Richard A. Collins

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Richard Anthony Collins (born 18 February 1966) is a British scientist.


Richard A Collins was born in Singapore, where his father was a member of the Royal Air Force. The family returned to the UK shortly after his birth. Collins underwent his secondary education in Grimsby, England before going on to study at the University of Dundee where he obtained a Bachelor of Science (Honours) Biochemistry degree in 1988 and a Master of Science degree in Analytical Biochemistry in 1990.

He obtained his PhD in Biochemistry from the University of Edinburgh in 1994. He did post-doctoral research on natural products with anti-viral properties in the USA and Hong Kong. He has published numerous peer reviewed scientific articles on his work in the areas of HIV-1 inhibition,123 and novel nucleic acid based diagnostics for avian influenza,45678 severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS),9 and foot-and-mouth disease.101112

Collins is a member of several professional scientific organisations, notably a Chartered Chemist and Fellow of the Royal Society of Chemistry (CChem, FRSC), a Chartered Biologist and Fellow of the Institute of Biology (CBiol, FIBiol) and a Fellow of the Institute of Biomedical Science (FIBMS).

Scientific career

After obtaining his PhD, Collins conducted post-doctoral research at Tampa Bay Research Institute (TBRI), Florida, USA where he investigated the properties of a novel cytokine-like factor secreted by human T cells stimulated with pine cone extract and its ability to inhibit HIV-1 replication. Preliminary data were presented at the 9th International Congress of Immunology. Subsequently, the pine cone extract was licensed for use as a dietary supplement (ImmunExtra) by Allera Health Products, Inc.

In 1996, Collins moved to Hong Kong to undertake further research at The Chinese University of Hong Kong, where he investigated the antiviral (specifically anti-HIV-1) activity of natural products, especially extracts of traditional Chinese medicine herbs.

Collins identified potential anti-HIV-1 activity in a number of partially purified plant extracts, especially Chrysanthemum morifolium, Salvia miltiorrhiza, Prunella vulgaris and commercially available supplements, i.e. polysaccharopeptide (PSP) from Trametes versicolor.1213 The physiological relevance of these findings has yet to be verified.

After moving to a private biotechnology company in 2000, Collins was involved in the scientific debate over genetic testing related to the right of abode in Hong Kong issue. The debate erupted on 29 January 1999, when the Hong Kong Court of Final Appeal ruled that the children of parents who have the right of abode in Hong Kong also have the right of abode, irrespective of whether their parents were permanent residents at the time of their birth. This ruling would have granted immediate right of abode to up to 300,000 people in Mainland China. The prospect of a significant proportion of these 300,000 people requesting genetic tests to demonstrate that they were entitled to right of abode would have been a boon to the fledgling biotech industry in Hong Kong. However, the Hong Kong Government asked the Standing Committee of the National People's Congress to reinterpret Articles 22(4) and 24(2)(3) of Hong Kong's Basic Law, which effectively overturned the court decision thus denying almost all people listed as plaintiffs the right of abode. Provision for genetic testing as part of the mechanism for proving genetic relatedness of individuals claiming right of abode was included in the Hong Kong Immigration (Amendment) Bill 2000 discussed in the Legislative Council on 28 November 2000. Collins represented a biotechnology company in discussing the scientific validity of the method proposed by the Government in the Bills Committee stage of the proposed legislation14 and the media.15

As a result of the growing interest in genetic parentage testing (DNA profiling) in Hong Kong, Collins and colleagues found that the number of men in Hong Kong who were not the biological fathers of their children might be much higher than expected.161718 This may have important social consequences, as Hong Kong is generally viewed as a relatively conservative Asian society.

Collins also helped develop a number of rapid diagnostic tests based on nucleic acid analysis, notably the nucleic acid sequence-based amplification (NASBA) technique. Many of these were developed in response to high profile disease outbreaks in Hong Kong and around the world, e.g. avian influenza H5N1, H7, foot-and-mouth disease, severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS). Collins has given numerous presentations and interviews to scientists and the media to support the development of the new tests.192021222324

Currently, Collins is scientific review director in the Research Office of the Food and Health Bureau, Hong Kong SAR Government, where he is involved in managing public funds related to health services and infectious disease research. His recent interest is in assessing the payback from research supported by public funds.25

Collins is also the author of "Under A Blood Red Sky" (ISBN 978-0755201549), a techno-thriller which received favourable reviews when it was published in November 2004.262728


