DEPARTMENT NEWS

Presidential Award winner: Jean X. Jiang, Ph.D.

Foe Feist

Distinguished Senior Research Scholar

Jean X. Jiang, Ph.D., Ashbel Smith Professor, Department of Biochemistry and Structural Biology, Long School of Medicine

Remarks by Dr. Henrich at the March 1 recognition dinner:

"Dr. Jiang is an Ashbel Smith Professor in the Department of Biochemistry and Structural Biology in the Long School of Medicine, where for the last 20 years she has a contributed a large and significant body of work to her field of study in the areas of eye and bone physiology and cancer and neuroscience.

"Dr. Jiang has been funded consistently by the NIH and has had funding from the Robert A. Welch Foundation since 2001. Her research activity is fueled by an impressive $1.75 million in direct costs per year.

"This past year, Dr. Jiang garnered attention for discoveries that were highly translational. Dr. Jiang studies a group of proteins called connexins. These proteins form channels in the cell, which play very important roles in physiological and pathological disease-related processes in neuronal and skeletal tissues. Dr. Jiang’s recent work involves the understanding of the connexin 43 hemichannels’ role in the pathologic process. Dr. Jiang utilized the knowledge to develop a strategy and discovery of two biologics for intervention that would be useful for various clinical indications. One antibody can inhibit the neural inflammatory reaction and suppress further damage after spinal cord injury, which can help recovery, while the second antibody is useful in breast cancer metastasis to the bone.This work generated a $4.5 million dollar licensing agreement and could ultimately bring over $100 million dollars to UT Health.

"Not only is Dr. Jiang a prolific contributor to the research mission of UT Health, she also spends a large amount of time dedicated to enhancing the educational mission of our institution by co-directing the joint UT Health/UTSA Biomedical Engineering graduate program.

"It is my honor and great pleasure to give Dr. Jean Jiang the highest award that our institution offers, the Presidential Distinguished Scholar Award."

From the nomination letter by Bruce J. Nicholson, Ph.D.:

"Dr. Jiang has been a prolific contributor to the research mission of UT Health San Antonio since she arrived in 1997. Her recent work, particularly related to her development of unique immunological tools to target the hemichannel functions of gap junctions in a manner that no one else can, has unleashed a marked increase in her publications and funding. More importantly, this work has opened up at least two completely novel areas of therapeutic applications that are strikingly diverse, a typical characteristic of Jean’s research interests that have always defied classification. Inevitably, this work has attracted the attention of industry, which has now generated an unprecedented multi-million dollar investment. This will allow her to fully pursue these novel therapies that promise to have a great impact on the repair of spinal cord injuries and prevention of breast cancer metastasis to the bone. The combined potential impact of these approaches is difficult to overstate. Yet Jean does all of this while spending large amounts of her time dedicated to enhancing the educational mission of our institution by running a joint graduate program with The University of Texas at San Antonio and serving as a mentor to an impressive number of trainees at all levels.

"Her love of science is infectious. It is difficult to think of someone more deserving of this recognition who epitomizes what we stand for—making lives better."