Research

Our research interests have primarily been in the field of chaperone biology, immune tolerance and cancer immunology, particularly related to the roles of a key immune chaperone gp96 (known also as grp94) in the endoplasmic reticulum. We advanced the knowledge of gp96/grp94’s client network, structure-function relationship, and co-chaperone CNPY3,  and contributed to the understanding of this key pathway in orchestrating innate immunity, hematopoiesis, oncogenesis and developmental biology. The lab currently focuses on developing better immunotherapeutics against cancer via understanding and reprogramming the tolerogenic tumor microenvironment. We have also broadened our interests in elucidating the roles of regulatory T cells and platelet biology in cancer immunity, untangling the key metabolic switches including unfolded protein response in inflammation and cancer, and developing cell therapy (including CAR-T) and protein therapeutics via synthetic immunology platform.

Lab News


July 2019



  • The Ohio State University Comprehensive Cancer Center - Arthur G. James Cancer Hospital and Richard J. Solove Research Institute (OSUCCC – James) has officially announced the formation of the Pelotonia Institute for Immuno-Oncology (PIIO). The announcement ceremony was well attended by a host of stakeholders (from cancer researchers to cancer survivors). The atmosphere was charged with positive energy about the work we are doing to advance the field of IO toward improved cancer patient care and even cure. This energy is also displayed elsewhere in the state of Ohio. We’re all in and excited that you are a part of this powerful initiative.

  • Brian Riesenberg, graduate student in the Li Laboratory, successfully defended his PhD dissertation. The titled of his dissertation is “Investigating Thrombocyte Mediated Immune Suppression in the Tumor Microenvironment as a Means to Improve Immunotherapy.” The successful defense was well timed with the acceptance of Brian’s first author paper to The Journal of Immunology titled “Cutting Edge: Targeting Thrombocytes to Rewire Anticancer Immunity in the Tumor Microenvironment and Potentiate Efficacy of PD-1 Blockade.” Brian has started his postdoctoral fellowship in the laboratory of Dr. Zihai Li where he will continue his research toward developing better immunotherapies.

  • The Li Lab welcomes two new postdoctoral scholars:
    • Dr. No-Joon Song received his PhD in Food Science and Biotechnology at Sungkyunkwan University, Suwon, Korea. He recently completed a postdoctoral fellowship in human nutrition with the Department of Human Sciences, College of Education and Human Ecology at The Ohio State University. In the Li Lab, Dr. Song will investigate the role of specific immune cell populations in the development and therapy of metabolic disease such as obesity, diabetes, and fatty liver diseases.
    • Dr. Elizabeth Robins is a recent PhD graduate, having received her PhD in Immunology at the Department of Immunology, Duke University School of Medicine. She is also a graduate of Stanford University, having majored in biology and minored in comparative literature. Dr. Robins has received several awards and honors, such as the Careers in Immunology Fellowship from the American Association of Immunologists (AAI). During her graduate training, she was also well funding by a T32 research fellowship and a Duke University Center for AIDS Research grant. Her research interests include lineage reprogramming in effector CD4 T cells and vesicle trafficking during CD4 T cell activation.

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Columbus, OH 43210