1994 Award Recipient

Kan, Yuet Wai, MD (Molecular Basis of Hemoglobinopathies and Gene Therapy)

Kan, Yuet Wai, MD (University of California, San Francisco, California)
Dr. Kan was cited for his pioneer contribution to the elucidation of the molecular basis of hemoglobinopathies, and how his studies of DNA sequence polymorphisms opened up the whole sphere of modern human genetics, and also for his latest work on DNA gene therapy in the area of cancer research.

Educational Background
Dr. Kan was born in Hong Kong. He received his medical degree from the University of Hong Kong, graduating with top Honours. He trained in hematology at the Presbyterian University of Pennsylvania at Pittsburgh.

Career Development
Dr. Kan spent some time as a research fellow and associate at Harvard University in Boston, and also 2 years at McGill University in Montreal.

Dr. Kan joined the University of California in San Francisco in 1972. Since 1976, he has been an investigator for the Howard Hughes Medical Institute Laboratory for the Study of Human Genetic Diseases.

In 1983 Dr. Kan became the Louis K. Diamond Professor of Hematology at the University of California, San Francisco. Since 1990, he had also been appointed Director of the Institute of Molecular Biology of University of Hong Kong.

Major Contributions
Dr. Kan was a pioneer well in the forefront in investigating the causes of diseases like sickle cell anemia, and all the thalessemias.

The thalassemias affect a higher than average proportion in the Chinese population.

Dr. Kan’s elucidation of the molecular basis of these hematologic diseases has advanced the course of research in human genetic diseases, and he worked on the antenatal diagnosis of these diseases.

Dr. Kan also studied these diseases as they occurred in the different races. Later his studies on DNA polymorphisms advanced the molecular technology in studying genetic diseases. Recently he had concentrated his research on gene therapy, and how it could apply to cancer research.

Other Honorary
Dr. Kan has been awarded the honorary degree of Doctor of Science by the University of Hong Kong (1987), University of Cagliari, Italy (1981), and the Chinese University (1981).

Dr. Kan was the first Fellow of Chinese origin to be invited to join the prestigious Royal Society of London in 1981. He was appointed to be a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Science.

Dr. Kan had been honoured with almost every award for his outstanding research in human genetics, including:

  • The prestigious Gairdner Foundation International Award of Toronto in 1984,
  • The Albert Lasker Clinical Medical Research Award in 1991,
  • The Christopher Columbus Discovery Award in Biomedical Research in 1992, and
  • The Excellence 2000 Award in 1993.

Dr. Kan had been invited to be the keynote speakers at the medical schools of Oxford, Harvard, McGill, Cornell, Tel Aviv, Texas, Colorado, etc.

Dr. Kan had been very accommodating to the Chinese societies as well, and agreed to speak at both the Second and Fifth Conferences on Health Problems Related to the Chinese In North America in Los Angeles (1984) and Toronto (1990).

On the Centennial of the University of Hong Kong Medical School (1987), he was the keynote Tai Ping Shan Visiting Professor.

Dr. Kan sits on 13 Editorial Boards and Committees of important journals in Human Genetics and Clinical Research. He was the President of the American Society of Hematology in 1989-1990.

Dr. Kan serves as an advisor to the National Institutes of Health, and was on the President’s Committee on the National Medal of Science.

Dr. Kan also offers his help to Hong Kong, sitting as a Trustee on the Croucher Foundation and the Research Grants Council for the University and Polytechnic Grants Committee.

Dr. Kan’s publications number over 260, including sections in textbooks on Hematology.