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BMB Professor Fengyi Wan Receives 2023 Shikani/El-Hibri Prize for Discovery and Innovation

Wan's award recognizes research published in Cancer Discovery showing potential connection between transient bacterial infections and colon cancer


Fengyi Wan, PhD, professor of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, received the 2023 Shikani/El-Hibri Prize for Discovery and Innovation, which recognizes a basic science investigator at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health for a major scientific contribution with significant potential for public health or clinical impact.

Wan studies how connections between host cells, the microbiota, and pathogens in the colon affect health, with a focus on cancer, and the prize recognizes work published last year in Cancer Discovery, showing that certain types of bacterial infections can increase the risk of colon cancer in mice, even if the infection is only transient.

Wan’s lab showed this increased risk is dependent on a toxin, UshA, that is secreted by the bacteria and damages the host DNA, which is also secreted by enteropathogenic and enterohemorrhagic E. coli, known as EPEC and EHEC, which are common causes of transient diarrheal diseases in humans.

“We hope that this fundamental discovery may contribute to shifting paradigms in our understanding of pathogen-host interactions, and eventually, can be translated into control measures to combat colon cancer,” said Gergory Kirk, MD, vice dean for research at the Bloomberg School and a member of the selection committee.