Professor David R. Liu
David R. Liu is the Richard Merkin Professor, director of the Merkin Institute of Transformative Technologies in Healthcare, and vice chair of the faculty at the Broad Institute of Harvard and MIT; 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 biology and enable next-generation therapeutics. His major research interests include the engineering, evolution, and in vivo delivery of genome editing proteins such as base editors to study and treat genetic diseases; the evolution of proteins with novel therapeutic potential using phage-assisted continuous evolution (PACE); and the discovery of bioactive synthetic small molecules and synthetic polymers using DNA-templated organic synthesis and DNA-encoded libraries. Base editing (named one of four 2017 Breakthrough of the Year finalists by Science), prime editing, PACE, and DNA-templated synthesis are four examples of technologies pioneered in his laboratory.
Liu graduated first in his class at Harvard in 1994. He performed organic and bioorganic chemistry research on sterol biosynthesis under Professor E. J. Corey’s guidance as an undergraduate. During his Ph.D. research with Professor Peter Schultz at U. C. Berkeley, 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 became a Howard Hughes Medical Institute investigator in 2005 and joined the JASONs, academic science advisors to the U.S. government, in 2009.
Liu has been elected a member of the U.S. National Academy of Sciences, the U.S. National Academy of Medicine and fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science. He has earned several university-wide distinctions for teaching at Harvard, including the Joseph R. Levenson Memorial Teaching Prize, the Roslyn Abramson Award, and a Harvard College Professorship. Liu has published more than 200 papers and is the inventor on more than 75 issued U.S. patents. His research accomplishments have earned distinctions including the Ronald Breslow Award for Biomimetic Chemistry, the American Chemical Society David Perlman Award, ACS Chemical Biology Award, the American Chemical Society Pure Chemistry Award, the Arthur Cope Young Scholar Award, the NIH Marshall Nirenberg Lecturer, and awards from the Sloan Foundation, Beckman Foundation, NSF CAREER Program, and Searle Scholars Program. In 2016, 2019 and 2020 he was named one of the Top 20 Translational Researchers in the world by Nature Biotechnology, and in 2017 was named one of Nature’s 10 researchers in world and to the Foreign Policy Leading Global Thinkers. In 2021, he was named Business Insider’s 100 People Transforming Business. He is the scientific founder or co-founder of several biotechnology and therapeutics companies, including Beam Therapeutics, Prime Medicine, Editas Medicine, Pairwise Plants, Exo Therapeutics, and Chroma Medicine.
David R. Liu conflicts of interest disclosure
DRL is a co-founder and consultant for Beam Therapeutics, Prime Medicine, Pairwise Plants, Exo Therapeutics, and Chroma Medicine. He owns founders’ equity in these companies, receives consultancies from them, and serves on their scientific advisory boards. He was a co-founder of Editas Medicine. He also serves as a scientific advisory board member of Tevard Biosciences, Voyager Therapeutics, Insitro, and Wuxi Biologics, and owns equity in Tevard, Voyager, and Insitro. DRL may receive honoraria and travel reimbursements for some speaking engagements. He is a co-inventor on patents related to his research, as listed on his CV at http://www.liugroup.us. Some of these patents have been licensed to companies including those listed above. Potential conflicts of interest between his academic activities and his activities with other entities including the companies above are actively disclosed and managed in accordance with the conflict of interest policies of the Broad Institute, Harvard University, and HHMI.
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