University of Louisville Magazine

FALL 2013

The University of Louisville Alumni Magazine: for alumni, faculty, staff, students and anyone that is a UofL Cardinal fan.

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T H E were limited to veterinary schools while the country began to rebuild its educational system. "So I got into veterinary school and I thought well, that's great. It's still life science," Zhang recalls. "And it was actually very beneficial, because at that time veterinary medicine in China primarily used herbal medicines derived from natural products to treat a variety of different kinds of diseases in animals. And it really was effective. I learned a lot about how to collect natural products and plants and how to make herbal medicine." After earning his degree in veterinary medicine, Zhang had the opportunity to come to the United States, where he completed his doctorate in viral immunology, followed by post-doctoral training in autoimmune disease at the University of Alabama at Birmingham. It was the combination of these three distinct areas of study that Zhang said influenced his current field of research. "Veterinary science taught me how to use naturally derived products to treat disease; from virology I learned how viruses get hosts to survive and co-exist with us; and then in my post-doctoral training I learned how autoimmune disease occurs, which is when our bodies begin to treat our own cells as foreign material." Zhang's rich background has been a great asset, Miller believes. "I think having that broad experience before he came here has been a huge advantage for him in terms of doing this kind of work. People who have had those broad experiences tend to be more flexible and able to move more quickly." It's possible that Zhang's speed is matched only by his stamina. He can be found working in his lab seven days a week, often for 12 hours at a time, and has already completed two Phase I clinical trials in the three years he's been at UofL. "This guy is working extremely hard," said Yan, who occupies the office next to Zhang's. "He's very passionate about what he is doing in his lab, so it's a very productive lab. I think most importantly, he has a passion to translate those findings to the clinical bedside so that they can benefit the patients." BRINGING TOGETHER A DIVERSITY OF TALENTS What most people outside the medical field may not realize is that Zhang's research wouldn't be possible at many leading universities and hospitals. "It's very unusual for a PhD to be doing clinical trials," Miller said. "One of the strengths of our cancer center is that a PhD can do clinical trials here. We believe that it's very important for the basic scientists to talk to and collaborate with the clinicians who see the patients every day." Since being appointed director of the Brown Cancer Center in 1999, Miller has overseen an F R U I T S O F H I S L A B O R exponential growth in research funding and prioritized translational research and the development of new cancer treatments. "We have too many people who are dying of cancer in Kentucky. So it's most important for us to do research that makes a difference for patients, which is translational research. And that's why we're always, always thinking about doing the human experiment, which is doing clinical trials." In 2000, the center made a significant investment in its Clinical Trials Office, a multi-disciplinary center that provides the infrastructure to make it as easy as possible for researchers to conduct clinical trials. Its dedicated 30-person staff sees patients, collects and manages data, completes the regulatory paperwork and otherwise ensures that clinical trials proceed properly and efficiently. This emphasis on translational research was central to Zhang's decision to come to UofL. "My goal is to discover something that can save cancer patients' lives. And Dr. Miller has supported not just me, but all the faculty at the cancer center to accelerate what we've found on the bench to the clinical center. So that is the key issue for me, and what makes me so excited to come here and work with other Huang-ge Zhang and Donald Miller investigators and make this happen." Just as important to Zhang is the collaborative "My goal is to aspect and the synergistic interactions that working discover something alongside so many other talented scientists across that can save cancer multiple fields provides. "It's not just about me. I'm just one small, tiny part for this team, the University patients' lives. of Louisville. Here, I'm working with so many really And Dr. Miller smart fellows from all different areas. And working has supported not as a team is, to me, most important. The team is the most efficient and most effective way to lead to our just me, but all the goal, which is to save cancer patients' lives." faculty at the cancer Thus, from humble beginnings concocting herbal center to accelerate remedies for animals in China to his current place what we've found at the leading edge of exosome research and cancer treatment, Zhang has maintained a singular focus on the bench to on his ambition to save lives. It's a mission that's as the clinical center." simple as it is exalted, as attainable as it is ambitious, —Huang-ge Zhang and ultimately fitting of a man who can uncover extraordinary potential in something so unassuming as a piece of fruit. FA L L UO F L M A G A Z I N E | 2 9

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