Our Projects

The Joint Institute has five established Research Programs: Cardiovascular, Gastroenterology & LiverPulmonary, Renal, and Cancer/ Precision Medicine. These program areas were chosen because of their overall importance to global health, as well as the opportunity for effective collaboration and the potential for translational impact. Each year, the Joint Institute provides funding for high-impact projects across these areas in addition to other exploratory disciplines such as emergency medicine, orthopedics, surgery and psychiatry. 

Cardiovascular Disease Program

Cardiovascular disease takes the lives of more than 16.7 million people (29.2 % of total global deaths) each year and at least 20 million others suffer heart attacks or strokes according to World Health Report 2003. While significant strides have been made in the prevention and treatment of cardiovascular disease, there is still much the scientific community does not understand how it develops. The partnership between Michigan Medicine and PKUHSC offers a unique opportunity for leading researchers to study the disease in a large, genetically diverse patient population. Thus the Joint Institute has initiated several important studies designed to significantly advance understanding about the genetic basis of cardiovascular disease. In particular, the JI's work in this area studies the role genetics play in the development of risk factors, such as high blood pressure, as well as in the onset of cardiovascular diseases, including myocardial infarction, abdominal aortic aneurysm, and coronary artery disease. In addition, scientists are systemically studying the genetics and biology related to high-density lipoprotein (HDL), or "good" cholesterol to identify new strategies for effectively raising HDL in patients.  

Cardiovascular Program Leads - Michigan Medicine

Eugene Chen, MD, PhD

Frederick G L Huetwell Professor of Cardiovascular Medicine
Professor of Internal Medicine
Professor, Pharmacology
Professor of Molecular and Integrative Physiology

David Pinsky, MD

Director and Science Lead, Frankel Cardiovascular Center
Division Chief, Cardiovascular Medicine
Department of Internal Medicine
University of Michigan Medical School

Cardiovascular Program Leads - PKUHSC

Wei Gao, MD, PhD

Professor and Chief of Cardiology
PKUHSC Third Hospital

Jianping Li, MD, PhD

Professor, Executive Deputy Director
Department of Cardiology
PKU First Hospital 

GI & Liver Disease Program

While much progress has been made in the treatment and prevention of liver diseases, viral hepatitis (B or C), fatty liver disease, and liver cancer continue to pose a significant health threat worldwide, and are of special concern in Asia - the world's most populous continent. The unique partnership established by the Joint Institute provides scientists at Michigan Medicine and PKUHSC an unprecedented opportunity to study liver disease in large, genetically diverse patient populations, and undertake rigorous, translational research that significantly improves patient care. 

GI & Liver Program Lead - Michigan Medicine

Anna Suk-Fong Lok, MD

Assistant Dean for Clinical Research
Alice Lohrman Andrews Research Professor of Hepatology
Department of Internal Medicine
University of Michigan Medical School

GI & Liver Program Lead - PKUHSC

Liping Duan, MD

Vice President
Peking University Health Science Center

Pulmonary Disease Program

According to joint research published by the World Health Organization and the World Bank, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) is projected to rank firth in global burden of disease by the year of 2020. Despite significant progress in the study and treatment of COPD - as well as public health initiatives to reduce tobacco consumption - COPD, and its related complications, continue to pose serious and significant health threats to people worldwide, involving both industrialized and developing nations. In addition, once discounted as unimportant, new scientific evidence suggests that the composition of the microbiome, both respiratory and gastrointestinal, has profound effects on multiple aspects of human health including immune and inflammatory responses. The research partnership between Michigan Medicine and PKUHSC offers a unique opportunity to study the respiratory microbiome in large and genetically diverse patient populations. Aided by recent technological advances in microbial genomic sequencing, the Joint Institute's Pulmonary Disease Program is initiating several studies in this new and exciting field. 

Pulmonary Program Lead - Michigan Medicine

Meilan Han, MD, MS

Professor and Division Chief
Pulmonary and Critical Care Medicine
Department of Internal Medicine
University of Michigan Medical School

