HKUST ECE Hong Kong PhD Fellowship (HKPF) Awardees Make Corona Virus Breakthrough

A team of ECE members, Prof. Matthew McKAY (Professor), Dr. Ahmed Abdul QUADEER (Post-doctoral fellow, HKPF awardee) and Mr. Syed Faraz AHMED (Year-4 PhD student, HKPF awardee), has recently identified a set of potential vaccine targets which could be helpful for the development of a vaccine against the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus.

Led by Prof. McKAY and Dr. QUADEER, the team identified a set of B cell and T cell epitopes derived from SARS – protein fragments that can trigger the immune response against SARS-CoV – that may similarly trigger an immune response against the novel coronavirus. The findings are fundamental in guiding further studies on the development of effective vaccines against COVID-19.

Prof. McKay addressed that "Despite similarities between SARS-CoV and SARS-CoV-2, there is genetic variation between the two, and it is not obvious if epitopes that elicit an immune response against SARS-CoV will likely be effective against SARS-CoV-2. We found that only roughly 20% of the SARS-CoV epitopes map identically to SARS-CoV-2, and believe these are promising candidates."

Their findings were recently published in the scientific journal Viruses:

Syed Faraz Ahmed, Ahmed A. Quadeer, Matthew R. McKay. "Preliminary Identification of Potential Vaccine Targets for the COVID-19 Coronavirus (SARS-CoV-2) Based on SARS-CoV Immunological Studies". Viruses 2020, 12(3), 254;


Prof. McKay
The research team (from right) – Prof. Matthew McKAY (Professor), Dr. Ahmed Abdul QUADEER (Post-doctoral fellow, HKPF awardee); and Mr. Syed Faraz AHMED (Year-4 PhD student, HKPF awardee)

Related Links

Viruses - Cover Strory in Volume 12, Issue 3 (March 2020)

HKUST Press Release - HKUST Scientists Shed Light on COVID-19 Vaccine Development

HKUST - Our Fight Against COVID-19 Pandemic

New Scientist - How soon will we have a coronavirus vaccine? The race against covid-19

News Medical - HKUST scientists provide leads for guiding research towards COVID-19 vaccine development

The Standard - SARS link raises vaccine hope

組學 - Viruses:香港科技大学揭示COVID-19肺炎疫苗的潜在靶点

Science Daily - COVID-19 vaccine development

Top Stories United States - Important Discovery in COVID-19 Coronavirus Vaccine Development

Investor Bits - Researchers provide leads for guiding analysis towards COVID-19 vaccine growth hkust

PRISM - Intensive Care


Hong Kong PhD Fellowship Scheme

HKUST Office of Postgraduate Studies - Scholarship & Fees

University Grants Committee - Research Grants Council


[UPDATE - 1 Sept 2020]

An article on the latest study conducted by Prof. Matthew MCKAY on the protective role of T cells against COVID-19 collating the available database of T cell epitopes gathered from some 1,200 COVID-19 patients who recovered and his web platform on real-time recommendation of vaccine targets for the coronavirus.  (News Medical Net)

News Medical Net – T cell epitopes from recovered COVID-19 patients identified for vaccine

bioRxiv - Epitopes targeted by T cells in convalescent COVID-19 patients

What to read next