Texas A&M University chemist Dr. Wenshe Ray Liu has been appointed as the inaugural holder of the Harry E. Bovay, Jr. Endowed Chair in Chemistry, effective June 1, 2022.
A significant gift from the Harry E. Bovay, Jr. Foundation of Houston has been instrumental in establishing the $1 million endowment fund to advance chemistry research at Texas A&M.
“We are extremely grateful for the generosity of the Harry E. Bovay, Jr. Foundation in providing support to complete the endowment for this chair,” said Dr. Valen E. Johnson, dean of the College of Science and a distinguished professor of statistics. “Dr. Liu is among the leading chemists in the world, and the Bovay Foundation’s support of his research will undoubtedly lead to important advances in chemistry, pharmacology and cancer treatment.”
Support for the Harry E. Bovay, Jr. Endowed Chair in Chemistry also was provided by the Ed Rachal Foundation of Corpus Christi. The gifts from these two Texas-based philanthropic foundations will be supplemented with additional funds from the Thomas W. Powell ’62 Endowment Fund to support graduate students as members of Professor Liu’s world-class research team whose work integrates organic chemistry and biology and boasts promising implications for medicinal chemistry, biotechnological innovation and the development of novel therapeutics.
Liu, a 2021 Chancellor’s EDGES Fellow and 2018 Presidential Impact Fellow, joined the Texas A&M Department of Chemistry faculty in 2007 and is a recognized world leader in chemical biology, peptide-based therapeutics and cancer epigenetics. His research is focused on developing chemical and biotechnological methods for producing proteins with unique functionalities. To date, his genetic code expansion-related techniques already 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.
“Wenshe Liu is a world-renowned chemical biologist who has made significant contributions in multiple areas, including drug discovery, and I am delighted that he will be the inaugural holder of the Harry E. Bovay, Jr. Chair in Chemistry,” said Dr. Simon W. North, John W. Bevan Professor of Chemistry and head of Texas A&M Chemistry. “The support provided by the endowed position will allow Dr. Liu to continue to aggressively pursue his interests and accelerate discovery.”
Liu earned his Ph.D. in chemistry at the University of California, Davis in 2005 and completed two years of postdoctoral study in chemical biology at Scripps Research Institute prior to coming to Texas A&M. 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.
Most recently, Liu has been leading the global charge against the novel coronavirus pandemic since opting two and a half 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. In 2021, Liu co-discovered that the FDA-approved heart medication bepridil is effective in inhibiting the replication of SARS-CoV-2 within human cell hosts. Last August, he and his team announced their development of 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.
“I would like to personally express my great appreciation to the members of the Harry E. Bovay, Jr. Foundation Board of Directors for their support of chemistry research at Texas A&M University,” Liu said. “This gift from the Bovay Foundation helps make it possible for our team of researchers and graduate students to advance our world-class efforts in chemistry and biomedical research.”
The Harry E. Bovay, Jr. Foundation was established by Mr. Bovay to further his philanthropic work in specific rural communities served by Mid-South Telecommunications Company, Inc. The Foundation focuses on education and community development in these communities through grantmaking that also reflects Mr. Bovay’s interest in youth leadership/development, professional ethics and medical research.
The Ed Rachal Foundation was created by an endowment from Ed Rachal’s will to benefit charitable, scientific, literary and educational purposes within the State of Texas.