Wayne State professor receives NSF CAREER award for vaccine adjuvant research

Dr. Haipeng LiuDETROIT - Haipeng Liu, Ph.D., assistant professor of chemical engineering at Wayne State University, received a Faculty Early Career Development (CAREER) award from the National Science Foundation to fund his research on vaccine adjuvants that can improve the treatment and care of cancer patients.

The five-year, $539,422 grant will support his project, "Engineering Molecular Adjuvants for Cancer Vaccines." Liu's work aims to address the effectiveness and safety concerns of adjuvants - substances that are added to vaccines to improve the body's immune response and decrease the amount of vaccine needed - in order to advance more clinical studies.

"This project focuses on integrating molecular engineering and immunology to gain fundamental insight into important aspects of how to rationally design molecular adjuvants for therapeutic cancer vaccines that are safe and can overcome tumor related immune suppression," said Liu.

Liu's strategy is to construct a series of chemically-modified physical models to predict how a molecule's structure will affect its functionality, and to study the adjuvant-immune system interactions at the tissue, cellular, and subcellular levels.

"The knowledge gained through these efforts will bridge the gap between synthetic chemistry and immunology, and give rise to the design of the next generation of molecular adjuvants for cancer vaccines," said Liu.

NSF CAREER awards, the most prestigious honor bestowed by the organization to rising researchers, emphasize the integration of research and education. Liu plans to leverage his research to enhance the college's graduate certificate program in polymer engineering, with the goal of attracting underrepresented students to the field.

Liu joined the Wayne State faculty in 2013. His research focuses on the integration of synthetic chemistry and materials engineering for improving vaccines against infectious diseases and cancer. He holds a Ph.D. in chemistry from Purdue University, has co-authored three patents and more than 30 scientific manuscripts, and has had his research cited more than 1,600 times.

The grant number for this National Science Foundation award is 1750607.

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Wayne State University is one of the nation's pre-eminent public research institutions in an urban setting. Through its multidisciplinary approach to research and education, and its ongoing collaboration with government, industry and other institutions, the university seeks to enhance economic growth and improve the quality of life in the city of Detroit, the state of Michigan and throughout the world. For more information about research at Wayne State University, visit http://www.research.wayne.edu.

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