BALTIMORE--(BUSINESS WIRE)--Robert C. Gallo, MD, the Homer & Martha Gudelsky Distinguished Professor in Medicine at the University of Maryland School of Medicine (UMSOM) and Co-Founder & Director of the UMSOM’s Institute of Human Virology (IHV), announced today that a team of leading scientists in the growing area of immune therapeutics for cancer treatment and organ transplantation, led by internationally-recognized cancer researchers Yang Liu, PhD, and Pan Zheng, MD, PhD, will be joining the IHV with academic appointments in the UMSOM Department of Surgery.
The team will include a 19-person laboratory with eight faculty appointments as well as major public and private sector research funding. Dr. Liu will establish and direct IHV’s newly formed Division of Immunotherapy.
Dr. Gallo made the announcement in conjunction with University of Maryland School of Medicine Dean E. Albert Reece, MD, PhD, MBA, Rajabrata Sarkar, MD, PhD, Barbara Baur Dunlap Professor of Surgery and Physiology and Interim Chair, Department of Surgery, and Kevin J. Cullen, MD, the Marlene and Stewart Greenebaum Distinguished Professor in Oncology and Director of the UM Marlene and Stewart Greenebaum Comprehensive Cancer Center (UMGCCC).
“Drs. Liu, Zheng and their laboratory comprise the biggest, most impactful recruitment in the history of IHV,” said Dr. Gallo, who is also Co-Founder and Director of the Global Virus Network. “Their science will add greatly to our immunotherapy programs on campus and their research on organ transplantation should lead to significant interactions between the IHV and the Department of Surgery. Drs. Liu and Zheng have a strong reputation of fostering collaborations and mentoring others. Their generosity extends to all areas of their work.”
“The recruitment of Dr. Liu and Zheng will have a significant impact on the future of surgical treatment of life-threatening disorders such as cancer and organ failure,” said Dr. Sarkar. “The impact of these distinguished investigators on our Department of Surgery will be substantial in terms of research collaborations and new translational therapeutics to help us treat patients who we cannot help today.”
Dr. Liu’s contributions to the field include pioneering work in the concept of T cell co-stimulation and cancer immunity, the relationship between innate and adaptive immunity, and non-self-discrimination by the innate immune system. Many of the discoveries by Drs. Liu and Zheng are being translated into immunotherapeutic approaches for cancer and autoimmune diseases, with a first-in-class immunotherapeutic now in a phase II clinical trial.
Dr. Zheng’s research includes tumor immunology, pathology, and stem cell biology. As a physician scientist, she specializes in translational research and has co-invented new approaches for immunotherapy of cancer, autoimmune diseases and stem cell aging, as well as therapeutic elimination of cancer stem cells.
“We are delighted that Dr. Liu and Dr. Zheng are joining the growing tumor immunology and immunotherapy program of the Marlene and Stewart Greenebaum Comprehensive Cancer Center,” said Dr. Cullen. “Their expertise in regulation of the immune system has profound implications in cancer treatment, organ transplantation, and auto immune diseases.”
Dr. Liu received his PhD from the John Curtin School of Medical Research of Australian National University. After postdoctoral training with Charles A. Janeway Jr. at Yale University, he started his independent laboratory in 1992 at New York University Medical Center, where he became a tenured associate professor of Pathology in 1997. He was a recipient of a Markey Scholar award in 1992 and the Searle Scholar Award in 1993. In 1998, he was promoted to full professor and awarded the Kurtz endowed Professorship at the Ohio State University School of Medicine. In 2006, he went to the University of Michigan Medical Center to head their Division of Immunotherapy, and to fill the inaugural Charles B DeNancrede Professorship. In 2012, he moved to the Children’s National Medical Center in Washington DC, as the Bosworth Chair and Director of the Center for Cancer and Immunology Research. Dr. Liu has published over 200 peer-reviewed publications, which span from immunology to cancer biology. He was elected as a fellow of the American Association for Advancement of Science in 2004.
“We are very honored and grateful for the opportunity to join the teams of world leaders at the IHV, the Department of Surgery, and UMGCCC, and to contribute to fundamental and translational research to make a positive impact on patients’ lives,” said Dr. Liu. “It is a ‘once-in-a-lifetime’ opportunity to learn from Dr. Gallo, the giant who has changed modern medicine in too many ways to count, and to whose work has saved millions and millions of lives. It is also a privilege to live and work in the great city of Baltimore.”
Dr. Zheng is a physician-scientist who received her medical training at Peking Union Medical College. She received her PhD at Yale University and did her residency in pathology at the New York University School of Medicine. In 1998, Dr. Zheng became assistant professor of pathology at the Ohio State University; five years later, she was promoted as tenured associate professor. Dr. Zheng moved to the University of Michigan in 2006 and became a full professor for years later. In 2013, she became the McKnew Chair of Cancer Biology at the Children’s National Medical Center. Over her career, she has published over 120 papers.
“We are extremely excited to join the great institution of the University of Maryland, Baltimore,” said Dr. Zheng. “It is a privilege and an honor to work under IHV leadership with a remarkable visionary, Dr. Gallo, during the dawn of immunotherapy and a changing landscape for cancer treatment.”
“Dr. Liu and Dr. Zheng exemplify the relentless pursuit of clinically relevant knowledge that is central to our mission at the University of Maryland School of Medicine,” said Dean Reece, who is also University Executive Vice President for Medical Affairs and the John Z. and Akiko K. Bowers Distinguished Professor. “Their work has the potential to save thousands of lives, and we are extremely excited that they are now part of our expanding stable of internationally renowned scientists.”