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Rising star in cancer research comes to Texas, continues work on life-saving therapies

Yun (Nancy) Huang, Ph.D., will join the Texas A&M Health Science Center Institute of Biosciences & Technology (IBT) effective July 1, 2014. Supported by a $1.8 million recruitment grant from the Cancer Prevention Research Institute of Texas (CPRIT), Huang will join the newly created Center for Epigenetics and Disease Prevention at the Texas A&M IBT in Houston. This marks the first time Texas A&M has received a CPRIT recruitment award to bring outstanding new faculty to Texas.

“This award – and subsequent faculty recruitment – marks a significant achievement for Texas A&M and the State of Texas,” said Brett P. Giroir, M.D., executive vice president and CEO of Texas A&M Health Science Center. “With CPRIT’s commitment to eradicating cancer, Texas A&M’s shared commitment and extensive scientific resources, and Dr. Huang’s unparalleled expertise and notable discoveries, we have our sights firmly set not on curing cancer, but completely preventing the disease from ever occurring.”

Huang’s research focuses on epigenetics, or the “software” that runs the human genome, which is one of the most promising targets for disease prevention. During her postdoctoral training, Huang significantly contributed to the groundbreaking discovery of TET enzymes, a new type of epigenetic “code writer” and was among the first to characterize their biological functions in myeloid cancers and embryonic stem cells. Her work has allowed researchers to better understand the different “programming languages” cancer cells use to reprogram their epigenome. In her new role, Huang will extend her previous work to uncover how mutations in these TET “code writers” allow cancer cells to reprogram their epigenome to grow, metastasize and evade the body’s own natural defenses.

“Dr. Huang’s research will significantly expand our understanding of this new epigenetic code in cancer and advance the growing field of cancer epigenetics, while opening up new avenues for therapy,” said Cheryl Lyn Walker, Ph.D., director of the Texas A&M IBT.

Huang received her doctorate in Biochemistry from Georgia State University, where she worked to develop biosensors for real-time calcium sensing. In 2009, Huang joined Dr. Anjana Rao’s laboratory at the Immune Disease Institute at Harvard Medical School as a GSK-Immune Disease Institute Alliance Fellow and the prestigious Leukemia and Lymphoma Society Fellow. Most recently, Huang worked as an instructor at the La Jolla Institute for Allergy and Immunology in California. Her discovery of the TET enzyme resulted in more than 15 peer-reviewed publications in top scientific journals and 1,500 citations in four short years.

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