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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
  • Senior Advisor to the HKUMed T&L Deanery, Li Ka Shing Faculty of Medicine
L3-70, Laboratory Block, 21 Sassoon Road, Hong Kong
+852 3917 9472
+852 2855 1254
  • Chemical Biology
  • Nucleic Acid Engineering
  • Student Learning

Professor Julian A. Tanner is Director of the Common Core and Senior Advisor to the HKUMed T&L Deanery.

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.

  • 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, engineering and chemistry to tackle major medical challenges. His highly collaborative research team is developing new technologies for point-of-care biosensing, diagnostics and therapeutics in a variety of contexts, including for infectious disease, infertility, various cancers and sepsis. The team is also active into research into nucleic acid structure and function, investigating the interface of aptamers and DNA nanotechnology through interdisciplinary apporoaches. The team publishes frequently in leading journals including recently in Nature Communications, PNAS, Angewandte Chemie, Biosensors & Bioelectronics, Advanced Biosystems and Analytical Chemistry, and holds over a dozen patents.
  • Julian also plays major roles in T&L at HKU. He is Director of the Common Core across the University of Hong Kong, and is Senior Advisor to the HKUMed T&L Deanery. He is the former Director of the BBiomedSc degree programme (2018-2024), and played a major role in reform of the first two years of the MBBS curriculum in a former Assistant Dean role at HKUMed (2018-2024). He is co-author of one of the leading textbooks of Chemical Biology – Essential of Chemical Biology (Wiley), with a second edition recently published in early 2024. Julian has particular interest in how to build the best transdisciplinary environment for student achievement at the nexus between T&L, research and innovation for students across all disciplines and faculties of the University.



  1. Whitehouse, W.L., Lo, L.H.Y., Kinghorn, A.B., Shiu, S.C.C. and Tanner, J.A. Structure-switching electrochemical aptasensor for rapid, reagentless and single-step nanomolar detection of C-reactive protein. ACS Appl Bio Mater, 7, 6, 3721-3730 (2024)
  2. Niogret, G., Bouvier-Muller, A., Figazzolo, C., Joyce, J.M., Bonhomme, F., England, P., Mayboroda, O., Pellarin, R., Gasser, G., Tucker, J.H.R., Tanner, J.A., Savage, G.P. & Hollenstein, M. Interrogating aptamer chemical space through modified nucleotide substitution facilitated by enzymatic DNA synthesis. Chembiochem, e202300539 (2024)
  3. Liu, M., Kinghorn, A.B., Wang, L., Bhuyan, S.K., Shiu, S.C.C. and Tanner, J.A. The evolution and application of a novel DNA aptamer targeting bone morphogenetic protein 2 for bone regeneration. Molecules, 26, 6, 1243 (2024)
  4. 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.145, 23, 12726-12736 (2023)
  5. Shiu, S.C.C., Whitehouse, W.L. & Tanner, J.A. Designing aptamer-enabled DNA polyhedra using paper origami. Trends Anal Chem, 116723 (2022)
  6. 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)
  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. 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)
  12. 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)
  13. 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. Miller, A.D. & Tanner, J.A. Essentials of Chemical Biology: Structure and Dynamics of Biological Macromolecules – Second Edition. John Wiley & Sons, Ltd, Chichester, UK. 560 pages (2024) (authored book)
  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. Tanner, J.A., Kinghorn, A.B. & Cheung, Y.W. Aptamers. MDPI, Basel, Switzerland. 289 pages (2018) (edited book)
  4. 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)
  5. 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) 

. . .

  • Aptamer: Molecular Insight and Translational Theranostics (HKU Co-PI, UGC TBRS 2021)
  • Advanced Biomedical Instrumentation Centre (ABIC) InnoHK Co-PI (2021-2025)
  • Toroidal DNA nanostructures for rotary catalysis (CERG GRF 2024)
  • 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. & Shiu, S.C.C. Facet-based nucleic acid platonic, Kepler-Poinsot polyhedral and four-dimensional tesseract for therapeutic, diagnostic and analytical applications. PCT International Application, USPTO 63/638955 (2024).
  2. Tanner, J.A. & Shiu, S.C.C. Nucleic acid mazzocchio and methods of making and use thereof. US20220168429A1 (2022), CH114072505 (2023), EP3953475A4 (2022)
  3. Tanner, J.A. & Cheung, Y.W. Sandwich and species-specific nucleic acid aptamers against Plasmodium lactate dehydrogenase for malaria diagnosis. PCT/CN2017/115895 (2017)
  4. Kinghorn, A.D. & Tanner, J.A. DNA display and methods thereof. WO2016134521 A1 (2015)
  5. 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. US Patent No. 9000137, CN104245957A, EP2812453A1 (2013)
  6. Tanner, J.A. & Cheung, Y.W. DNA aptamers against plasmodium lactate dehydrogenase and histidine-rich protein II for malaria diagnosis and therapy. US Provisional Patent, 61/596,774 (2012)
  7. Tanner, J. A., Shum, K.T. & Chan, C.S.L., High-affinity nucleic acid aptamers against sclerostin protein. US2011/0294872 A1, EP2576786A1 (2011-2014)
  • HKU Teaching Innovation Award (Team) (2023)          
  • QS Reimagine Education Silver and Bronze Awards (2023)  
  • 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 – Research Assistant Professor
  • 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: 2024-07-18