Our Team

Jianjun Qi, PhD, Research Associate

Dr. Qi received his PhD 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, including pH-sensitive fluorescent dyes, and advanced technologies in general organic synthesis. He is working with Youli Zu, MD, PhD to develop molecular probes for early cancer detection and a DNA aptamer-based cancer drug delivery system. 

Zihua Zeng, MD, Research Associate

After earning his MD and MSci in Cancer Pathology, Dr. Zeng worked in the Department of Pathology at the Medical College of Jinan University in Guangzhou, China, where he was involved with teaching, cancer research, and diagnosis of clinical pathologies. His research interests included carcinogenesis, cancer metastasis, and in vitro and in vivo cancer treatment. Dr. Zeng then worked as a visiting scholar in the Institute of Pathology from October 1997 to August 2000 at the Free University in Berlin, Germany, where he used cDNA array to characterize gene expression profiles of CD30-positive lymphomas, including Hodgkin’s lymphoma and Anaplastic Large Cell Lymphoma (ALCL) treated with a 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 a project entitled “Strategies to Enhance Virotherapy for Solid Cancers” using in vitro and in vivo strategies. 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 

Dr. Chen received his MD and PhD 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 for targeted cancer therapy. 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 mechanisms underlying cancer heterogeneity and aggressiveness and on developing novel therapies for cancer patients through a clinic-based, hypothesis-driven translational approach. Dr. Chen’s central objective is to end cancer and save lives through his close work with leading physicians and scientists in the field.

Xiaohui Liu, PhD, Post-doctoral Fellow

Dr. Liu received his PhD in Analytical Chemistry at The State Key Laboratory of Analytical Chemistry for Life Sciences, 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 screening cell/protein/small molecule nucleic acid aptamers, fabricating microfluidic devices for nucleic acid aptamer SELEX and biochemical analysis, and creating aptamer-conjugated nanomaterial-based assays to detect multiplexed proteins. Dr. Liu has successfully established a protein microarray microfluidic aptamer screening method (PMM-SELEX) that is suitable for high-throughput, rapid screening of protein aptamers. Dr. Liu is a recipient of the Outstanding PhD Candidate Award from Nanjing University. He is now working with Dr. Youli Zu on developing ssDNA aptamers for early cancer cell detection and targeted drug delivery systems for cancer therapy. 

QUanyuan Wan, PhD, Post-doctoral Fellow

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