CityUHK scientist honoured with the RNA Society Early-Career Research Award

Jessica Leung


Professor Kwok Chun-kit is the only Hong Kong recipient of the 2024 RNA Society Early-Career Research Award.
Professor Kwok Chun-kit is the only Hong Kong recipient of the 2024 RNA Society Early-Career Research Award.

Professor Kwok Chun-kit, from the Department of Chemistry at City University of Hong Kong (CityUHK), has been honoured with the 2024 RNA Society Early-Career Research Award, in recognition of his achievement as an emerging leader in the field of ribonucleic acid (RNA) research. He is the first Hong Kong scientist awarded in the early-career category.

The RNA Society commended Professor Kwok for his exceptional work in elucidating the role of RNA structures and interactions in biology, especially the function of G-quadruplexes in regulating gene expression, as well as his contribution to organising the Hong Kong RNA Club.

“I am honoured to receive this award in my first nomination, and the RNA Society’s recognition of the Hong Kong RNA Club is of special meaning to me,” said Professor Kwok. He said he is also grateful to CityUHK, the Department of Chemistry, his research team and other funding bodies, as well as his mentors and family, for their unwavering support.

Professor Kwok hopes that being the first scientist in Hong Kong to receive the award will inspire and encourage more students to pursue RNA research. “This shows that with passion, hard work and perseverance, RNA scientists in Hong Kong can receive international recognition,” he added. Professor Kwok is also listed among the top 2% of the most cited scientists in the world, according to a report by Stanford University in October 2023.

RNAs play a crucial role in regulating gene expression. For example, they can act as messengers, carrying instructions from DNAs to produce proteins that are key to many biological processes. RNAs fold into fascinating structures. RNA G-quadruplexes (rG4s), which are special structural motifs formed by RNA sequences, are one of Professor Kwok’s key research foci, and his team is on a scientific quest to discover their prevalence in transcriptomes, their interactions with proteins in cells, and their role in biology. Another of his research directions involves the development of targeting tools for detection, imaging, intervention of functional RNA structures and interactions.

Recent studies have linked rG4s to cancer, neurological disorders and viral pathogenesis. Professor Kwok’s team is the first group in the world to develop L-RNA aptamers, a new type of tool that can target specific rG4s for potential applications in diagnostics, therapeutics and fundamental biological studies.

Professor Kwok and his research team
Professor Kwok and his research team

Beyond his research endeavours, Professor Kwok is one of the founders of the Hong Kong RNA Club, which was set up in 2017 to provide a platform to stimulate learning, knowledge sharing and networking. The Club has organised various seminars and symposiums, attracting over 1,300 participants, including young researchers and distinguished scholars from around the world.


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