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Institute of Human Virology Adds Team of Top Cancer Immunotherapy Experts

February 28, 2018

Yang Liu, PhD, and Pan Zheng, MD, PhD

Drs. Yang Liu and Pan Zheng Will Establish and Lead IHV’s New Division of Immunotherapy

Baltimore, MD, February 28, 2018 - 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.”

About the Institute of Human Virology

Formed in 1996 as a partnership between the State of Maryland, the City of Baltimore, the University System of Maryland and the University of Maryland Medical System, IHV is an institute of the University of Maryland School of Medicine and is home to some of the most globally-recognized and world-renowned experts in all of virology. The IHV combines the disciplines of basic research, epidemiology and clinical research in a concerted effort to speed the discovery of diagnostics and therapeutics for a wide variety of chronic and deadly viral and immune disorders - most notably, HIV the virus that causes AIDS. For more information, and follow us on Twitter @IHVmaryland.

About the University of Maryland School of Medicine

The University of Maryland School of Medicine was chartered in 1807 and is the first public medical school in the United States and continues today as an innovative leader in accelerating innovation and discovery in medicine. The School of Medicine is the founding school of the University of Maryland and is an integral part of the 11-campus University System of Maryland.  Located on the University of Maryland’s Baltimore campus, the School of Medicine works closely with the University of Maryland Medical Center to provide a research-intensive, academic and clinically based education.  With 43 academic departments, centers and institutes and a faculty of more than 3,000 physicians and research scientists plus more than $400 million in extramural funding, the School is regarded as one of the leading biomedical research institutions in the U.S. with top-tier faculty and programs in cancer, brain science, surgery and transplantation, trauma and emergency medicine, vaccine development and human genomics, among other centers of excellence.  The School is not only concerned with the health of the citizens of Maryland and the nation, but also has a global vision, with research and treatment facilities in more than 30 countries around the world.  For more information, visit


Institute of Human Virology
Jennifer Gonzales
Public Relations & Communications Manager

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