New Investigator Series
Dr. Wenliang Li joined the Texas Therapeutic Institute following the completion of his Postdoctoral Research Fellowship at Harvard Medical School. He received his PhD in Genetics at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, Ohio and his MS in Molecular Virology, at the Chinese Academy of Sciences in Wuhan, China.
Dr. Li has over 10 years of experience in biomedical research with emphasis in cancer biology. His lab is attacking the problem of human metastatic diseases in a novel way. Through genomics, RNAi and cDNA functional screens using cell cultures and mouse models, Dr. Li has identified several human genes that may play important but previously unknown roles in cancer metastasis.
Another research program in Dr. Li’s lab is involved in identifying and studying human kinases as regulators of epithelial-mesenchymal transition (EMT) and stem cell phenotypes. Investigation of the molecular mechanisms of these kinases will have a significant impact in expanding our knowledge in critical areas, such development, stem cells, drug resistance and metastasis. These kinases may become new biomarkers and cancer drug targets for the development of therapeutics for human cancer.
Dr. Ghislain Breton received his Ph.D. in Molecular Biology from the University of
Quebec at Montreal in 2004. He then moved to the Scripps Research Institute
in San Diego to work in the laboratories of Dr. Jeff Harper and Dr. Steve
Kay. In 2007, he relocated with Dr. Kay’s laboratory in the Department
of Cell and Developmental Biology at the University of California San Diego.
A major focus of Dr. Breton’s work has been to explore the genetic basis
of adaptation to environmental changes ranging from extreme winter temperature
to the recurring light/dark 24hr daily cycle. During his postdoctoral work
in Dr. Kay’s lab, Dr. Breton developed novel high throughput approaches
that were instrumental in better defining the circadian clock cis-regulatory
In 2010, Dr. Breton joined the Department of Integrative Biology and
Pharmacologyat UTHealth. His research interest
and goal is to understand the genome-wide effect of chronodisruption (shift-work,
time-zone-travel, e.g.) on the animal cis-regulatory network. Toward this goal
he selected the genetically tractable vertebrate model Danio rerio (zebrafish).
The production of large amounts of offspring, short generation time, ease of
transformation and amenability to perform transient assays in vivo are
only a few of the features making this system ideal for high-sampling studies
needed to globally interrogate the effect of time disruption at the genome-wide
Dr. Ningyan Zhang joined the Texas Therapeutic Institute and Brown Foundation Institute of Molecular Medicine (IMM) at UTHealth from Merck Research Laboratories where she pursued a career in the pharmaceutical industry with emphasis on protein engineering and therapeutic antibody drug discovery.
Dr. Zhang received her Ph.D. in Plant Biochemistry/Molecular Biology from the University of Kentucky, Lexington. She conducted her postdoctoral training at the University of Wisconsin-Madison in the laboratory of Dr. Berne Jones studying the expression and characterization of proteinases during the brewing process.
Currently, Dr. Zhang's laboratory studies the interactions between proteinases and anti-tumor antibodies in the tumor microenvironment to delineate the roles that proteinses play in tumor resistance to antibody immune therapies.
Dr. Cunha joined the University of Texas Medical School at Houston in September
2010 in the Department of Integrative Biology and
He received his Ph.D. in Neuroscience from Northwestern
University in Evanston, Illinois where he studied the neuroendocrine regulation of
growth hormone release. He completed postdoctoral training in the Department
of Biological Sciences at Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tennessee where he studied
the mechanisms of endocytosis at the Drosophila neuromuscular junction. Dr.
Cunha’s research interests transitioned from neuroscience to cardiac
biology as a research scientist in the Department of Internal Medicine at the
University of Iowa Carver College of Medicine in Iowa City, Iowa.
research interests address the formation of specialized membrane domains in
excitable cells such as cardiomyocytes and neurons. In particular, his
research group focuses on the formation of structural and signaling protein
complexes by the adaptor protein ankyrin in normal and diseased states of cardiac
Dr. Shad graduated from the Sindh Medical College in Karachi Pakistan and completed a residency in Psychiatry at the Kansas School of Medicine-Wichita. Following 2 years of psychopharmacology fellowship, he earned a Masters in Clinical Sciences at UT Southwestern.
A year later, he began to study the neurobiology of self-awareness in schizophrenia using structural and functional neuroimaging. Currently, he is examining the effect of minocycline augmentation on psychopathology and cognitive function in schizophrenia in the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences at UTHealth.
Dr. Shad has authored or co-authored several abstracts, research papers and book chapters on schizophrenia.
Dr. Jeffrey Chang was encouraged to hone his interest in science and mathematics at an early age, spending his summers at University of Texas Medical Branch in Galveston building computational models of monkey bones, and amplifying DNA in a genetics lab.
Capitalizing on his early experience, Dr. Chang attended Stanford University to train in bioinformatics in the laboratory of Russ Altman, eventually earning his doctorate in Biomedical Informatics. Later he joined the laboratory of Joe Nevins at Duke University who was initiating an exciting genomics-based investigation of cancer. He studied the Ras signaling pathway, a complex driver of cell proliferation, and developed a way to measure activation of different facets of Ras activity and find new associations with tumor development.
Currently, Dr. Chang's lab in the Department of Integrative Biology and Pharmacology investigates cell-signaling programs, with particular emphasis on 1) cell proliferation and fate decisions, and 2) how they impact sensitivity to personalized therapeutics in cancer. To understand these problems, his strategy is to use genomics to tease apart the complexity of the biology, leveraging bioinformatics, molecular biology, and biochemistry using human cell culture as a model.