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Professor Bernard Cheung

Medical Director of HKU Phase 1 Centre

From Clinical Pharmacology to Phase 1 Clinical Trials

“Clinical pharmacology is an essential part of evidence-based medicine. It looks at drugs and treatments to verify their efficacy and safety, and is a foundation of medicine.” Professor Bernard Cheung, Clinical Professor of Department of Medicine of The University of Hong Kong and Medical Director of HKU-CTC Phase 1 Clinical Trials Centre, put aside his work and explained the importance of clinical pharmacology. He was self-effacing in front of the camera, but showed his passion and professionalism when talking about his clinical and research work.

Clinical Pharmacology is the Basis of Drug Development and Application

From a family full of doctors, Professor Cheung chose clinical pharmacology as his specialty. “Clinical pharmacology is the basis of drug development and application. All specialties need to use drugs, so clinical pharmacology is relevant to all of them. It has a special role in Hong Kong, China and worldwide.” Clinical pharmacology verifies the efficacy and safety of new drugs in people, through laboratory and clinical studies, and real-world data – which are the essential processes for advancing medicine and drug development.

Phase 1 Trials are Extremely Valuable

Professor Cheung’s specialty has added even more value to HKU-CTC’s development since the opening of the Phase 1 Centre about five years ago, but he gave the credit to Hong Kong’s traditional strengths in medicine: “Hong Kong has the best medical schools, a marvellous healthcare system, and a medical research environment using English as the working language, which helps local doctors develop their international perspectives and facilitates interactions with doctors worldwide.” 

When talking about his role as the Medical Director of the Phase 1 Centre, he said with a smile: “No news is good news. I am pleased that we have no major medical incidents so far, because we care a lot about our volunteers’ health and safety, and always make safety and protection of our volunteers our priority.”

As the public may not know much about phase 1 clinical trials, Professor Cheung gave an overview of the Phase 1 Centre and its importance: “Phase 1 trials represent a critical step in translating theories into practice. The data collected can accelerate new drug development by setting a solid foundation for further evaluation in phase 2 and 3 trials.” He also emphasized that phase 1 trial data are precious, so all the equipment, methods and procedures have to meet the highest standards. The research team is highly professional and complies strictly with standard operating procedures. There is careful monitoring of study participants to ensure their safety and well-being. Finally, the research data are carefully checked for accuracy so that they can form the basis of new medical knowledge. 

Working Together to Promote Scientific Research

Professor Cheung is well aware of the rapid developments in medicine and the collaborative opportunities in Mainland China. As a clinical professor with responsibilities in Hong Kong and Shenzhen, he had to travel to The University of Hong Kong-Shenzhen Hospital immediately after the interview. He said that medical research in Mainland China is booming, and many hospitals have set up their phase 1 clinical trials units. Collaborations and exchanges will therefore become more frequent in future.

Professor Cheung is confident that HKU-CTC will go from strength to strength, and make significant contributions to local and global evidence-based research.