For his discoveries of SARS-CoV-1 as the causative agent for the global SARS outbreak in 2003 and its zoonotic origin, with impact on combating Covid-19 and emerging infectious diseases.
During the outbreak of severe acute respiratory syndrome (SAR) in 2003, Kwok-Yung Yuen, Joseph Sriyal Malik Peiris and their team treated the first patients in Hong Kong and isolated SARS-CoV-1 from their clinical specimens, which was critical to the design of diagnostic tests and disease characterization (Lancet April 19, 2003). In addition, Kwok-Yung Yuen’s continued studies on SARS-like viruses in wild bats greatly increased our knowledge of zoonotic reservoirs, barriers to cross-species transmission, pathogenesis, and clinical diagnosis of these viruses. Because of the high prevalence of SARS-like coronavirus in bats, the discovery predicted the potential re-emergence of a SARS-like epidemic and stressed the importance of public health preparedness. As predicted, the bat coronavirus HKU4/5 was found to be closely related to MERS-CoV that caused the epidemic Middle East respiratory syndrome.
In summary, Kwok-Yung Yuen and Joseph Sriyal Malik Peiris have made seminal contributions to our understanding of emerging infectious diseases from SARS in 2003 to COVID-19, which led to more effective responses and strategies in controlling these diseases.
Kwok-Yung Yuen, born in 1956 in Hong Kong, China, obtained his Ph.D. from the University of Hong Kong in 1998, is currently a professor at the University of Hong Kong.
Joseph Sriyal Malik Peiris, born in 1949 in Sri Lanka, obtained his Ph.D. from the University of Oxford in 1981, is currently a professor at the University of Hong Kong.