The successful clinical use of monoclonal antibodies is one of the most significant advances in cancer treatment today. Antibody-based therapies provide desirable attractive specificity, multiple mechanisms of action, and desirable safety profiles. Humanization, optimization for drug-like properties, and cloning antibody genes for expression in large quantities are labor-intensive processes requiring specialized equipment and expertise that challenge the translation of basic research to the discovery of drug candidates.

The CPRIT (Cancer Prevention Research Institute of Texas) Therapeutic Monoclonal Antibody Lead Optimization and Development Core Facility aims to provide state-wide support and service to advance lead antibodies from academic laboratories to the stage of preclinical development. Core service is divided into four modules and performed by a team with diverse and complementary knowledge and expertise.



Zhiqiang An, Ph.D.

Zhiqiang An, Ph.D. Professor

Dr. Zhiqiang An serves as the director of the core and is responsible for the overall direction of the core facility including chairing the Scientific Advisory Committee (SAC) and the Management and Operation Team (MOT). Dr. An was recruited in 2009 to direct the Texas Therapeutics Institute (TTI) with a focus on therapeutic antibody drug discovery. Before coming to the University of Texas, Dr. An spent more than 15 years as a lead scientist and manager in the biotech and pharmaceutical industry focusing on antibody drug discovery and development. During his tenure in industry, he established and managed antibody drug discovery platforms and led multiple antibodies to preclinical and clinical development. Dr. An is co-inventor of 11 antibody drug related patents, and he is well published in the therapeutic antibody field which spans the entire spectrum of expertise described in the four modules.


Ningyan Zhang, Ph.D.

Ningyan Zhang, Ph.D. Associate Professor

Dr. Ningyan Zhang serves as co-director of the core responsible for technical aspects of the core facility and execution of user projects. More specifically, Dr. Zhang is responsible for overseeing daily operation and supervising scientific staff for each module including the construction of phage-displayed human antibody libraries, antibody lead generation and designing humanization and affinity maturation strategies. Dr. Zhang spent 15 years in the pharmaceutical industry, most recently at Merck Research Laboratories, worked on antibody drug discovery. She has been in collaboration with the PI at the TTI to build the antibody technology platform which spans all four modules since she joined UT four years ago. Several research programs led by Dr. Zhang at Merck were focused on the discovery of cancer therapeutic antibodies. Dr. Zhang is co-inventor of eight patents on therapeutic antibodies.

Scientific Advisory Board

Tong-Ming Fu, Ph.D.

Tong-Ming Fu, Ph.D. Senior Investigator, Merck and Company

Dr. Tong-Ming Fu is the research lead for the Merck CMV vaccine program. He obtained his medical degree at Peking University Health Science Center, formerly Beijing Medical University, in China, and his Ph.D. at Pennsylvania State University, Hershey Medical Center. He has been with Merck Vaccines Research for 20-years. He is active in many aspects of vaccine research, including vaccine target identification, vaccine design, immune assays, and animal model development. His research supported development of Merck novel vaccine programs, including HIV-1 and influenza M2 peptide-conjugate vaccines. He also has research interests in DNA vaccine mechanisms, immune-enhancement by novel adjuvants and antibody-based immune modulations by PD-1 blockade.  

William Strohl, Ph.D.

William Strohl, Ph.D. President, BiStro Biotech Consulting LLC

Dr. William Strohl was ranked 25th among the Top 50 Global Antibody Industry Influencers by the European Antibody Congress. During his time at Merck, Dr. Strohl started a new department at Merck in the field of recombinant monoclonal antibodies (MAbs). Subsequently he was a leader in Merck’s efforts to discover therapeutic MAbs and associated technologies. At Janssen Biotech, Dr. Strohl lead different successful antibody discovery programs resulting in several new development programs in inflammation and oncology. Dr. Strohl’s research has resulted in more than 120 publications in peer-reviewed scientific journals and 15 issued patents. In October 2012 he published the book “Therapeutic Antibody Engineering: Current and Future Advances Driving the Strongest Growth Area in the Pharma Industry.” 

Bruce D. Butler, Ph.D.

Bruce D. Butler, Ph.D. Vice President, Research & Technology, Office of Technology Management, UTHealth

 Dr. Bruce Butler has over 200 published papers, abstracts and book chapters. He is an inventor on numerous U.S. and associated foreign patents. Other positions Dr. Butler holds include Professor in the Department of Anesthesiology at the Medical School, VP for the Office of Global Health Initiatives, Associate Director of the UTHealth / MD Anderson Cancer Center-Center for Advanced Biomedical Imaging Research (CABIR).

Dean P. Edwards, Ph.D.

