Prof. Dennis Yuk-ming LO from the Faculty of Medicine at The Chinese University of Hong Kong (CUHK) received today the Future Science Prize – Life Science Prize for his seminal contribution to the widely-used noninvasive prenatal test based on the original discovery of fetal DNA in maternal blood which has benefited millions of pregnant women globally. The Future Science Prize, seen as the Chinese version of Nobel Prize, was co-founded by a group of scientists and entrepreneurs in mainland China. Awardees are selected by a committee of nine members from different scientific fields for their original and innovative scientific researches which have a long-term international impact and significance.
Professor Lo and his colleagues are instrumental in making non-invasive DNA-based prenatal testing a clinical reality. His team has developed a Down syndrome test that has been adopted in over 90 countries and has been used by millions of pregnant women. With the use of massively parallel sequencing and the development of novel bioinformatics strategies, Prof. Lo's group succeeded in deciphering a genome-wide genetic map of the fetus through the analysis of traces of fragmented DNA floating in the blood of pregnant women. This scientific achievement lays the foundation for developing non-invasive prenatal diagnostic tests for multiple genetic diseases.
Prof. Lo is now leading a multidisciplinary team to develop the next generation tools for the analysis of cell-free nucleic acids and to study the biology and pathological characteristics of cell-free fetal nucleic acids that have not been unravelled to date. The novel tools and new biological insights will be directed towards the overall goal of developing approaches for the assessment of pregnancy-associated pathologies, such as single gene diseases, fetal demise and preeclampsia.