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Academic Staff

Professor TANNER, Julian Alexander 唐柱霖

Professor TANNER, Julian Alexander 唐柱霖

  • BSc (Bristol); PhD (Imperial College London)
  • Professor
  • Director of the Common Core, The University of Hong Kong
  • Assistant Dean (Biomedical Sciences Curriculum), Li Ka Shing Faculty of Medicine
  • Associate Director (Teaching and Learning), School of Biomedical Sciences
L3-70, Laboratory Block, 21 Sassoon Road, Hong Kong
+852 3917 9472
+852 2855 1254
  • Chemical Biology
  • Directed Nucleic Acid Evolution for Biomedical Application
  • Transdisciplinarity

Professor Julian A. Tanner is Director of the Common Core, Assistant Dean T&L (Biomedical Sciences Curriculum) and Associate Director (T&L) of the School of Biomedical Sciences.

A cubane-modified aptamer evolved to specifically recognise a malaria protein biomarker.

Evolution of abiotic cubane chemistries in a nucleic acid aptamer allows selective recognition of a malaria biomarker as published in PNAS in July 2020 as a collaboration between the University of Hong Kong and Pasteur Institut, Paris. The image shows a cubane-modified aptamer in blue which was evolved in our laboratory to specifically recognise a malaria protein biomarker depicted by the red and white surface.

Robotic APTamer-enabled electrochemical reader (RAPTER)

Robotic APTamer-enabled electrochemical reader (RAPTER) for luteinising hormone sensing to diagnose reproductive disorders as published in Nature Communications in Feb 2019 as a collaboration between the University of Hong Kong and Imperial College London.

Cover image
Congratulations to Simon Shiu for latest DNA nanotweezers publication. Cover of inaugural February 2017 issue of Advanced Biosystems in the Advanced Materials series.
Cover image
Congratulations to Simon Shiu, Lewis Fraser (joint first authors) and Yifan Ding (former Final Year Project undergraduate student) for cover of July 2018 issue of Molecules.

Julian's research field is chemical biology, with a particular focus on directed nucleic acid evolution for translational biomedical application. The Tanner lab brings together interdisciplinary experimental approaches at the interface of biomedical science, chemistry and engineering to tackle major medical challenges. His highly collaborative research team is developing new technologies for biosensing, diagnostics and therapeutics in a variety of contexts, including point-of-care infectious disease diagnostics and continuous hormone sensing for reproductive disorders. The team is also investigating the interface of aptamers and DNA nanotechnology through design of triggers of conformational change at the nanoscale.

Julian also plays major roles in T&L at HKU. He is Director of the Common Core of HKU, is the Programme Director of the BBiomedSc degree programme, and helps to oversee the first two years of the MBBS in his Assistant Dean capacity. Julian has particular interest in how to build the best transdisciplinary environment for student achievement at the nexus between T&L, research and innovation.

The team has published widely in leading journals including Nature Communications, PNAS, Angewandte Chemie, Biosensors & Bioelectronics, Advanced Biosystems and Analytical Chemistry. Julian also co-authored the multidisciplinary textbook “Essentials of Chemical Biology” published by Wiley with a second edition in press for 2023.

Lab Photo 2018

Lab Photo: (from left to right): Wai Kit Ming, Andrew Kinghorn, Lin Wang, Robert Jesky, Aegee Martin, Cyrus Chan;
(middle from left to right): Soubhagya Bhuyan, Chau Tran, Julian Tanner, Young Lo, Chandra Jinata;
(lower from left to right): Weisi He, Mengping Liu, Vanessa Choi, Simon Shiu

  1. Bhuyan, S.K., Wang, L., Jinata, C., Kinghorn, A.B., Liu, M., He, W., Sharma, R. & Tanner, J.A. Directed evolution of a G-quadruplex peroxidase DNAzyme and application in proteomic DNAzyme-aptamer proximity labeling. J. Am. Chem. Soc., (2023)

