The Georgia State University Research Foundation, in partnership with the Georgia Research Alliance (GRA), attracted Dr. Jian-Dong Li to set up a new research laboratory focusing on understanding and fighting such diseases as asthma, arthritis, cancer and others.

Dr. Li founded and heads the Center for Inflammation, Immunity and Infection (CIII), based at the Parker H. Petit Science Center on the GSU campus.

His team studies the molecular foundation of inflammation – how the human body fights infection or injury.

“Right now we know relatively well how inflammation happens. But we need to find out more how to stop it,” Dr. Li said. “People take steroids, but those can cause other problems. We want to find new ways to help that don’t have negative side effects.”

GRA Eminent Scholars such as Dr. Li represent an investment not only in important research, but in the synergy that builds great research institutions.

GRA Eminent Scholars often bring to a university a research team, significant federal funding and private support for their research. They advance science and technology toward new discoveries and technologies – often with great commercial potential. Georgia’s investment in more than 60 GRA Eminent Scholars has yielded more than $1 billion in outside grants and contracts for the state and helped to launch some 35 companies.

Dr. Li also brought ROCK Pharmaceuticals, LLC, a company he co-founded, to Atlanta. The company focuses on developing novel anti-inflammatory therapeutic agents to treat inflammatory diseases.

“The Petit Science Center is already a magnet for other medical researchers,” Dr. Li said. “They can see that GSU is a place where great discoveries can be made and supported. They can see our research being translated into clinical applications – the drugs and therapies that help people who are sick.”

Dr. Li’s center builds on GSU’s strong base in drug discovery and diagnostics research. Elsewhere at the Petit Science Center, medicinal chemist Binghe Wang heads the Center for Biotechnology and Drug Design, and molecular geneticist Julia Hilliard leads the Viral Immunology Center. Both Wang and Hilliard are GRA Eminent Scholars, too.

Li received his doctorate in medicine from Tsingtao University School of Medicine in China in 1983, and his Ph.D. from the biomedical sciences program of the University of California San Francisco in 1997. He came to GSU from the University of Rochester Medical Center, and before that he served as a section chief and professor at the University of Southern California.

“By solving some of the most challenging medical issues of today,” Dr. Li said, “we will make a better tomorrow for others.”

—By Michelle Hiskey; Contact Kim Cretors, (404) 413-3424