JULY 1, 2020, New York— It is with great pleasure that Ludwig Cancer Research announces the appointment of Yang Shi as a Member of the Oxford Branch of the Ludwig Institute for Cancer Research.
Shi, who joins Ludwig from Harvard University, is a world leader in the field of epigenetics, which explores how chemical modifications made to chromatin—the combination of DNA and histone proteins—control the organization and expression of the human genome. Aberrations in those processes are vital drivers of cancer and underlie many other diseases and disorders.
“Yang has an outstanding track record of innovative research into the identity and mechanisms of action of chromatin modifiers,” said Xin Lu, director of the Ludwig Oxford Branch. “We are delighted that Yang is bringing his wealth of experience, international standing and collaborative spirit to lead our cancer epigenetics theme at Ludwig Oxford.”
Shi is widely known for his discoveries regarding a chemical modification, methylation, made to histone proteins. In 2004, Shi and his colleagues identified and characterized an enzyme, LSD1, that erases methyl marks from histones. Their discovery upended a 40-year-old dogma that considered such modifications irreversible, altering longstanding models of genomic regulation. Shi’s laboratory went on to identify many other histone demethylating enzymes with roles in a diverse array of biological processes. More recently, his group discovered several enzymes that methylate RNA and possibly influence the translation of gene transcripts into proteins.
Shi is applying these fundamental discoveries to the benefit of patients. His group’s work on LSD1 led to the development of LSD1-inhibitors now in clinical trials for the treatment of cancer. More recently, Shi and his colleagues demonstrated that inhibiting LSD1 might also help make otherwise non-responsive tumors susceptible to checkpoint blockade immunotherapy. His lab is, additionally, studying the role and therapeutic manipulation of epigenetic modifiers in pediatric high-grade gliomas and acute myeloid leukemia.
“Yang’s science is of the highest caliber—as rigorous and collaborative as it is original—and we are very excited to have him in the Ludwig community,” said Chi Van Dang, scientific director of the Ludwig Institute. “I’m sure many of our researchers will benefit from his expertise, and that they will be equally generous with their own expertise and support as he explores the implications of his discoveries for cancer biology and the design of new therapies.”
Shi obtained his PhD from New York University, completed his postdoctoral training with Thomas Shenk of Princeton University and joined the faculty of Harvard Medical School in 1991, where he was most recently C.H. Waddington Professor of Pediatrics. Shi has received many honors for his contributions to epigenetics and is a fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science and a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.