Wang chosen to lead bioinformatics core

Xiaowei Wang has been recruited to lead the University of Illinois Cancer Center’s Bioinformatics Core. Wang, PhD, will also serve as professor of pharmacology and bioengineering in the University of Illinois College of Medicine and is a Presidential Scholar. He arrived at UIC from Washington University in St. Louis, where he served as associate professor of radiation oncology, as well as associate professor of biomedical engineering.

Wang’s laboratory studies prognostic biomarkers to stratify patients based on the risk of failure to standard therapies. He has performed gene expression profiling studies and established multiple microRNA-based predictive models for robust projection of a variety of human cancers, focusing primarily on cervical and oropharyngeal cancers, both of which are closely associated with human papillomavirus (HPV) infection. The goal of his work, Wang said, is to “translate laboratory findings into the clinical setting to better help patients.

“While the importance of translational research has been more and more appreciated in recent years, this is still an area with many challenges,” he said. “I believe that multidisciplinary team-building is critical to the successful execution of translational research.”

Biomedical research has been evolving at a rapid pace, and it is impossible for one person or group to keep abreast of all the latest advances, Wang said. One of the most important tasks for translational research is to properly coordinate researchers from varied disciplines.

“As a basic scientist working in a clinical department, I have had the unique opportunity to work with many talented researchers across different fields – radiation oncology, medical oncology, pathology, cancer biology, statistics, bioinformatics and genomics,” Wang said. “All these people have played critical roles in our research projects.”

Wang currently serves as principal investigator on two R01 grants from the National Institutes of Health: the first titled, “Combined computational and experimental analyses of gene regulation by microRNAs” and the second named “MicroRNA biomarkers for oropharyngeal cancer.” Together they are valued at nearly $5 million. He is also the subcontract principal investigator on another NIH R01 grant from the National Cancer Institute on oropharyngeal cancer. Three patents have also been issued to Wang, and he has published five software packages, which have been cited by thousands of publications. His work has also been published in more than 60 scientific journals.

Prior to joining Washington University, Wang worked as a bioinformatics specialist at Massachusetts General Hospital, and later as a bioinformatics manager and senior scientist at Ambion, Inc., a subsidiary of Applied Biosystems in Austin, Texas. Wang received a Bachelor of Science degree from Nankai University, Tianjin, China, and a PhD in biochemistry from Tufts University School of Medicine, Boston.

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