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David R. Liu

David R. Liu, Ph.D.

David R. Liu is the Richard Merkin Professor and director of the Merkin Institute of Transformative Technologies in Healthcare, a core institute member, director of the Chemical Biology and Therapeutics Science Program, and vice chair of the faculty at the Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard. He is also a professor of chemistry and chemical biology at Harvard University and a Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI) investigator. Liu’s research integrates chemistry and evolution to illuminate and program biology. His major research interests include the evolution and intracellular delivery of proteins with next-generation therapeutic potential; the development and application of genome editing agents; and the discovery of therapeutically relevant synthetic molecules and synthetic polymers through DNA-templated organic synthesis, an approach developed in his laboratory.

Liu graduated first in his class at Harvard with a bachelor's degree in chemistry before entering the Ph.D. program at U.C. Berkeley. He performed research on sterol biosynthesis under Professor E. J. Corey's guidance throughout his undergraduate years. In the group of Professor Peter Schultz, Liu initiated the first general effort to expand the genetic code in living cells. He earned his Ph.D. in 1999 and became assistant professor of chemistry and chemical biology at Harvard University in the same year. He was promoted to associate professor in 2003 and to full professor in 2005. Liu was also appointed as a HHMI Investigator in 2005 and joined the JASONs, academic advisors to the U.S. government on science and technology, in 2009. 

Liu has earned several university-wide distinctions for undergraduate and graduate student teaching at Harvard, including the Joseph R. Levenson Memorial Teaching Prize in 2007, the Roslyn Abramson Award in 2003, and a Harvard College Professorship in 2007. Liu has published more than 145 papers in chemical biology, molecular biology, and organic chemistry. His research accomplishments have earned distinctions including the American Chemical Society Pure Chemistry Award, the American Chemical Society Arthur C. Cope Young Scholar Award, and the Ronald Breslow Award for Achievement in Biomimetic Chemistry. Nature Biotechnology named Liu one of the top 20 translational researchers in the world in 2015.


Photo credit: Martin Adolfsson

October 2017