Prof. Guan Yi (China)

Prof. Yi Guan’s research focuses on the ecology, evolution and pathogenesis of influenza and other emerging respiratory viruses. Over the past decade, his research team has made ground-breaking and distinguished contributions to research in virology and to the control of emerging infectious diseases in China and the world. His contribution to the field is reflected in his publication record of over 300 peer-reviewed articles with >33,600 citations and an h-index of 89.

In particular, Prof. Guan’s research on influenza has 1) identified all the major precursors and transmission pathways of the H5N1 influenza viruses that currently circulate in Southeast Asia, Europe and Africa; 2) initiated the systematic study of H9N2 viruses, which, along with H5 viruses, are now regarded as the most likely novel influenza subtypes to cause a pandemic; 3) defined the critical role of domestic ducks in harboring and spreading influenza viruses; 4) made major contributions in recognizing the emergence, evolutionary history and development of the 2009 H1N1 pandemic virus; and 5) revealed the genesis, infection source, evolutionary pathway and possible transmission route of the recently emerged H7N9 influenza virus.

Prof Guan also initiated the SARS etiological investigation in Guangdong that resulted in the Department of Microbiology at HKU being the first research team to identify this emerging coronavirus and was the first to identify the virus in wild animal markets Guangdong showing this to be the interface for zoonotic transmission to humans. He subsequently organized and led the nationally coordinated investigation in China to determine the zoonotic source of SARS coronavirus, and advised the Chinese Government on control measures to successfully avert a second SARS outbreak in early 2004 in Guangdong. His recent contributions on MERS have revealed the prevalence and evolution of the MERS coronavirus in its animal reservoir, which led to the human outbreaks in Korea and Saudi Arabia; and his work has identified a new coronavirus species co-circulating with the MERS coronavirus in camels.

Prof. Guan was repeatedly ranked as a highly cited researcher (2014-2018) and ranked 11th in the world in the field of microbiology (Thomson 2014). He has obtained substantial grant funding from the NIH of the USA, the Welcome Trust fund and the WHO as well as from local government sources and private foundations. “Time” magazine of the USA has twice featured him, first as one of 18 “Global Health Hero” and later as an “Asian Hero”.