Dean P. Edwards, Ph.D. Associate Director, Research Infrastructure, Dan L. Duncan Cancer Center. Executive Director, Advanced Technology Cores, Baylor College of Medicine

The laboratory of Dr. Dean Edwards research has been funded by NIH grants for over 28 years in the areas of the biology and mechanism of action of steroid hormone receptors in normal mammary gland development and in breast cancer. Since the inception of the NCI-designated Dan L. Duncan Cancer Center at BCM in 2006, Dr. Edwards has directed the Proteomics Shared Resource, has served as Associate Director for Research Infrastructure and is a member of the Cancer Center Executive Committee. Dr. Edwards is also PI of a CPRIT (Cancer Prevention and Research Institute) supported Cancer Proteomics and Metabolomics Core Facility.

Anil K. Sood, Ph.D.

Anil K. Sood, Ph.D. Professor, Department of Gynecologic Oncology, The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center

 Dr. Anil Sood is Professor and Vice Chair for Translational Research in the Departments of Gynecologic Oncology & Reproductive Medicine. He is also Director of the Blanton-Davis Ovarian Cancer Research Program and Co-Director of the Center for RNA Interference and Non-Coding RNA. His research is focused in three main areas: 1) development of new strategies for systemic in vivo siRNA delivery using biocompatible nanoparticles; 2) effect of neuroendocrine stress hormones on ovarian cancer growth and progression; and 3) development of novel anti-vascular therapeutic approaches.

Guo-Liang Yu, Ph.D.

Guo-Liang Yu, Ph.D. Executive Chairman, Crown Bioscience Inc.

Dr. Guo-Liang Yu is currently the Executive Chairman of Crown Biosicence Inc., a personalized oncology platform company with 400 employees globally. Dr. Yu co-founded Epitomics Inc., an antibody biotechnology company recently acquired by Abcam at $170 M. He served as Chairman, President and CEO of Epitomics Inc. for 10 years.

E. Sally Ward, Ph.D.

E. Sally Ward, Ph.D. Professor, Dept. of Molecular & Cellular Medicine and Dept. of Microbial Pathogenesis & Immunology, Texas A&M University

Dr. E. Sally Ward was promoted in 2002 to Professor in the Department of Immunology at UT Southwestern and was appointed to the Paul and Betty Meek-FINA Professorship in Molecular Immunology in 2004. Dr. Ward joined the faculty at Texas A&M Health Science Center in September 2014. Her research, funded by the National Institutes of Health, National Multiple Sclerosis Society and the Cancer Prevention and Research Institute of Texas (CPRIT), is directed towards taking an interdisciplinary approach to generate effective therapeutics for autoimmunity and cancer. 

Team Members

Barrett R. Harvey, Ph.D

Barrett R. Harvey, Ph.D Assistant Professor

Dr. Barrett R. Harvey is responsible for kinetic analysis of antigen-antibody interaction (KD) and epitope mapping aspects of the core projects using the Biacore T-100 and the Octet RED96 instrument.

Wei Xiong, M.D., Ph.D.

Wei Xiong, M.D., Ph.D. Scientist

Dr. Wei Xiong carries out construction, heterologous antibody expression in HEK293 cells, and development of stable antibody expressing CHO cell lines for large scale production of candidate antibodies.

Xuejun Fan, M.D., Ph.D.

Xuejun Fan, M.D., Ph.D. Scientist

Dr. Xuejun Fan carries out antibody generation, screening, and characterization of lead antibodies using mouse hybridoma, single B cells and phage libraries as antibody sources.

Hui Deng, M.S.

Hui Deng, M.S. Research Associate

Hui Deng works on the construction of phage displayed antibody libraries, panning of the phage displayed antibody libraries for lead selection, affinity maturation and humanization.

Zhiqiang Ku, Ph.D.

Zhiqiang Ku, Ph.D. Postdoctoral Research Fellow

Dr. Zhiqiang Ku received his Ph.D. training in Microbiology at the Institut Pasteur of Shanghai, Chinese Academy of Sciences. His Ph.D. work focused on vaccine and antibody development for infectious diseases. Subsequently, he worked as a scientist at the Boehringer Ingelheim Research & Development Center in Shanghai. Dr. Ku joined Dr. An’s group in 2017 to work on the development of therapeutic antibodies for cancer and metabolic diseases.

Georgina To'a Salazar, Ph.D.

Georgina To'a Salazar, Ph.D. Research Coordinator

Dr. Georgina To’a Salazar works with the management team to coordinate project priority and keep timelines for major deliverables for the Antibody Core projects, develop and present educational programs and annual meetings, and work closely with the Core director and operation committee members to make effective administrative or procedural decisions.

Alumni Members

Robbie Schultz, Ph.D.

Robbie Schultz, Ph.D. Postdoctoral Research Fellow

Dr. Robbie Schultz carried out construction of libraries, screening, and characterization of lead antibodies. She successfully constructed and validated a PBMC scFv phage display library. She also worked on construction of another naïve human phage display library and application of the libraries for lead optimization and characterization of antibodies targeting leukemia, breast cancer, and colon cancer therapeutics.