Rice awarded grant to recruit Stanford cancer researcher

$2 million CPRIT grant brings Han Xiao to Houston

Rice University has won a $2 million grant from the Cancer Prevention and Research Institute of Texas (CPRIT) to recruit chemical biology researcher Han Xiao.

Xiao will join Rice’s departments of Chemistry and of Biosciences July 1.

Last month, CPRIT awarded 14 new grants totaling $34 million toward advancing the fight against cancer.

Xiao comes from two of the world’s leading research labs in chemical biology: the Schultz Lab at the Scripps Research Institute, where he received his Ph.D. in chemical biology, and the Bertozzi Group at Stanford, where he completed his postdoctoral fellowship. He will join Rice’s departments of Chemistry and of Biosciences July 1.

“I’m excited to join Rice and be in such close proximity to the Texas Medical Center,” Xiao said. “I’m intrigued by the multidisciplinary nature of Rice’s BioScience Research Collaborative. There are people working on so many different things — engineering, biology, chemistry — in the same building. It’s a great environment for collaboration.”

Jeffrey Hartgerink, a Rice professor of chemistry and of bioengineering, said Xiao will apply the advanced synthetic methods he learned in his previous labs toward the preparation of designer antibodies. The antibodies will be used in novel immunotherapy cancer treatments.

“Because of Han’s strong interest in real-world clinical outcomes, the wider Texas Medical Center environment that Rice participates in should be the perfect venue for him to flourish,” said Hartgerink, who headed the recruitment of Xiao. “He has already created nascent collaborations to bring clinical insight to his chemical biology approach.”

Xiao said his research will focus on understanding the interface between cancer and immunity and synthesizing biomolecules to manipulate this interface. His program will have a strong translational focus that seeks to initiate new clinical opportunities and will contribute to advances in chemical biology, glycobiology and cancer immunology.

“Rice’s Department of Chemistry has a long tradition of taking a very broad view of the definition of chemistry, which is epitomized by its strong focus on nanomaterials,” Hartgerink said. “Han definitely fits into this unconventional wisdom model.”

Xiao earned a Bachelor of Chemistry and an honors degree in physical science from the University of Science and Technology of China.

To date, CPRIT has awarded 1,123 grants totaling more than $1.78 billion to Texas researchers, institutions and organizations.

About Kendall Schoemann

Kendall Schoemann is a staff writer in Rice University's Office of Public Affairs.