Zijian Xie, whose laboratory is internationally recognized for its groundbreaking work to understand the behavior of cellular pathways and their relationship to cancer, renal disease and cardiac failure, has been selected the director of the Marshall Institute for Interdisciplinary Research.
Xie comes to Marshall University from the faculty of the University of Toledo College of Medicine, where he was a professor of physiology, pharmacology and medicine and served as the co-director of the M.D./Ph.D. program. He was chosen to lead MIIR through a national search.
MIIR was established five years ago as Marshall's key vehicle to advancing regional economic development through entrepreneurship and commercialization of scientific discoveries. Scientists at the institute are developing a focused program of biotechnology research dedicated to producing patentable scientific breakthroughs and creating new businesses based on those discoveries.
In addition to conducting his own active research program at MIIR, Xie will be responsible for adding to the team of interdisciplinary researchers who comprise the core of the institute and for fostering collaborations with other scientists at Marshall.
A molecular biologist/pharmacologist, Xie has focused his research for nearly 30 years on an enzyme commonly referred to as the "sodium-potassium pump" because it controls the levels of potassium and sodium entering and exiting cells.
This pumping process is vital to transporting essential nutrients like glucose and amino acids into cells and maintaining the electrical charge within cells, which is particularly important in controlling normal functions in nerves and muscles, as well as in the kidney and heart.
Xie's research shows that in addition to its critical pumping function, which was discovered by scientists in the 1950s, this "pump" plays a second, distinct role by directing a variety of cellular processes in the heart, kidneys and other tissues. Through their studies to learn more about the molecular mechanisms by which this cellular signaling occurs, Xie and his colleagues are working to develop new treatments for cancer, heart and kidney disease.
Xie holds international patents and patent applications on seven medical inventions resulting from his research. He has served as principal investigator, project leader or co-investigator on the National Institutes of Health-funded projects totaling more than $10 million.
He has established active international collaborations with total funding of more than $1 million. He has been involved with the creation of two spin-off companies from his research.
John M. Maher, Marshall's vice president for research, has been serving as MIIR's interim director since the institute's founding director Eric Kmiec left in August of 2011.
Research in Xie's laboratory is supported through funding from the NIH and Youbo Pharmaceutical Co.
He earned a bachelor's degree from China's Nanjing College of Pharmacy in 1982. He went on to complete a master's degree in toxicology at the Chinese Academy of Medical Sciences in Beijing in 1984 and a doctorate in pharmacology at the Medical College of Ohio (now University of Toledo) in 1990.
He was a post-doctoral fellow at the Medical College of Ohio and then joined the institution's faculty in 1991 as an instructor of pharmacology and therapeutics. He became a research assistant professor in 1992, an assistant professor in 1996 and an associate professor in 2000. He was named full professor with tenure in 2005.
While at Toledo, he mentored dozens of graduate and post-doctoral students and assistant professors. More than 10 of his trainees have established independent laboratories in the U.S. and abroad.
Xie has a joint appointment with Marshall's Joan C. Edwards School of Medicine.
MIIR's endowment, currently $6 million, has been funded through both private donations and matching state funds made possible by the "Bucks for Brains" West Virginia Research Trust Fund.