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Saturday, Dec 10, 2022

Lo handed Lasker Award for innovative prenatal DNA test

Father of non-invasive prenatal diagnosis and molecular biologist Dennis Lo Yuk-ming, from the Chinese University of Hong Kong, has been honored for the medical invention which is helping millions of pregnant women around the world.
Lo won the Lasker-DeBakey Clinical Medical Research Award in the medical research category for the non-invasive blood test that screens for the genetic disorder Down Syndrome in fetuses.

The most prestigious award in medicine comes with US$250,000 (HK$1.95 million) prize, shared among three recipients in different categories, was announced by the Albert and Mary Lasker Foundation yesterday.

In 1997, Lo discovered that a pregnant woman's bloodstream carries the DNA of her unborn baby, and subsequently, developed the blood test to screen for the congenital condition in fetuses.

The technology, with 99 percent accuracy, was brought into clinics in 2011 and is now available in 60 countries. It replaced an old and invasive procedure, which led to many miscarriages.

His findings laid the foundation for the early detection of multiple types of cancer, paving way for the future development of molecular diagnostics.

Speaking to reporters yesterday, Lo said he was honored to receive the award and said he hoped to inspire the youths in Hong Kong to make a positive impact.

"As scientists, we have access to some of the best resources and technologies in human history, such as human genome sequence and advanced sequencing technologies," he said. "I encourage young people who are interested in biomedicine to seize this golden opportunity, and to make positive changes to the world through scientific research."

Since joining the Chinese University in 1997, Lo has become the director of the Li Ka Shing Institute of Health Sciences, associate dean of research at the medical school, chairman of the department of chemical pathology, and a member of the National Academy of Sciences.

He is the fifth Chinese to win the Lasker Award.

The foundation's public service award was presented to Lauren Gardner, who created the Covid Dashboard, while the basic medical research award went to a group of three researchers.

Founded in 1945, the Lasker Awards is regarded as America's top biomedical research prize honoring outstanding work in the public health.

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