Research Insights - March 18, 2019

Branching Out for Better Health

(Left) Prof. ZHANG Mingjie, Chair Professor of Life Science, Kerry Holdings Professor of Science, IAS Senior Fellow at HKUST, (Middle) IAS Senior Visiting Fellow Prof. Paul SCHIMMEL, the co-founder of Pangu BioPharma, a Hong Kong subsidiary of the biotherapeutics company aTyr Pharma, and (Right) Dr. Sanjay SHUKLA, President and Chief Executive Officer of aTyr Pharma, Inc.

Those of us who have lived in Hong Kong long enough know that tuberculosis was once a major killer back in the 1950s, when overcrowded living environments and unsanitary conditions were a common sight. Tuberculosis (結核病, commonly known as 肺癆, which refers to depletion of the lung), is regarded as one of the oldest contagious diseases in humans. In addition to a low-grade fever and blood in the sputum, persistent cough is also an obvious symptom of tuberculosis. 

Another disease that has many similarities to tuberculosis is pulmonary sarcoidosis (結節病), the most common form of interstitial lung disease (ILD, 間質性肺病) in the US, occupying 30% of the ILD patients. In China, pulmonary sarcoidosis appears less prevalent than in the US, but there is a trend towards better classification of ILD subtypes and more patients may be diagnosed. Thanks to a collaboration between HKUST and Pangu BioPharma, a Hong Kong subsidiary of the US biotherapeutics company aTyr Pharma, Inc., a new investigational therapeutic called ATYR1923 has been developed to treat pulmonary sarcoidosis.

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