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Yang Liu Awarded Target ALS Springboard Fellowship

Liu, a postdoctoral fellow in the Wang lab, plans to extend his research into epigenetic regulation in ALS


Yang Liu, PhD, originally intended to become a medical doctor. But after becoming interested in brain diseases and seeing the limited treatments available for patients, he shifted to a PhD in neuropharmacology. Now as a postdoctoral fellow in the Wang lab studying a gene associated with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, he has received a Target ALS Springboard Fellowship to support his project to develop therapeutic strategies for ALS based on his research into an epigenetic regulator.  

Yang is a remarkable young scientist with keen scientific acumen, artistry, and dedication to his work. The Springboard Fellowship, a well-deserved acknowledgment of his achievements, will provide timely support to help launch his independent career,” said Jiou Wang, MD, PhD, Walder Foundation Distinguished Professor in Biochemistry and Molecular Biology.

This prestigious fellowship is designed to support promising young investigators in the ALS field to transition into independent careers. It provides support for two years of postdoctoral research and aims to support postdoctoral fellows researching ALS research to transition into, and offers a possible a third-year of funding if the fellow accepts an independent academic tenure track (or equivalent) position. The ALS Ice Bucket Challenge first drew Liu’s attention to ALS, and the limited amount of research compared to other diseases. He joined the Wang lab, which has long studied ALS along with other neurodegenerative diseases, and found the work so interesting that he was hooked.

“I believe ALS will be the core disease of my research career, and I hope that my research will someday benefit ALS patients,” said Liu.

ALS can co-occur with frontotemporal dementia. Both are progressive neurodegenerative diseases, ALS generally affecting motor neuron activity while FTD commonly affects behavior, personality, and communication. The most common genetic cause of hereditary ALS and FTD is a hexanucleotide repeat expansion of G4C2 in the C9orf72 gene, and this mutation has been a focus for Wang lab research in recent years.

The [fellowship] project builds upon my recent findings published in the Neuron journal as a cover story, where I established DAXX as a crucial epigenetic regulator underlying the neurodegeneration in C9orf72 ALS/FTD,” said Liu. “This project aims to understand how DAXX is dysregulated in C9orf72 ALS/FTD patients and explore the future implications of this knowledge.”

The Springboard Fellowship also covers the costs to access core facilities provided by the Target ALS Foundation. Liu has used the core facilities' resources in the past and expects to take advantage of these resources in his ongoing studies in the Wang lab and when he transitions to leading his own independent lab.

This work complements the project supported by Liu’s 2023 Judge and Mrs. Samuel Jordan Graham Memorial Fund Award, in which he will examine the wider implications of epigenetic dysregulation in ALS/FTD.