Nancy Ip Yuk Yu

  • Senior Research Fellowship in 1998 at the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology

Professor Nancy Y. IP is currently the Dean of Science, Chair Professor of the Division of Life Science, and Director of the State Key Laboratory of Molecular Neuroscience at The Hong Kong University of Science and Technology. Professor Ip received her PhD degree in Pharmacology from Harvard University, and was Senior Staff Scientist at Regeneron Pharmaceuticals Inc., New York. Since joining HKUST in 1993, she has served as Associate Dean of Science (1998-2005), Director of the Biotechnology Research Institute (1996-2008), and Head of the Department of Biochemistry (2000-2009).

Prof Ip is well-known for her seminal discoveries in the biology of neurotrophic factors, which are proteins that promote the survival, development and maintenance of neurons in the nervous system. She has made important contributions towards understanding the molecular mechanisms underlying brain development and synaptic plasticity, and their dysregulation in neurological disorders. She also plays a significant role in the development of biotechnology in Hong Kong. She has helped to establish the expertise and capabilities to drive local drug discovery efforts, and launched prominent collaborations with major biopharmaceutical companies, thus placing HKUST on the map for cutting-edge R&D in molecular neuroscience.

As a highly accomplished researcher, Nancy Ip has published over 240 scientific papers with more than 16,400 SCI citations, and holds 23 patents. She is also the senior editor of the Journal of Neuroscience, and an elected Councillor for two leading organizations in the fields of neuroscience and psychopharmacology: the Society for Neuroscience and the CINP (Collegium Internationale Neuro-Psychopharmacologicum). In recognition of her excellent achievements in science and biotechnology, Nancy Ip has received numerous awards and honors. These include the Croucher Foundation Senior Research Fellowship; the National Natural Science Awards, China’s highest honor in the natural sciences; the L’OREAL-UNESCO for Women in Science Award, making her the first honoree in the life sciences from China; the Scientific and Technological Progress Prize of Ho Leung Ho Lee Foundation; and the Chevalier de l’Ordre National du Mérite. As a further testament to her professional achievement, she was elected Academician of the Chinese Academy of Sciences and Fellow of the Academy of Sciences for the Developing World.


Research Interests

Proper brain development and function depends on the intricate interplay of multiple signaling pathways in neurons. Cell surface receptors serve to transduce signals to the intracellular targets in response to external stimuli, and dysregulation of these signaling events can lead to various neurological disorders. Ip’s research is focused on unravelling the key molecular mechanisms essential for wiring neural circuitry as well as experience-dependent modulation of synaptic strength. Her earlier work on understanding the biology of neurotrophic factors and their signal transduction pathways has revealed their pivotal roles in neuronal survival, differentiation and synaptic plasticity, providing important implications for the development of neurotrophic factors as therapeutic agents for neurodegenerative diseases. Ip’s recent research involves understanding how receptor tyrosine kinases and G-protein-coupled receptors modulate hippocampal synaptic plasticity. Her work reveals that deregulation of these signaling pathways might underlie the synaptic dysfunctions observed during the progression of Alzheimer’s disease, highlighting the use of synaptic modulators as a potential therapeutic strategy. Research efforts are also directed at identifying drug leads for neurodegenerative diseases, for example from Chinese medicine.
  1. Neural development and circuit assembly
  2. Synaptic plasticity and memory formation
  3. Drug Discovery