Structural Biologist Nieng Yan to Quit Princeton University to Establish Medical Academy in China

On the morning of November 1, at the 2022 Shenzhen Global Innovative Forum of Talents, Chinese structural biologist Nieng Yan, the Shirley M. Tilghman Professor of Molecular Biology at Princeton University, announced that she will resign from the university and set up the Shenzhen Medical Academy of Research and Translation in China.

(Source: 2022 Shenzhen Global Innovative Forum of Talents)

Nieng Yan was born in Shandong Province in November 1977 and graduated from Tsinghua University in 2000 before graduating from Princeton University in 2004. She was engaged in postdoctoral research in the Department of Molecular Biology of Princeton University from 2005 to 2007. In 2007, Yan Ning, who was only 30 years old, was appointed Professor and Doctoral Supervisor of Tsinghua University.

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During her teaching at Tsinghua University, in 2014, Nieng Yan led a team to analyze the three-dimensional crystal structure of the human glucose transporter GLUT1 for the first time. After the achievement was published in Nature, it immediately received widespread attention and praise from the international academic community. Many scientists called this achievement “a milestone”. Brian Kobilka, winner of the 2012 Nobel Prize in Chemistry, commented: “To develop drugs for human diseases, it is crucial to obtain the structure of human transporter proteins. Analyzing the structural elucidation of GLUT1 is very challenging. This is a great achievement.”

In May 2017, Nieng Yan accepted the invitation of Princeton University and was assigned as the Shirley M. Tilghman Professor of Molecular Biology at the university. Shirley M. Tilghman is a world-famous molecular biologist and the first female president of Princeton University since its founding more than 200 years ago. As a result, this title is considered very unique. In 2019, Yan was elected to the United States’ National Academy of Sciences as an International. In 2021, she was elected as a foreign academician of American Academy of Arts and Sciences.

Her lab has been mainly focusing on the structural and functional study of membrane transport proteins exemplified by the glucose transporters and Na+/Ca2+ channels.

(Source: 2022 Shenzhen Global Innovative Forum of Talents)

Her scientific research achievements are even more remarkable. Since 2009, as a correspondent author, she has published 19 papers in Nature, Science and Cell, the most influential top academic journals in the world. Her research has been cited into runners-up to “Breakthrough of the Year” by Science in 2009 and 2012.

According to the Shenzhen government, the Shenzhen Medical Academy of Research and Translation, where Yan Ning is going to work, will focus on solving major scientific and key technical problems in regard to “healthy living” and actively lay out key fields and technologies of medical science and technology. The institution was established by the municipal government and implements a socialized employment system. The dean, who will also be the legal representative of the institute, will be recruited globally.

According to the Shenzhen government’s official announcement, the development goal of Shenzhen Medical Academy of Research and Translation is that, by 2025, a collaborative innovation community with the institution as the center and bridge will have been completed. Research in some key fields will see progress, and prevention and treatment technologies for major human groups and diseases will achieve phased breakthroughs. By the middle of this century, the institution will become a world-famous medical research institution.