Li Zhang

Senior Lecturer

Biography

Dr Li Zhang received her MBBS degree from Fudan University in China and PhD degree from the University of Cambridge in the UK. Dr Zhang was a clinician at the China-Japan Friendship Hospital in Beijing prior to her PhD study. She worked as a postdoctoral fellow at the Institute of Molecular and Cell Biology in National University of Singapore before joining the University of New South Wales (UNSW). Dr Zhang is now a Senior Lecturer at the School of Biotechnology and Biomolecular Sciences at UNSW.

Education

MB BS, Fudan University, Shanghai, China

PhD, University of Cambridge, UK

Research

Dr Li Zhang's earlier research was on autoimmune diseases. Since 2008, her group has been investigating bacterial species that are associated with gastrointestinal inflammatory diseases and cancer. Their research areas include bacterial genomes, bacterial virulence factors, host immune responses to bacterial pathogens, novel antimicrobial agents, and gut microbiota.

Campylobacter species and inflammatory bowel disease (IBD):

Dr Li Zhang's group has conducted pioneering research in investigating the role of human hosted Campylobacter species in IBD.

Dr Zhang hypothesized that some strains of Campylobacter concisus, a bacterium that usually colonises the human oral cavity, have enteric pathogenicity and are the cause of a subgroup of human IBD. The subsequent research in Dr Zhang’s group from both the clinical and bacterial genome aspects has provided critical information to this emerging research field, including disease association, C. concisus natural colonisation site and bacterial genomic features.  They identified a novel C. concisus plasmid (pICON) and a novel toxin gene csep1-6bpi, both were highly present in the oral cavity of patients with active Crohn's disease (one type IBD) but not in healthy individuals, suggesting that pICON plasmid and csep1-6bpi are the potential bacterial markers for identification of virulent C. concisus strains that cause a subgroup of Crohn's disease.  They are currently investigating the pathogenic mechanisms of Csep1 protein. Their recent publication in this field: "Genomic analysis of oral Campylobacter concisus strains identified a potential bacterial molecular marker associated with active Crohn's disease", Emerging Microbes & Infections, 2018, http://doi.org/10.1038/s41426-018-0065-6 

Gut microbiota and immunotherapy:

Dr Zhang hypothesized that chronic infection and inflammation may impact on PD-L1/PD1 blockade therapy. This publication received high attention in the scientific community (Current views rank 94% and downloads rank 90%), On-going research in Dr Zhang's laboratory is investigating the mechanisms by which different gut bacterial impact on immunotherapy.  Their recent publication in this field: "Modulation of gut microbiota: a novel paradigm of enhancing the efficacy of programmed death-1 and programmed death ligand-1 blockade therapy", Front. Immunol., 05 March 2018 | https://doi.org/10.3389/fimmu.2018.00374

Publications

Dr Zhang's publications and citations can be found at:

https://scholar.google.com.au/citations?hl=en&user=gddDrbMAAAAJ

Editorial board member

World Journal of Gastroenterology

Higher degree research student supervision (PhD and Masters by Research)

As the primary supervisor, Dr Li Zhang has supervised 10 higher degree research students to completion at UNSW since 2008 (six PhDs and four Masters by Research students).

Current supervision areas include: 

  • Genomic and proteomic analysis of the pathogenicity of Campylobacter concisus and other emerging bacterial pathogens
  • Microbes and their pathogenic mechanisms in IBD and other gastrointestinal diseases
  • Gut microbiota and immunotherapy 
  • Novel strategies to modify microbiota and to combat antimicrobial resistance

Honours research project supervision

As the primary supervisor, Dr Li Zhang has supervised 20 honours degree research students to completion at UNSW since 2008.

For current available projects,  please see the school honours project book.

Undergraduate teaching

BABS 3041 (Immunology): Dr Zhang is the course coordinator and principle lecturer. This course has been digitally uplifted.

Medical microbiology: Dr Zhang is the coordinator and principle lecturer for medical microbiology component in both phase I and phase II Medical program at UNSW.