  2. Shiu, S.C.C., Whitehouse, W.L. & Tanner, J.A. Designing aptamer-enabled DNA polyhedra using paper origami. Trends Anal Chem, 116723 (2022)
  3. Wang, L., Cui, J., Tanner, J.A.* & Shiu, S.C.C.* Self-assembly of DNA tiles with G-quadruplex DNAzyme catalytic activity for sensing applications. ACS Appl Bio Mater, 5(8), 3788-3794 (2022)
  4. Chan, K.Y., Kinghorn, A.B., Hollenstein, M., & Tanner, J.A. Chemical modifications for a next generation of nucleic acid aptamers. Chembiochem, E202200006 (2022)
  5. Yu, Y., Liu, M., Choi, V.N.T., Cheung, Y.W. & Tanner, J.A. Selection and characterization of DNA aptamers inhibiting a druggable target of osteoarthritis, ADAMTS-5. Biochimie, 201, 168-176 (2022)
  6. Liu, M., Wang, L., Lo, Y., Shiu, S.C.C., Kinghorn, A.B., & Tanner, J.A. Aptamer-enabled nanomaterials for therapeutics, drug targeting and imaging. Cells, 11(1), 159 (2022)
  7. Guo, W.*, Kinghorn, A.B.*, Zhang, Y., Li, Q., Poonam, A.D., Tanner, J.A.* & Shum, H.C.* Non-associative phase separation in an evaporating droplet as a model for prebiotic compartmentalization. Nature Commun, 12, 1-13 (2021)
  8. Lo, Y., Cheung, Y.W., Wang, L., Lee, M., Figueroa-Miranda, G., Liang, S., Mayer, D. & Tanner, J.A. An electrochemical aptamer-based biosensor targeting Plasmodium falciparum histidine-rich protein II for malaria diagnosis Biosens Bioelectron, 192, 113472 (2021)
  9. Minopoli, A., Della Ventura, B., Lenyk, B., Gentile, F., Tanner, J. A. Offenhausser, A., Mayer, D. & Velotta, R. Ultrasensitive antibody-aptamer plasmonic biosensor for malaria biomarker detection in whole blood. Nature Commun, 11, 6134 (2020)
  10. Cheung, Y.W.*, Rothlisberger, P.*, Mechaly, A.E., Weber, P.P.W., Levi-Acobas, F., Lo, Y.,, Wong, A.W.C., Kinghorn, A.B., Haouz, A., Savage, G.P., Hollenstein, M.* & Tanner, J.A.* Evolution of abiotic cubane chemistries in a nucleic acid aptamer allows selective recognition of a malaria biomarker. Proc Natl Acad Sci USA, 117, 16790 (2020)
  11. Khong, M.L., Li, L., Solesio, M.E., Pavlov, E.V. & Tanner, J.A. Inorganic polyphosphate controls cyclophilin B-mediated collagen folding in osteoblast-like cells. FEBS J, 287, 4500 (2020)
  12. Liang, S., Kinghorn, A.B., Voliotis, M., Prague, J.K., Veldhuis, J.D., Tsaneva-Atanasova, K., McArdle, C.A., Li, R.H.W., Cass, A.E.G.*, Dhillo, W.S.* & Tanner, J.A.* Measuring luteinising hormone pulsatility with a robotic aptamer-enabled electrochemical reader. Nature Commun, 10,  852 (2019)
  13. Fraser, L.A., Cheung, Y.W., Kinghorn, A.B., Guo, W., Shiu, S.C.C., Jinata, C., Liu, M., Bhuyan, S., Nan, L., Shum, H.C. & Tanner, J.A. Microfluidic Technology for Nucleic Acid Aptamer Evolution and Application. Adv Biosys, 3, 190012 (2019)
  14. Li, L., Khong, M.L., Lui, E.L.H., Mebarek, S., Magne, D., Buchet, R. & Tanner, J.A. Long-chain polyphosphate in osteoblast matrix vesicles: enrichment and inhibition of mineralization. Biochim Biophys Acta Gen Subj, 1863(1), 199-209 (2019)
  15. Shiu, S.C.C., Kinghorn, A.B., Sakai, Y., Cheung, Y.W., Heddle, J.G. & Tanner, J.A. Three S’s for aptamer-mediated control of DNA nanostructure dynamics: shape, self-complementarity and spatial flexibility. Chembiochem, 19(18), 1900-1906 (2018)
  16. Shiu, S.C.C.*, Fraser, L.A.*, Ding, Y. & Tanner, J.A. Aptamer display on diverse DNA polyhedron supports. Molecules, 23(7), 1695 (2018)
  17. 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. Nanomed. Nanotechnol Biol Med14, 1161-1168 (2018)
  18. 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. Biochimie145, 131-136 (2018) Bioelectron, 100, 591-596 (2018)
  19. 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 (2017)
  20. 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)
  21. 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. Chan, E., Khong, M.L., Torda, A., Tanner, J.A., Velan, G.M., Wong, G.T.C., Medical teachers’ experience of emergency remote teaching during the COVID-19 pandemic: a cross-institutional study. BMC Med Educ, 22(1), 303 (2022)
  2. Khong, M.L. & Tanner, J.A. A collaborative two-stage examination in biomedical sciences: positive impact on feedback and peer collaboration. Biochem Mol Biol Edu, 49(1), 69-79 (2021)
  3. Khong, M.L., Chan, E., Tanner, J.A., Lee, P.P.W. & Wong, G.T.C. COVID-19 – a covert catalyst for pedagogical stocktake and transformation: perspectives of a global hub. MedEdPublish, 9, 212 (2020)
  4. Tanner, J.A., Kinghorn, A.B. & Cheung, Y.W. Aptamers. MDPI, Basel, Switzerland. 289 pages (2018) (edited book)
  5. 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 Edu, 42(6), 474-479 (2014)
  6. 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) (authored book)

