Richard E. Weitzman Outstanding Early Career Investigator Award
X. Shirley Liu, PhD
X. Shirley Liu received her PhD in biomedical informatics and computer science from Stanford University in 2002. She is now professor of biostatistics and computational biology at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health and director of the Center for Functional Cancer Epigenetics at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute.
Her research focuses on algorithm development and integrative modelling of high throughput genomic data to understand the specificity and function of factors that regulate gene expression, such as transcription factors, chromatin regulators, RNA-binding proteins, lncRNAs, and kinases in tumor progression and therapeutic responses. In the computational biology realm, her group developed very widely used algorithms for transcription factor motif finding, ChIP-chip, ChIP-seq, MNase-seq, DNase-seq, and CRISPR screen data analysis. She developed the concept of the “cistrome,” the set of cis-acting targets of a trans-acting factor across the genome. Her computational methods to analyse the cistrome have enabled the endocrinology community to identify nuclear receptor cistromes, collaborating transcription factors, and target genes.
In epigenetics, she and colleagues identified the chromatin signature of embryonic pluripotency, and were the pioneers in the use of dynamics of nucleosomes, histone marks, and DNase hypersensitivity to predict driving transcription factors and cis-elements in biological processes. In cancer biology, she and colleagues identified novel functions of ESR1, AR, FOXA1, EZH2, and NOTCH1 in various cancers, discovered many cancer-related long non-coding RNAs, and reported novel associations of tumor immunity with patient clinical features and outcome. Her work is extremely highly cited and she has already mentored a number of trainees who have established successful independent academic careers. She received the Sloan Research Fellowship in 2008, was named a Yangtze River Scholar and 1000 Talent Scholar in China in 2012 and 2013.