Where are they now: Li Wu

After 23 years at WEHI, Li Wu (alum 1987–2010) is now Professor of Immunology and the Associate Dean of Tsinghua University, School of Medicine in Beijing.

What do you currently do?

I am doing immunological research mainly focusing on the molecular regulation of mucosal innate immune cell development and function. I am also in charge of the Education program for Medical Doctor (M.D.) in Tsinghua University.

Describe your research achievements at WEHI.

I was at the Walter and Eliza Hall Institute for 23 years since 1987, firstly as a PhD student, then a postdoc research fellow. I became a faculty member from 1997 as a research fellow and then senior research fellow.

My PhD study was to identify the earliest precursors for T cell development in thymus. By analyzing the status of TcR gene rearrangement and the developmental potential of various precursor populations in vitro and in vivo, I successfully identified for the first time the earliest lymphoid restricted precursor population in mouse thymus, which could differentiate into both T and B cells.

My postdoctoral research project was to determine the origin of dendritic cells of lymphoid tissues, i.e. thymus and spleen. Interestingly we found that the intrathymic earliest precursor cells we identified could also differentiate into thymic and splenic dendritic cells. In collaboration with Dr Steve Nutt’s lab, we also revealed an essential role of transcription factor PU.1 in dendritic cell development.

All these important findings have been published in journals including Nature, Immunity, Journal of Experimental Medicine and Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. The period I spent at the Institute was the most exciting time during my career development.

What are you most passionate about? What inspires you professionally?

I am most passionate about biomedical research and medical education. The novel discoveries in medical research and their applications in the treatments of diseases always inspire my research enthusiasms.

What are your professional highlights?

I was awarded the Burnet Prize for my research achievements at WEHI, and an Honorary Doctor Degree from the University of Melbourne for recognising my effort and contributions to establishing the collaborative medical education program between Tsinghua and the University of Melbourne.

More alum profiles

Catch up with other alums and find out what they are now working on and their time at the Institute.

Do you have a story to share?

Everyone has a story to tell about their time at the Institute. Funny, odd, amazing anecdotes: we’d love to hear them all. Get in touch with us at alumni@wehi.edu.au.

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