UNC School of Medicine names inaugural Yang Family Biomedical Scholars

The award, made possible through a donation from Lenovo chairman and CEO Yuanqing Yang, recognizes the research achievements of young tenured faculty.
CHAPEL HILL, NC – The UNC School of Medicine has named three young researchers as recipients of the inaugural Yang Family Biomedical Scholars Award: Jonathan Berg, MD, PhD, associate professor of genetics and medicine; Maureen Su, MD, associate professor of pediatrics, and microbiology and immunology; and Yisong Wan, PhD, associate professor of microbiology and immunology.  All three recipients are also members of the UNC Lineberger Comprehensive Cancer Center. Su is a member of the Thurston Arthritis Research Center and the Inflammatory Disease Institute.
Each faculty member will receive a generous grant to be used at their discretion for biomedical research projects at the UNC School of Medicine. The researchers are now members of the Yang Family Society of Biomedical Scholars, and the first annual seminar to highlight the work of the scholars will be held Wednesday December 9 at 12 pm in UNC’s Medical Biomolecular Research Building room G202.
The award was established through a new gift from Yuanqing Yang, chairman and CEO of Lenovo.  Lenovo is a $46-billion technology leader – the world’s number one manufacturer of PCs and number three in tablets and x86 servers. It is also a top five global smartphone company with operations in more than 60 countries and operational headquarters in Morrisville, NC, as well as Beijing, China.
“We’re very grateful for Mr. Yang’s generosity,” said Dr. William L. Roper, dean of the UNC School of Medicine and CEO of UNC Health Care. “He has a proven track record of inspiring innovation in his business, and he is demonstrating that commitment through this gift, as well.  It will support our most talented young researchers as they make important biomedical discoveries with the aim of helping the people of North Carolina and beyond.”
With the Yang Scholars program, the UNC School of Medicine aims to establish a community of its brightest and most promising, young tenured faculty. The award recognizes faculty that have made significant scholarly contributions to their field while also receiving national recognition for their research. 
“I am proud to support the pioneering spirit of innovation that is embodied by the biomedical research being conducted every day at UNC,” Yang said. “I’m thrilled that UNC has chosen to fund top researchers who have the passion and dedication required to make incredible discoveries. The persistence, hard work, and focus of these researchers make possible so many other great breakthroughs. This year, a UNC researcher Aziz Sancar won the Nobel Prize in Chemistry. So perhaps we can inspire the same level of achievement in other fields, as well. ”
Jonathan Berg is a national leader in the field of clinical genetics who investigates how most effectively to use genome sequencing technology to identify and interpret mutations that play major roles in hereditary diseases. Dr. Berg is also exploring how to handle the ancillary genetic findings inherent in genome-wide sequencing that can impact patients and their families. Read more about some of his work here and here.
Maureen Su studies how and why our immune system cells attack healthy cells, a medical problem that affects between 5-10 percent of the U.S. population. One of her projects focuses on children with autoimmune endocrine diseases, such as type-1 diabetes. She also studies autoimmune polyendocrinopathy syndrome, which is caused by a single gene but affects multiple organs. Read more about her background and research in this School of Medicine Profile.
Yisong Wan studies how cellular proteins called transcription factors control and regulate T cells – the soldiers of the immune system. Armed with that knowledge, his lab and others hope to enhance the natural immune response to cells that cause disease, such as cancer. Read more about his background and research in this School of Medicine profile

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