Baylor Research Institute Signs International Human Immunology Expert

Apr 26, 2011, 11:14 ET from Baylor Research Institute

DALLAS, April 26, 2011 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Baylor Research Institute (BRI), the research arm of Baylor Health Care System (BHCS), has appointed Yong-Jun Liu, M.D., Ph.D., vice president and chief scientific officer (CSO) for BRI and director of the Baylor Institute for Immunology Research (BIIR).

Dr. Liu is known worldwide as an expert in immunology, particularly the function of immune cells that are central to fighting cancer. He comes to Baylor from The University of Texas M.D. Anderson Cancer Center where he was professor and chair of the Department of Immunology, director of the Center for Cancer Immunology Research, and Vivian L. Smith Distinguished Chair in Immunology.

"We are extremely fortunate and proud to have been able to attract one of the most distinguished immunologists in the world to lead our research efforts at BIIR and to reinforce the work being done in oncology, transplant and other therapeutic areas," said Joel Allison, president and CEO of Baylor Health Care System. "It is especially timely as cancer care at Baylor is reaching a new phase with the recent opening of the Charles A. Sammons Cancer Center. Dr. Liu has the expertise and insights to support the advancement of cancer research to unparalleled heights and ultimately benefitting our patients."

BRI President Dr. Michael Ramsay added, "Dr. Liu has a long and distinguished career. He will take the research excellence that has been the hallmark of BIIR since 1996 – under the prior leadership of Dr. Jacques Banchereau – to a new stage. In addition, his research and medical background will greatly facilitate the translational part of our research – bringing it from the bench to the bedside, which is BRI's mission. We are very pleased that he has agreed to lead the team of successful scientists we are proud of having at the Institute for Immunology Research."

Dr. Liu has been at M.D. Anderson since 2002, where he created a world-class research center with physicians and basic immunologists working together for the development of novel therapies for human diseases, including autoimmune diseases, infectious diseases and cancer. Before that he was senior staff scientist at the biotech company DNAX Research Institute of Molecular and Cellular Biology Inc. in Palo Alto, Calif.; maitre de recherche at Laboratory for Immunology Research at Schering-Plough in Dardilly, France; and research fellow in the Department of Immunology at the University of Birmingham, School of Medicine, in Birmingham, England.

During his 25 years of research, Dr. Liu has made many seminal contributions to the field of immunology. He developed the first technology for the detection of antigen-specific B cells in situ, which allows the determination of extrafollicular and germinal center reactions, two critical stages of antigen-specific B cell responses in the secondary lymphoid tissues. His laboratory also discovered the human plasmacytoid dendritic cells (pDCs), a novel cell type in the immune system that is specialized in anti-viral immune responses and implicated in the development of autoimmune diseases. In addition, his laboratory discovered the function of a cytokine TSLP in the generation of inflammatory TH2 responses in human allergic diseases.

Dr. Liu has published more than 200 scientific articles, many in the prestigious journals Nature, Science, Cell, Immunity, Nature Immunology and Journal of Experimental Medicine. He is among the top cited scientists in immunology.

In 2009 he received the Dallas-Fort Worth Living Legend Faculty Achievement Award in Basic Research from M.D. Anderson. He received the Dana Foundation Award for Human Immunology Research in 2006 and the Sandler Award for Asthma Research in 2005. He was honored as the George and Barbara Bush Fellow for Innovative Cancer Research in 2004.

"We are excited about adding a scientist of Dr. Liu's stature at the time that we are establishing our new cancer center," said Dr. Alan Miller, BHCS chief of oncology and medical director of Baylor Sammons Cancer Center. "This powerful combination will help us bring discovery directly to the patients when they need it most."

Dr. Liu is expected to make the transition to BRI over the next few months.

Kristine Hughes
Communications Coordinator
214-820-7556 (O)

SOURCE Baylor Research Institute