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Academic Staff

Dr CHAN, Vera Sau Fong 陳秀芳 (joint appointment with Department of Medicine)

Dr CHAN, Vera Sau Fong 陳秀芳 (joint appointment with Department of Medicine)

  • BSc (HKU); DPhil (Oxon)
  • Assistant Professor
Room 807, Administration Block, Queen Mary Hospital
+852 2255 5995
+852 2818 6474
  • Innate receptors immunobiology: C-type lectin receptors and Toll-like receptors and their roles in autoimmune diseases and infection
  • Cellular immuno-dysregulation in systemic lupus erythematosus
  • Molecular profiling and biomarkers development for SLE
  • Molecular and cellular immunology; animal models for autoimmune diseases

Dr. Vera S.F. Chan is currently an Assistant Professor with a joined appointment in the Department of Medicine and the School of Biomedical Sciences, Faculty of Medicine. Chan obtained a B.Sc. (Hons) in Biological Science at the University of Hong Kong, then her D.Phil. in Molecular Immunology from the Nuffield Department of Medicine of the Oxford University, United Kingdom in 1999, with the support of the Croucher Scholarship. Continued with the award of Croucher Fellowship, she received post-doctoral training at the Ontario Cancer Institute of University of Toronto in Canada and subsequently returned to HKU, Department of Surgery in 2002. In 2006, she was recruited as a Lecturer at Imperial College London in UK and re-joined HKU in 2010. She has extensive research experience from different cultural background and has supervised many MPhil and PhD students. Her research interests include T cell tolerance and activation mechanisms, C-type lectin receptor in infectious diseases and autoimmunity. Currently, she has her research programme in HKU investigating the role of innate receptors in systemic lupus erythematosus.

C-type lectin receptors (CLRs) are important innate receptors that shape both the innate and adaptive immune responses. Similar to other pattern recognition receptors (PRRs), CLRs are immuno-modulatory receptors that recognize pathogens through the pathogen-associated molecular patterns (PAMPs), and are widely expressed by dendritic cells (DCs) -- the master cell type that orchestrates immune responses. My research interest is in CLR immunobiology and I delineated unique protective roles of two CLRs, namely L-SIGN and DC-SIGN, in SARS and HIV infections. In autoimmunity, CLRs also play an important role as they recognize endogenous ligands that associated with damaged cells through the damaged-associated molecular patterns (DAMPs). One of our current research directions is to study PRRs in SLE immunopathogenesis. Our recent RGC-funded research project involves the functional characterization of the novel C-type lectin domain family 16 member A (CLEC16A), which is genetically associated with a number of autoimmune disorders including systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE). We have found that CLEC16A can regulate autophagy by modifying mTOR activity; and that in SLE patients, a reduced CLEC16A expression in peripheral leukocytes may attribute to the increase in autophagy in lupus T cells. On-going research focuses on elucidating the mechanisms by which CLEC16A exert its functions in the immune system through cellular and proteomics approaches. 

Another research direction of our laboratory is to dissect the molecular and cellular dysregulations leading to lupus pathogenesis.  SLE is a fairly common systemic rheumatic disease in Southeast Asia. Lupus is heavily female-biased and its diverse clinical manifestations reflect the complex interplay of multiple etiological factors.  Our research includes studies to elucidate functional abnormalities in dendritic cells and delineate the epigenetic regulatory elements in SLE development in animal models.  In addition, we also have collaborative clinical research projects to  explore the use of ‘-omics’ platforms for developing biomarkers for lupus nephritis prognosis as well as developing immunological tools for detecting circulating levels of biologics in patients with rheumatic disorders.

  1. Yan S, Yim LY, Tam CY, Chan WK, Lu L, Lau CS and *Chan VSF. MicroRNA-155 Mediates Augmented CD40 Expression in Bone Marrow Derived Plasmacytoid Dendritic Cells in Symptomatic Lupus-Prone NZB/W F1 Mice. Int J Mol Sci 2016, 17(8): 1282. (*corresponding author)
  2. Tam RC, Lee AL, Yang W, Lau CS and *Chan VS. Systemic Lupus Erythematosus Patients Exhibit Reduced Expression of CLEC16A Isoforms in Peripheral Leukocytes. Int J Mol Sci 2015, 16: 14428. (*corresponding author)
  3. Yan S, Yim LY, Lu L, Lau CS and Chan VSF*. MicroRNA Regulation in Systemic Lupus Erythematosus Pathogenesis. Immune Netw. 2014, 14(3):138-148. (*corresponding author)
  4. Chen Y, Hwang SL, Chan VS, Chung NP, Wang SR, Li Z, Ma J, Lin CW, Hsieh YJ, Chang KP, Kung SS, Wu YC, Chu CW, Tai HT, Gao GF, Zheng B, Yokoyama KK, Austyn JM, and Lin CL. Binding of HIV-1 gp120 to DC-SIGN promotes ASK-1-dependent activation-induced apoptosis of human dendritic cells. PLoS Pathog 2013, 9(1):e1003100.
  5. Chan VS, Tsang HH, Tam, RC, Lu L and Lau CS. B-cell-targeted therapies in systemic lupus erythematosus. Cell Mol Immunol. 2013, 10:133-142.
  6. Chan VS, Nie YJ, Shen N, Yan S, Mok MY, and Lau CS. Distinct roles of myeloid and plasmacytoid dendritic cells in systemic lupus erythematosus.  Autoimmunity Rev. 2012, 11:890-897
  7. To YF, Sun RW, Chen Y, *Chan VS, Yu WY, Tam PK, Che CM, and Lin CL. Gold(III) porphyrin complex is more potent than cisplatin in inhibiting growth of nasopharyngeal carcinoma in vitro and in vivo. Int J Cancer 2008, 124:1971-1979 (*corresponding author)
  8. *Chen Y, *Chan VS, Zheng B, Chan KY, Xu X, To YF, Huang FP, Khoo US and Lin CL. A novel subset of putative stem/progenitor CD34+Oct-4+ cells is the major target for SARS coronavirus in human lung. J Exp Med 2007, 204:2529-2536. (*equal contribution)
  9. Chan VS, Chan KY, Chen Y, Poon LL, Cheung A, Zheng B, Chan KH., Mak W, Ngan HY, Xu X, Screaton G., Tam PK, Austyn J, Chan LC, Yip SP, Peiris M, Khoo US and Lin CL.  Homozygous L-SIGN (CLEC4M) plays a protective role in SARS coronavirus infection. Nat Genet 2006, 38:38-46
  10. Chan VS, Chau S, Tian L, Chen Y, Kwong SKY, Quackenbush J, Dallman M, Lamb J and Tam PKH. Sonic hedgehog promotes CD4+ lymphocyte proliferation and modulates the expression of a subset of CD28 targeted genes. Int Immunol 2006, 18:1627-1636.
  • General Research Fund, HKRGC: The role of regulatory microRNAs in plasmacytoid dendritic cell functions in systemic lupus erythematosus immunopathogenesis.
  • General Research Fund, HKRGC. Functional characterization of the novel C-type lectin-like receptor CLEC16A and its expression association in systemic lupus erythematosus.
  • The Croucher Foundation (Hong Kong) Fellowship (1998-2000)
  • The Edward Jenner Institute for Vaccine Research (UK) Studentship (1997-98)
  • The Croucher Foundation (Hong Kong) Scholarship (1994-97)
  • The Hong Kong-Oxford Scholarship Fund Bursaries for Postgraduate (1993-94)