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DAA: Kun-Liang Guan

Kun-Ling Guan

Kun-Liang Guan


Ann Arbor, MI


In the global fight against lifethreatening diseases, the most significant strides often are the tiniest, such as scrutinizing how genetics and environment affect growth of a single cell. Marshal the talent and passion of educator and researcher Kun-Liang Guan and analysis equals discovery. A native of the Republic of China, Guan’s distinguished career in biochemistry began in 1983 when he came to Purdue through the Chinese and U.S. Biochemistry Examination for Admission, a program that selected about 50 of China’s brightest students for graduate study in the United States. While at Purdue he honed his research skills, pioneering the molecular biology expertise in Henry Weiner’s research group. Guan then joined the University of Michigan faculty, achieving full professor in less than ten years, and Named Professor in 2003. “Sometimes scientists find it difficult to communicate,” Guan admits of his highly technical domain, “and we can’t translate our own language.” He insists, however, layman’s terms best describe his current focus: finding ways to interfere with out-of-control cell growth, an initiative extremely relevant to cancer research. Guan’s latest findings led to a three-year clinical trial of the FDA-approved drug rapamycin, an immunosuppressant used for organ transplant patients. His research suggests rapamycin also may be effective in treating tuberous sclerosis complex (TSC), an incurable multi-symptom genetic disorder in which tumors cause seizures, mental retardation, and kidney failure in one out of 6,000 individuals. The potential breakthrough is generating significant excitement among TSC patients. Even the most invigorating laboratory occasionally feels too small. When it does, Guan simply walks away. “Hiking in national parks gives me a different perspective. I climb a mountaintop, and I realize it’s a big world out there.” “Purdue University’s traditional, thorough, and solid curriculum was absolutely essential to my scientific career development. Learning to generate knowledge through research science, versus textbook learning, was a quantum leap for me.”