The Jackson Laboratory appoints Edison Liu, M.D., as new president and CEO

Date: August 26, 2011
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Bar Harbor, Maine — Edison Liu, M.D., an international leader in cancer biology, genomics, human genetics and molecular epidemiology, will be the new president and chief executive officer of The Jackson Laboratory.

Dr. Edison LiuDr. Liu is the founding executive director of the Genome Institute of Singapore, building it in less than 10 years from a staff of three into a major research institute of 27 laboratory groups and a staff of 270. Before moving to Singapore in 2001, he was the scientific director of the National Cancer Institute's Division of Clinical Sciences in Bethesda, Md.

In announcing the appointment at The Jackson Laboratory's 82nd annual meeting in Bar Harbor, retiring Board of Trustees Chair Brian Wruble said Dr. Liu’s leadership will help the Laboratory translate its basic research discoveries into clinical medicine, building on the Laboratory’s legacy as the world leader in mammalian genetics.  "Ed Liu, with his outstanding background in basic research, clinical medicine and genomics, is the ideal leader for The Jackson Laboratory," Wruble said.

Newly elected Board Chair Leo Holt said, “Dr. Liu's arrival signals to a broad audience what the scientific world has always known: The Jackson Laboratory is a dynamic pivot point at the intersection of mammalian and human genetics. His talents run broad and deep, and his leadership is a great addition to the team that leads the search for tomorrow's cures.”

Dr. Liu said, "I am very excited about joining The Jackson Laboratory's community of scholars. The vision of its leadership and the talent of the scientists and staff were compelling attractors. Despite the economic challenges, these are remarkable times scientifically. I am looking forward to learning from my new colleagues and sharing with them my perspective in human biology and in global science." 

Dr. Liu's appointment culminates an international search following the January 2011 departure of Rick Woychik, Ph.D., who served eight years as Jackson president and CEO. Woychik left to become deputy director of the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences in Research Triangle Park, N.C.

Dr. Liu will assume the Jackson Laboratory post on Jan. 2, 2012. Until then, the Laboratory's interim leadership structure, in place since Woychik's departure, will continue. Charles Hewett, Ph.D., the Laboratory’s executive vice president and chief operating officer, oversees all administrative, operating, and mouse resources and research services activities. Robert Braun, Ph.D., associate director and chair of research, directs institutional research and education efforts and leads the scientific staff.

Born in Hong Kong in 1952, Edison Liu obtained his B.S. in chemistry and psychology, as well as his M.D., at Stanford University.  He served his internship and residency at Washington University’s Barnes Hospital in St. Louis, followed by an oncology fellowship at Stanford. From 1982 to 1987 he was at the University of California, San Francisco, first in a hematology fellowship at Moffitt Hospital and then as a postdoctoral fellow in the laboratory of Nobel laureate J. Michael Bishop, while also serving as an instructor in the School of Medicine.

From 1987 to 1996 he began at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill as an assistant professor in medicine and oncology at the School of Medicine, and rose to full professor directing the UNC Lineberger Comprehensive Cancer Center's Specialized Program of Research Excellence in Breast Cancer.  He was also the director of the Laboratory of Molecular Epidemiology at UNC's School of Public Health, chief of medical genetics, and chair of the Correlative Science Committee of the national cooperative clinical trials group, CALGB. At UNC, Dr. Liu held faculty positions in the departments of medicine, epidemiology, biochemistry and biophysics, and in the curriculum in genetics.
In 1996 he was appointed director of the Division of Clinical Sciences at the National Cancer Institute. In this capacity, he was responsible for the scientific and administrative direction for the intramural clinical research arm of the NCI consisting of 1,200 employees organized in 16 branches/laboratories/departments, and led by 100 principal investigators.

In 2001 he was recruited as the executive director for the new Genome Institute of Singapore (GIS), tasked with developing the region's genomic research, infrastructure, scientific human capital, and attracting R&D ventures in biomedicine into Singapore. Under Dr. Liu's leadership, the GIS grew into a major international research institute, with faculty in functional genomics, computational biology, population genetics and genome-to-systems biology. In Singapore, Dr. Liu played major roles in the development of that country's R&D landscape.  He initiated and managed the Singapore Cancer Syndicate, a funding agency to enhance clinical translational oncologic research; he was the executive director for the Singapore Tissue Network, the national tissue bank; and was an early member of the Bioethics Advisory Committee, which advised Singapore's cabinet on matters relating to research ethics. His most recent contribution was as chairman of the board for the Health Sciences Authority, the health regulatory and blood banking agency for Singapore.

Dr. Liu’s own scientific research has focused on the functional genomics of human cancers, particularly breast cancer, uncovering new oncogenes, and deciphering the dynamics of gene regulation on a genomic scale that modulate cancer biology. He has authored nearly 300 scientific papers and reviews, and co-authored two books - Oncogenes: An Introduction to the Concept of Cancer Genes (Springer Verlag, 1988) and Systems Biomedicine: Concepts and Perspectives (Elsevier and Academic Press, 2009). 

He is the recipient of a number of awards: Leukemia Society Scholar, 1991-96; Member, the American Society of Clinical Investigations (1995), the Brinker International Award for basic science research in Breast Cancer, 1996; the Rosenthal Award from the American Association for Cancer Research, 2000; the President’s Public Service Medal for helping Singapore resolve the SARS crisis; and a Doctor of Medicine Sciences honoris causa, Queen’s University, Belfast, 2007. He was elected as a Foreign Associate Member of the European Molecular Biology Organization (EMBO, 2008), and is serving his second term as the elected President of the Human Genome Organization (HUGO).

In his spare time, Dr. Liu pursues jazz piano and composition, and writes for the lay public in regional newspapers and magazines on science, medicine and society.

About The Jackson Laboratory

The Jackson Laboratory (JAX) is an independent, nonprofit biomedical research institution and National Cancer Institute-designated Cancer Center based in Bar Harbor, Maine, with a facility in Sacramento, Calif., and a total staff of about 1,400. Its mission is to discover the genetic basis for preventing, treating and curing human disease, and to enable research and education for the global biomedical community.  Annual research grants awarded to JAX during the 2010 fiscal year totaled $62.7 million.

The Laboratory counts among its distinguished faculty the late George Snell, winner of the 1980 Nobel Prize, Douglas Coleman, winner of the 2010 Lasker Award, and two Howard Hughes Medical Institute Investigators. Three other Nobel laureates—David Baltimore, Howard Temin and Jack Szostak—were mentored by Jackson faculty as high school or college students attending the Laboratory’s Summer Student Program.

JAX is the world's source for more than 5,000 strains of genetically defined mice, is home of the mouse genome database and is an international hub for scientific courses, conferences, training and education.

The Laboratory was voted among the top 15 "Best Places to Work in Academia" in the United States for 2011 in a poll conducted by The Scientist, and was recently named one of the "Best Places to Work in Maine" in a statewide poll.

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Download Dr. Liu's condensed CV (PDF, 76Kb). A more detailed CV is available upon request.
Download a photo of Dr. Liu (300 dpi, 845Kb
Watch a 5-minute video of Dr. Liu talking about his background and interests.


Joyce Peterson, 207-288-6058, The Jackson Laboratory

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