, Ltd, Chichester, UK. 573 pages (2008).

Book cover

  • Next generation aptamer-mediated rapid diagnostic tests for the point-of-care diagnosis of malaria (Shirley Boyde Trust 2017)
  • Expanding the functional repertoire of nucleic acid aptamers by fluorescence-activated droplet sorting (CERG GRF 2016)
  • Development of an aptamer-based sensor for monitoring luteinizing hormone pulsatility (HMRF 2016)
  • DNA display SELEX – a new approach to evolve fluorescent tools to image RNA in living cells (CERG GRF 2015)
  • DNA origami interfaced with aptamer-mediated molecular recognition for integrated modular diagnostics (CERG GRF 2014)
  • 3-D Printed Aptamer-Enabled Diagnostic Dominoes for Malaria (CERG GRF 2013)
  • Defining the Roles of the Fundamental Macromolecule Inorganic Polyphosphate in Osteoblasts (CERG GRF 2012)
  • HKU Outstanding Research Student Supervisor Award (2017
  • HKU Outstanding Young Researcher Award (2016)
  • HKU Outstanding Teacher Award (2015)
  • Fellow of the Royal Society of Chemistry (FRSC) (2015)
  • HKU Li Ka Shing Faculty of Medicine Teaching Medal (2011)
  • Dr Yee-Wai Cheung – Post-doctoral fellow
  • Dr Andrew Kinghorn – Post-doctoral fellow
  • Soubhagya Bhuyan – PhD student
  • Lewis Fraser – PhD student
  • Chandra Jinata – PhD student
  • Mei Li Khong – PhD student
  • Shaolin Liang – PhD student (joint HKU-Imperial College)
  • Mengping Liu – PhD student
  • Simon Shiu – PhD student
  • Alvin Wong Wai Chung – MMedSc student
  • Emerald Ng Kwok Wai – MMedSc student
  • Vanessa Choi – Technician

* I am open to enquiries from prospective PhD students, please contact me. Financially supported positions may be available for excellent applicants, either local or international. Hong Kong PhD Fellowship Scheme applicants are particularly welcome.

  • Dr Cecilia Chan – PhD
  • Dr Celine Chan – PhD
  • Dr Yee-Wai Cheung – PhD
  • Dr Mei Choi – PhD
  • Dr Roderick Dirkzwager – PhD
  • Dr Andrew Kinghorn – PhD
  • Dr Eric Lui – PhD
  • Dr Kato Shum – PhD
  • Dr Wesley Tucker – PhD
  • Dr Yuanyuan Yu – PhD
  • Carl Ao – MPhil
  • Mari Kimura – MPhil
  • Bob Lee – MPhil
  • Marco Tang – MPhil

We host the HKU Protein Analysis Facility with access to the following equipment:

  • Isothermal Titration Calorimetry
  • Differential Scanning Calorimetry
  • Biacore Surface Plasmon Resonance
  • Time-resolved Fluorescence Polarization Plate Reader
  • Asiga Freeform Pico 3D Printer

Please contact us if interested in using any of this equipment.