Ocean of Bioinformatics

Landon's overseas research attachment in Yale

Landon Chan, a medical student of the College, had been attached to the Gerstein Lab, Yale University for 10 weeks over the summer. The Gerstein Lab is one of the biggest bioinformatics labs in the United States. With such a valuable overseas exposure, Landon has strengthened his research interest in computational genomics and his belief in its potential clinical utilities. ‘Genomic research is a very exciting field with tremendous growth,’ he remarked. Gaining hands-on research experience from top-notch scholars in Yale like Dr. Anurag Sethi is beneficial in widening his research perspective.

In the research attachment in Yale, he worked on a project on targeted enhancer predictions under the supervision of Dr. Sethi. Enhancers are one of the key genomic regulatory elements that increase gene expressions. Understanding of the genomic locations of enhancers could potentially improve our knowledge in many diseases as well as affect future diagnosis and management in the era of personalized medicine. However, because of the nature of enhancers, they are relatively difficult to identify. ‘We developed a prediction algorithm using Bayesian statistics which has resulted in relatively good prediction,’ said Landon.

Landon found the research task tremendously interesting and challenging. He got to utilize all the knowledge and skills acquired through his previous cross-disciplinary research experiences to tackle this research question. ’Having been to such a large-scale bioinformatics lab on human genome annotation, I learned how to understand and use these publicly available data. In the field of bioinformatics, many people came in with various backgrounds like electrical engineering, computer science, statistics and biology. Each of them offers a different angle to the same problem. The clashing of ideas resulted from vibrant discussions are often very interesting. Cross-disciplinary teamwork is tremendously important in this field.’

As one of the scholarship recipients of Innovation and Technology Scholarship Award Scheme, Landon has Miss Janet Wong, former Commissioner for Innovation and Technology, as his mentor. Miss Wong was responsible for the formulation and implementation of policies pertaining to innovation and technology. ‘Miss Wong is a caring, friendly, well-connected and insightful mentor,’ said Landon. They talked about various topics ranging from academic to family, from economics to politics, and from self to interpersonal relationships. ‘Miss Wong mentioned that the world is not black-and-white. If we were being too persistent in arguing who was right in step 1, we would never reach step 2. But life is about making a compromise so that things can move forward.’

Upon his return to Hong Kong, Landon has been taking part in community service to contribute his medical knowledge to society. On 25 October, he participated in a service project for the InnoTech Festival in Cityplaza. He taught some parents and children on cardiovascular health. He demonstrated some of the non-invasive bedside techniques that doctors use, such as palpation of pulses and ultrasonography, to assess cardiovascular health. It was hoped the he could inspire their interest and awareness in medicine and medical technology.

In future, Landon planned to translate the genomic research findings to patient care, and to develop personalized genomics in both diagnostics and therapeutics directions. ‘As I am very keen on the development of personalized medicine in Hong Kong, the experience at Yale is an important cornerstone for my future research in personalized medicine, and to bring it to Hong Kong so that more people can benefit from these amazing scientific discoveries.’

from left: Dr. Anurag Sethi (site supervisor), Landon and Prof. Mark Gerstein (founder of The Gerstein Lab)

Teaching the general public cardiovascular knowledge in Cityplaza