  1. ^ a b Collins RA, Ng TB, Fong WP, Wan CC, Yeung HW (1997). "A comparison of human immunodeficiency virus type 1 inhibition by partially purified aqueous extracts of Chinese medicinal herbs". Life Sciences 60 (23): PL345–51. doi:10.1016/S0024-3205(97)00227-0. PMID 9180371. 
  2. ^ a b Collins RA, Ng TB (1997). "Polysaccharopeptide from Coriolus versicolor has potential for use against human immunodeficiency virus type 1 infection". Life Sciences 60 (25): PL383–7. doi:10.1016/S0024-3205(97)00294-4. PMID 9194694. 
  3. ^ Au TK, Collins RA, Lam TL, Ng TB, Fong WP, Wan DC (April 2000). "The plant ribosome inactivating proteins luffin and saporin are potent inhibitors of HIV-1 integrase". FEBS Letters 471 (2–3): 169–72. doi:10.1016/S0014-5793(00)01389-2. PMID 10767416. 
  4. ^ Collins RA, Ko LS, So KL, Ellis T, Lau LT, Yu AC (May 2002). "Detection of highly pathogenic and low pathogenic avian influenza subtype H5 (Eurasian lineage) using NASBA". Journal of Virological Methods 103 (2): 213–25. doi:10.1016/S0166-0934(02)00034-4. PMID 12008015. 
  5. ^ Collins RA, Ko LS, Fung KY, et al. (January 2003). "Rapid and sensitive detection of avian influenza virus subtype H7 using NASBA". Biochemical and Biophysical Research Communications 300 (2): 507–15. doi:10.1016/S0006-291X(02)02896-6. PMID 12504113. 
  6. ^ Shan S, Ko LS, Collins RA, et al. (March 2003). "Comparison of nucleic acid-based detection of avian influenza H5N1 with virus isolation". Biochemical and Biophysical Research Communications 302 (2): 377–83. doi:10.1016/S0006-291X(03)00165-7. PMID 12604358. 
  7. ^ Collins RA, Ko LS, So KL, Ellis T, Lau LT, Yu AC (2003). "A NASBA method to detect high- and low-pathogenicity H5 avian influenza viruses". Avian Diseases 47 (3 Suppl): 1069–74. doi:10.1637/0005-2086-47.s3.1069. PMID 14575113. 
  8. ^ Lau LT, Banks J, Aherne R, et al. (January 2004). "Nucleic acid sequence-based amplification methods to detect avian influenza virus". Biochemical and Biophysical Research Communications 313 (2): 336–42. doi:10.1016/j.bbrc.2003.11.131. PMID 14684165. 
  9. ^ Lau LT, Fung YW, Wong FP, et al. (December 2003). "A real-time PCR for SARS-coronavirus incorporating target gene pre-amplification". Biochemical and Biophysical Research Communications 312 (4): 1290–6. doi:10.1016/j.bbrc.2003.11.064. PMID 14652014. 
  10. ^ Collins RA, Ko LS, Fung KY, Lau LT, Xing J, Yu AC (September 2002). "A method to detect major serotypes of foot-and-mouth disease virus". Biochemical and Biophysical Research Communications 297 (2): 267–74. doi:10.1016/S0006-291X(02)02178-2. PMID 12237113. 
  11. ^ Feng Q, Chen X, Ma O, et al. (March 2003). "Serotype and VP1 gene sequence of a foot-and-mouth disease virus from Hong Kong (2002)". Biochemical and Biophysical Research Communications 302 (4): 715–21. doi:10.1016/S0006-291X(03)00250-X. PMID 12646228. 
  12. ^ Chen X, Feng Q, Wu Z, et al. (September 2003). "RNA-dependent RNA polymerase gene sequence from foot-and-mouth disease virus in Hong Kong". Biochemical and Biophysical Research Communications 308 (4): 899–905. doi:10.1016/S0006-291X(03)01511-0. PMID 12927804. 
  13. ^ Collins RA, Ng TB, Fong WP, Wan CC, Yeung HW (September 1997). "Inhibition of glycohydrolase enzymes by aqueous extracts of Chinese medicinal herbs in a microplate format". Biochemistry and Molecular Biology International 42 (6): 1163–9. PMID 9305534. 
  14. ^
  15. ^ "DNA-testing policy bad for families and hi-tech companies". South China Morning Post. 14 July 2001. 
  16. ^ Collins RA, Wu WS, Xing J, Lau LT, Yu AC (May 2003). "Parentage testing anomalies in Hong Kong SAR of China". Chinese Medical Journal 116 (5): 708–11. PMID 12875686. 
  17. ^ "Parentage test findings signal rise in promiscuity". South China Morning Post. 13 July 2003. 
  18. ^ Parentage testing in Hong Kong. BBC World Service. The World Today: East Asia. 14 July 2003.
  19. ^ New DNA test could have detected flu earlier. South China Morning Post. 6 June 2001.
  20. ^ DNA testing could stop H5N1 spread. Medical Tribune. June–July 2001.
  21. ^ HK-made kit for rapid SARS checks ready for testing. Sunday Morning Post. 21 April 2003.
  22. ^ The molecular biology revolution: Applications in veterinary diagnosis. BioIT World Conference / MedPharma World 2002. 30 January 2002.
  23. ^ A NASBA method to detect pathogenic and non-pathogenic avian influenza A subtype H5. 5th International Symposium on Avian Influenza. Athens, GA, USA. 17 April 2002.
  24. ^ Rapid Detection of Avian Flu H5 Type. Annual Scientific Meeting of the Hong Kong Medical Technology Association. 21 July 2002.
  25. ^ Kwan P, Johnston J, Fung AY, Chong DS, Collins RA, Lo SV (2007). "A systematic evaluation of payback of publicly funded health and health services research in Hong Kong". BMC Health Services Research 7: 121. doi:10.1186/1472-6963-7-121. PMC 1952059. PMID 17662157. 
  26. ^ Hannah Kennard.Grimsby Telegraph.14 Jan 2005.
  27. ^ Robin Kwong.South China Morning Post. 16 Feb 2005
  28. ^ David Watkins.Reasons to be fearful.South China Morning Post. 22 Feb 2005.

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