Pulmonary Program Lead - PKUHSC

Bei He, MD, HCCP

Director of Pulmonary Division
Peking University Third Hospital 

Renal Disease Program

Michigan Medicine and PKUHSC's renal divisions play a leading role in translational chronic kidney disease (CKD) research in the U.S. and China. We are committed to solving the most urgent unmet needs in this field, including the early and accurate identification of patients at high risk of progressing to end-stage renal diseases (ESRD), the need for eary and targeted treatments for these high risk patients. The joint scientific expertise, unique resources (i.e., biobanks established by both divisions hosting urine and plasma samples accrued over years from patients in both countries that are linked with longitudinal clinical data), and the deep trust-based collaboration and exchanges of scholarly activities. Together, we strive to: (1) better understand the CKD prevalence, risk factors, and outcomes between China and the U.S.; (2) develop non-invasive molecular markers for early detection of patients at high risk for progression to allow preventative management of CKD; and (3) identify molecular mechanisms driving glomerular disease progression as targets for interventional trials. The JI's Renal Disease Program provides a valuable platform to exchange research ideas and to nurture new collaborations on renal disease. We continue to welcome new projects and new investigators to the program. We strongly believe that our joint effort will contribute to improve patient care and reduce financial burden in both the U.S. and China. 

Renal Program Leads - Michigan Medicine

Matthias Kretzler, MD

Warner-Lambert/ Parke-Davis Professor of Medicine
Professor of Internal Medicine - Nephrology
University of Michigan Medical School

Wenjun Ju, PhD

Associate Research Scientist
Department of Internal Medicine - Nephrology
University of Michigan Medical School

Renal Program Leads - PKUHSC

Minghui Zhao, MD, PhD

Professor of Medicine
Chief of Renal Division
Peking University First Hospital

Hong Zhang, MD, PhD

Professor of Medicine
Renal Division
Peking University First Hospital
PKU Institute of Nephrology

Cancer and Precision Health Program

In 2017, Joint Institute leaders designated a new area of focus for future project investment: Cancer and Precision Health. 

Cancer Program Leads - Michigan Medicine

Max Wicha, MD

Madeline and Sidney Forbes Professor of Oncology
Director, Forbes Institute of Cancer Discovery
Founding Director Emeritus, Rogel Cancer Center

Weiping Zou, MD, PhD

Charles B de Nancrede Research Professor of Surgery
Department of Surgery
University of Michigan Medical School

Shaomeng Wang, PhD

Warner-Lambert/Parke-Davis Professor of Medicine
Department of Internal Medicine
Department of Pharmacology
University of Michigan Medical School

Cancer Program Leads - PKUHSC

Ning Zhang, MD

Vice President
Peking University Health Science Center

Kaifeng Pan, MD, PhD

Professor of Epidemiology
Director, Department of Cancer Epidemiology
Vice President, Peking University Cancer Hospital & Institute

Precision Health Program

In 2019, JI leaders reprioritized funding around a few key focus areas, including Precision Health, where international collaboration is vital for advancement as it enables the pooling of diverse datasets, expertise, and resources from across the globe. Both institutions bring many strengths in this emerging field, and by sharing insights and breakthroughs through the JI, leaders hope to accelerate the development of new treatments and technologies, ultimately improving global health outcomes and ensuring that advancements benefit a broader, more diverse population.

Precision Health Program Lead - Michigan Medicine

Jun Li, PhD

Professor of Human Genetics
Professor and Associate Chair for Research,|
Computational Medicine and Bioinformatics

Precision Health Program Lead - PKUHSC

Luxia Zhang, MD, PhD

Professor of Renal Division
Professor and Associate Chair for Research,|
Computational Medicine and Bioinformatics

Reproductive Medicine Program

Reproductive Medicine was chosen as a focus area because the abundance of expertise available to both institutions as well as critical need across both populations. In uniting experts from PKUHSC and Michigan Medicine, the JI can explore a wide range of fertility treatments, pregnancy outcomes, and reproductive technologies, fostering innovative solutions to complex problems such as infertility, genetic disorders, and maternal health, ultimately improving reproductive health care worldwide and making advanced treatments accessible in China, the US, and beyond.

Reproductive Health Program Lead - Michigan Medicine

Gary Smith, PhD

Professor of Obstetrics & Gynecology
Professor of Molecular and Integrative Physiology
Professor of Urology

Reproductive Medicine Lead - PKUHSC

Jie Qiao, MD, PhD

President, Peking University Third Hospital
Director, Center for Reproductive Medicine

Exploratory Program

In addition to the established research programs (i.e., Cardiovascular, Pulmonary, GI/Liver, Renal, Cancer & Precision Health), the Joint Institute is increasingly invested in collaborations spanning other areas of practice. While the exploratory program is young, the number of projects is expanding rapidly, in various disciplines including Emergency Medicine, Radiology, Psychiatry, Obstetrics and Gynecology, Human Genetics, and more.