Chemist Wenshe Ray Liu is among 13 Texas A&M University faculty named to the 2021 class of Chancellor’s Enhancing Development and Generating Excellence in Scholarship (EDGES) Fellows, announced September 8 by Texas A&M University System Chancellor John Sharp.
The coveted honor was established in 2019 by Sharp to honor, incentivize and elevate mid-career faculty who are making significant marks in their disciplines. The recognition highlights Texas A&M’s intentional commitment to intensively support, retain and recognize faculty with significant and sustained accomplishments and the promise of continued high-impact scholarship.
EDGES Fellowships are awarded to faculty members identified by their deans as being worthy of national and international acclaim with careers on a trajectory consistent with potential membership in national academies or national and international awards in fields without national academies. In addition to receiving crucial funding support, EDGES Fellows retain their titles throughout their tenure as Texas A&M faculty members in good standing. The awards, in combination with similar faculty-focused endeavors such as the President’s Excellence Fund and the Chancellor’s Research Initiative launched in 2013, are intended to empower and advance the careers of faculty at all levels, particularly the critical mid-career stage.
“The A&M System is making unprecedented investments in top scholars, and I could not be more proud about it,” Sharp said. “Over the past eight years, we’ve invested a total of $230 million to recruit and retain top academic talent.”
Liu joins fellow Texas A&M chemist Sarbajit Banerjee (2019), Texas A&M biologists Gil Rosenthal (2019) and Joseph Sorg (2020) and Texas A&M physicist Alexei Safonov (2020) as previous EDGES Fellows selected from the College of Science.
Liu, a 2018 Presidential Impact Fellow and holder of the Gradipore Chair in Chemistry since 2018, joined the Texas A&M Department of Chemistry faculty in 2007 after earning his doctorate in chemistry at the University of California, Davis in 2005. He completed two years of postdoctoral study in chemical biology at Scripps Research Institute prior to coming to Texas A&M, where his research is focused on developing chemical and biotechnological methods for producing proteins with unique functionalities. In addition to serving as founding director of the Texas A&M Drug Discovery Laboratory, he is affiliated with the Department of Biochemistry and Biophysics, the Department of Molecular & Cellular Medicine, the Department of Translational Medical Sciences and the Institute of Biosciences and Technology.
During the past decade, Liu has emerged as a recognized world leader in chemical biology, peptide-based therapeutics and cancer epigenetics. Specifically, his genetic code expansion-related techniques have opened up new avenues of research in three major areas in which he ranks among the top handful of global experts: bioorthogonal chemistry, nucleosome biochemistry and phage display-based drug discovery.
In recent years, Liu has been leading the global charge against the novel coronavirus pandemic since opting nearly two years ago to refocus the majority of his research group’s efforts toward COVID-19. In January 2020, he was one of the first people to identify the then-experimental drug remdesivir as the only viable treatment for SARS-CoV-2. Later that same year, he helped unravel the molecular mystery behind a key signaling pathway involved in antiviral immune responses that can be used to fight diseases ranging from coronaviruses to cancer. Thus far in 2021, Liu has co-discovered that the FDA-approved heart medication bepridil is effective in inhibiting the replication of SARS-CoV-2 within human cell hosts. Just last month, he and his team announced their development of what could be the most effective COVID-19 treatment to date: a drug compound called MPI8 that has proven effective in laboratory tests in stopping replication of even the most aggressive strains of COVID-19 along with possible other respiratory viruses.
A member of the American Chemical Society and the Chinese-American Chemistry Professor Association, Liu is a member of the editorial board for Acta Pharmaceutica Sinica B, an associate editor for Frontiers in Chemical Biology and an editor for Scientific Reports. His career honors to date include a 2012 National Science Foundation CAREER Award, a 2016 CAPA Distinguished Faculty Award and recognition as an ACS Journal of Chemical Biology Selected Highly Prolific Author in 2017.
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