Book coveraptamers book

  • Aptamer: Molecular Insight and Translational Theranostics (HKU Co-PI, UGC TBRS 2021)
  • Kepler-Poinsot DNA nanostructures as sharp next-generation drug delivery vehicles (CERG GRF 2021)
  • COVID-19 Point-of-Care Diagnostics in Saliva: an Aptamer-Mediated Approach (ITF COVID-19 2021)
  • Da Vinci-Inspired DNA nanostructures targeted with aptamers for cancer therapeutics (CERG GRF 2020)
  • Nucleic acid aptamer decorated peptide amphiphile nanofibers for regenerative medicine applications (CERG GRF 2018)
  1. Tanner, J.A. & Cheung, Y.W. Sandwich and species-specific nucleic acid aptamers against Plasmodium lactate dehydrogenase for malaria diagnosis. PCT/CN2017/115895 (2017)
  2. Kinghorn, A.D. & Tanner, J.A. DNA display and methods thereof. PCT/CN2015/073350, CN201580079273.2A, US15/553885, EP15882959.8A (2015)
  3. Tanner, J.A., Cheung, Y.W. & Kotaka, M., Nucleic acid aptamers against Plasmodium lactate dehydrogenase and histidine-rich protein II and uses thereof for malaria diagnosis. US9000137B2, CN104245957B, WO2013117162A1, EP2812453B1 (2013)
  4. Tanner, J. A., Shum, K.T. & Chan, C.S.L., High-affinity nucleic acid aptamers against sclerostin protein. US8552166B2, CN102971424B, WO2011147193A1, EP2576786B1 (2013)
  • Faculty Outstanding Research Output Award (2020)
  • Hong Kong UGC Teaching Award (Team) (2019)
  • HKU Outstanding Teacher Award (Team) (2018)
  • HKU Outstanding Research Student Supervisor Award (2017)
  • HKU Outstanding Young Researcher Award (2016)
  • HKU Outstanding Teacher Award (Individual) (2015)
  • Fellow of the Royal Society of Chemistry (FRSC) (2014)
  • Dr Andrew Kinghorn – Post-Doctoral Fellow
  • Dr Simon Chi-Chin Shiu – Post-Doctoral Fellow
  • Dr Louisa Lo – Post-Doctoral Fellow (Advanced Biomedical Instrumentation Centre)
  • Dr William Whitehouse – Post-Doctoral Fellow (Advanced Biomedical Instrumentation Centre)
  • Dr Soubhagya Bhuyan – Post-Doctoral Fellow (Advanced Biomedical Instrumentation Centre)
  • Dr Lin Wang – Post-Doctoral Fellow (Advanced Biomedical Instrumentation Centre)
  • Jingyu Cui – PhD student
  • Weisi He – PhD student
  • Ryan Siu – PhD student
  • Yinuo Xie – PhD student
  • Zach Smith – Technician

* I am open to enquiries from prospective PhD students and post-doctoral fellows, 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.

As primary supervisor:

  • Dr Soubhagya Bhuyan – PhD
  • Dr Cecilia Chan – PhD
  • Dr Celine Chan – PhD
  • Dr Yee-Wai Cheung – PhD
  • Dr Mei Choi – PhD
  • Dr Roderick Dirkzwager – PhD
  • Dr Lewis Fraser – PhD
  • Dr Chandra Jinata – PhD
  • Dr Mei Li Khong – PhD
  • Dr Andrew Kinghorn – PhD
  • Dr Shaolin Liang – PhD (joint HKU-Imperial)
  • Dr Mengping Liu - PhD
  • Dr Young Lo – PhD
  • Dr Eric Lui – PhD
  • Dr Simon Shiu – PhD
  • Dr Kato Shum – PhD
  • Dr Wesley Tucker – PhD
  • Dr Lin Wang - PhD
  • Dr Yuanyuan Yu – PhD
  • Carl Ao – MPhil
  • Mari Kimura – MPhil
  • Bob Lee – MPhil
  • Marco Tang – MPhil
  • Alvin Wai Chung Wong – MMedSc

Last update: 2023-06-06