Kitajewski, Rong Elected 2022 AAAS Fellows

University of Illinois Cancer Center Director Jan Kitajewski, PhD, has been elected a 2022 American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) Fellow, a prestigious honor in the scientific community and one he shares with Cancer Center member Lijun Rong, PhD, who also was elected a Fellow.

The 2022 Fellows class, announced January 31, includes more than 500 scientists, engineers and innovators spanning 24 scientific disciplines who are being recognized for their scientifically and socially distinguished achievements. 

Kitajewski, who was named Cancer Center Director in 2020, is leading the Cancer Center’s efforts to earn designation from the National Cancer Institute (NCI) as a Comprehensive Cancer Center. He is also the Sweeney Professor of Basic Sciences and Head of the Department of Physiology and Biophysics in the University of Illinois College of Medicine at Chicago.

His research is focused on tumor angiogenesis, inflammation, metastasis and vascular development, with notable achievements in identifying novel signaling pathways that control blood vessel formation or angiogenesis.

Kitajewski’s lab has explored the Notch signaling cascade and determined how cell-fate determination mediated by Notch and VEGF guides the proper construction of the vasculature. His lab established that Notch functions in tumor angiogenesis, and they developed therapeutic strategies to treat gynecological malignancies and breast cancer. His recent studies are shedding new light on the process of cancer metastasis and health equity research.

The AAAS recognized Kitajewski “for distinguished contributions to the field of vascular biology, particularly in the area of cell signaling involving the notch receptor as it relates to development and disease.”

Before coming to the University of Illinois Chicago (UIC) from Columbia University in New York, his leadership responsibilities there included acting as Co-Director of the Cancer Signaling Networks program at the Herbert Irving Comprehensive Cancer Center and Director of the Division of Reproductive Sciences in the Department of Ob/Gyn.

Rong is a Professor in the Department of Microbiology and Immunology in the University of Illinois College of Medicine at Chicago and part of the Cancer Center’s Translational Oncology research program.

His research is focused on a number of viruses with high prevalence to human health, including influenza virus, Ebola virus, SARS-CoV-2, and henipaviruses. He is studying the entry and replication mechanisms of these highly pathogenic viruses with pandemic potential, and he, in collaboration with other scientists at UIC and other institutions, is developing effective antivirals against these viruses.

Rong has more than 130 publications and his research has been generously supported by the National Institutes of Health and private foundations like the Gates Foundation.   

The AAAS recognized him “For distinguished contributions to the field of virology, particularly for the elucidation of virus entry mechanisms and antiviral therapeutics.”

The Cancer Center congratulates them both on this recognition and their achievements.

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