Our Team

Jianjun Qi, PhD, Research Associate

Jianjun Qi, PhD, received his doctorate degree in Medicinal Chemistry from Peking Union Medical College (Beijing, China) and completed his postdoctoral training at the University of Tennessee Health Science Center. He is an expert on organic synthesis and related technologies, including HPLC, mass spectrometry, UV-visible spectrophotometers, and fluorometers.  Dr. Qi’s research focuses on drug design and synthesis, antitumor drug delivery, biomolecular sensors such as pH-sensitive fluorescence dye, and advanced technologies in general organic synthesis. He is working with Youli Zu, MD, PhD, on developing molecular probes for the early detection of cancers and a DNA aptamer-based cancer drug delivery system. 

Zihua Zeng, MD, Research Associate

After earning his MD and MSci of Cancer Pathology degrees, Dr. Zeng worked in the Department of Pathology at the Medical College of Jinan University in Guangzhou, China, where he was involved in the work of teaching, cancer research, and clinical pathological diagnosis. His research interests included carcinogenesis, cancer metastasis, and cancer treatment in vitro and in animal models. Dr. Zeng then worked in the Institute of Pathology at the Free University in Berlin, Germany from October 1997 to August 2000 as a visiting scholar, where he studied gene expression profiling of CD30 positive lymphomas by means of cDNA array, including Hodgkin’s lymphoma and Anaplastic Large Cell Lymphoma (ALCL) treated with single chain anti-CD30 antibody. From May 2006 to November 2007, Dr. Zeng worked in the Center for Cell and Gene Therapy at Baylor College of Medicine and participated in the project titled “Strategies to Enhance Virotherapy for Solid Cancers” in vitro and in a mouse model. He joined Dr. Youli Zu’s laboratory at the Houston Methodist Research Institute in November 2007 and has worked on projects involving gene therapy for human ALCL in vitro and in mouse models.

Zhenghu Chen, MD, PhD, Post-doctoral Fellow 

Zhenghu Chen received his MD and PhD degrees from Tongji University (Shanghai, China) in 2017. Dr. Chen was trained at the Baylor College of Medicine Department of Hematology and Oncology as a visiting scholar in the joint-training program from 2013-2016. During his time at Baylor, Dr. Chen conducted in-depth translational research in neuroblastoma, one of the most common and deadly pediatric cancers, by screening small molecule compounds to develop targeted cancer therapy for neuroblastoma patients. After graduation, Dr. Chen spent two years in postdoctoral training at Baylor College of Medicine before he joined the Houston Methodist Research Institute in 2019. Dr. Chen’s current research interests focus on the mechanism that contributes to the heterogeneity and aggressiveness of cancers and developing novel therapies for cancer patients through a clinically-based, hypothesis-driven translational approach. Above all, Dr. Chen’s ultimate goal is to end cancer and save cancer patients’ lives by working closely with leading physicians and scientists in the field.

Xiaohui Liu, PhD, Post-doctoral Fellow

Xiaohui Liu received his PhD in Analytical Chemistry at State Key Laboratory of Analytical Chemistry for Life Science, School of Chemistry and Chemical Engineering, Nanjing University (Nanjing, China) in September 2018. He has been trained in the field of aptamer SELEX (Systematic Evolution of Ligands by Exponential Enrichment). Dr. Liu’s research focuses on cell/protein/small molecule nucleic acid aptamer screening, fabrication of microfluidic devices for nucleic acid aptamer SELEX and biochemical analysis, and aptamer-conjugated nanomaterial-based assays for multiplexed protein detection. Dr. Liu has successfully established a protein microarray microfluidic aptamer screening method (PMM-SELEX) which is suitable for high-throughput, rapid screening of protein aptamers. Dr. Liu is a recipient of the outstanding PhD candidate of Nanjing University. He is now working with Dr. Youli Zu on developing ssDNA aptamers for early cancer cell detection and targeted drug delivery system for cancer therapy. 

QUanyuan Wan, PhD, Post-doctoral Fellow

Quanyuan Wan earned his PhD in Aquatic Animal Medicine at the Huazhong Agricultural University in China. By using molecular and cellular biotechniques, he found the functional difference between RIG-I and MDA5 genes in controlling the induction of interferon, and the relationship of iron metabolism and antiviral immune response. Subsequently, Dr. Wan was trained in cancer immunotherapy as a post-doctoral fellow at the Houston Methodist Research Institute (HMRI). Using an animal model, he studied a combination therapy of Type I interferon (IFN-I) and a nano-vaccine to treat melanoma. Dr. Wan also investigated optimizing the therapeutic efficacy of CAR-T on lymphoma. Currently, he is a post-doctoral fellow in the lab of Youli Zu, MD, PhD, developing novel clinical applications of oligonucleotide aptamer technology for disease diagnosis and precision therapy. Dr. Wan is also interested in developing aptamer-guided cancer vaccines for tumor-specific immunotherapy.