State Key Laboratories

HKU currently has five State Key Laboratories (SKLs), which are partnered with and work closely alongside SKLs in mainland China. Two of the SKLs, Brain and Cognitive Sciences and Emerging Infectious Diseases, were set up in 2005, and were then the first and only SKLs in their respective fields located outside of mainland China. Two more, Liver Research and Synthetic Chemistry, were established in 2010. The fifth one on Pharmaceutical Biotechnology was established in 2013. SKLs are regarded as key components of China's science and technology research system. They serve as the base for top-level basic research and applied basic research development, assembling and nurturing outstanding researchers, as well as scholarly exchanges for the country.

Brain and Cognitive Sciences (腦與認知科學)

This SKL conducts interdisciplinary research that combines state-of-the-art functional magnetic imaging (fMRI), nanoscience, and genetic neuroscience approaches to investigate brain and cognitive functions such as language, attention, perception, and memory. Two important research directions are (1) comparative studies of the brain mechanisms supporting Chinese and other languages, and (2) studies of neurogenetic factors in the central nervous system. Its partner in the mainland is the SKL of Brain and Cognitive Sciences (Institute of Biophysics, Chinese Academy of Sciences).

Co-Directors: Professor P.C. Sham, Li Ka Shing Faculty of Medicine ( and Professor T.M.C. Lee, Psychology (

Emerging Infectious Diseases (新發傳染性疾病)

The four major research directions of this SKL are

  • ecology and evolution of avian influenza viruses
  • pathogenesis of influenza and SARS viruses
  • emerging viral pathogens
  • new vaccine technology

The mainland partner is the SKL for Infectious Diseases Prevention and Control (Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention).

Co-Directors: Professor K.Y. Yuen, Department of Microbiology ( and Professor Y. Guan, School of Public Health (

Liver Research (肝病研究)

This SKL undertakes frontier basic research on the prevention, diagnosis and treatment of liver diseases developed from hepatitis B virus (HBV) infection. The sequelae of chronic HBV infection, such as hepatitis, cirrhosis and hepatocellular carcinoma, are major causes of death in Hong Kong and mainland China. The SKL, while operating independently, is partnering with the SKL for Oncogenes and Related Genes of the Shanghai Cancer Institute.

Director: Professor I.O.L. Ng, Department of Pathology (

Synthetic Chemistry (合成化學)

The two main objectives of this SKL are to (1) create or identify novel chemical entities that are of fundamental interest with regard to structure and bonding and/or have unique properties that have useful applications; and (2) devise/develop new environmentally friendly methods for the synthesis of chemical entities of importance to society. The SKL is set up in collaboration with the Chinese University of Hong Kong, and is partnering with the SKL of Organometallic Chemistry of the Shanghai Institute of Organic Chemistry.

Director: Professor C.M. Che, Department of Chemistry (

Pharmaceutical Biotechnology (生物醫藥技術)

This SKL, in strategic collaboration with the SKL of Pharmaceutical Biotechnology at Nanjing University, aims to conduct basic, clinical and translational research on obesity, diabetes and its cardiovascular complications. It will serve as a key platform to strengthen collaborations and academic exchanges with the Mainland and international scientists, to train young researchers, and to support the pharmaceutical industries as well as clinical practice in Hong Kong and mainland China.

Director: Professor A. Xu, Department of Medicine (

HKU is also one of six collaborating local universities for the SKL in Marine Pollution, established in 2009 and hosted by City University of Hong Kong.