UT System Rising STARs award to advance research into metabolic disorders and liver cancer

The University of Texas System has awarded Peng Zhao, PhD, a Rising STARs Award. Dr. Zhao is an assistant professor of biochemistry and structural biology at The University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio (UT Health San Antonio).

Peng Zhao, PhD

The Faculty Science and Technology Acquisition and Retention (STARs) awards program was created in 2004 by The UT System Board of Regents to support promising faculty members. The grant is awarded to early-career investigators and comes with a $250,000 grant.

“I am grateful for the funding from The UT System Rising STARs award, which will be used for lab renovations and purchasing equipment essential to carrying out my research,” said Dr. Zhao. “As a new junior faculty member, I need to set up the laboratory to carry out my research and these funds help accelerate the process and will allow me to perform cutting-edge research and studies on the pathogenesis of liver cancer with a major focus on the role of metabolic dysfunction.”

He added, “My research focuses on metabolic disorders and associated cancers, particularly liver cancer, which has become a major health issue in South Texas. Metabolic dysfunction and associated fatty liver disease are the fastest-growing causes of liver cancer.”

To address this urgent medical need, Dr. Zhao’s lab focuses on investigating the role of metabolic dysfunctions to better understand the mechanisms that cause tumors, with the goal of identifying new therapeutic targets and strategies for the treatment of liver cancer. To achieve this goal, Dr. Zhao’s lab will collaborate with the Mays Cancer Center, home to UT Health San Antonio MD Anderson, the Joe R. and Teresa Lozano Long School of Medicine, and University Health Transplant Institute, a collaboration between University Health and UT Health San Antonio.

Dr. Zhao received his PhD in 2014 from Louisiana State University and in 2020 completed a post-doctoral fellowship at the University of California, San Diego before joining UT Health San Antonio in 2021.

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