Nancy Y. Ip

The Hong Kong University of Science and Technology

Election Year: 2015
Primary Section: 24, Cellular and Molecular Neuroscience
Secondary Section: 22, Cellular and Developmental Biology
Membership Type: Foreign Associate


Nancy Ip is the Dean of Science, Morningside Professor of Life Science, and Director of the State Key Laboratory of Molecular Neuroscience at The Hong Kong University of Science and Technology (HKUST). She received her PhD degree in Pharmacology from Harvard Medical School, after which she held the position of Senior Staff Scientist at Regeneron Pharmaceuticals Inc. in New York. She is well known for her seminal discoveries in the biology of neurotrophic factors, and has made important contributions towards understanding the molecular mechanisms underlying brain development and synaptic plasticity, and their dysregulation in neurological disorders. She has published over 250 scientific papers with more than 17,600 SCI citations, and holds 41 patents. She is an Academician of the Chinese Academy of Sciences, a Fellow of the Academy of Sciences for the Developing World, and has received numerous awards and honors including the National Natural Science Awards (China’s highest honor in the natural sciences) and the L’OREAL-UNESCO for Women in Science Award (as the first honoree in the life sciences from China). She is also the senior editor of J Neurosci, and an elected Councillor for two leading global organizations in the fields of neuroscience and pharmacology: the Society for Neuroscience and the CINP (Collegium Internationale Neuro-Psychopharmacologicum). Furthermore, she is a member of the Global Agenda Council on Brain Research of the World Economic Forum.

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.

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