Associate Professor Li Zhang received her MBBS degree from Fudan University in Shanghai, China and PhD degree from the University of Cambridge in the UK. Associate Professor Zhang was a clinician at the China-Japan Friendship Hospital in Beijing prior to her PhD study. After completion of her PhD, she worked as a postdoctoral fellow at the Institute of Molecular and Cell Biology in National University of Singapore before joining the University of New South Wales (UNSW).
Associate Professor Li Zhang's group investigates bacterial species that cause or prevent inflammatory diseases and cancers of the gastrointestinal tract. They study bacterial genomes, bacterial virulence factors, interactions of bacterial pathogens and gut microbiome with the immune system, and novel methods to modify gut and oral microbiome and to enhance antibiotic sensitivity. Associate Professor Zhang's earlier research was on autoimmune diseases.
Associate Professor Li Zhang is a pioneering researcher in the field of human hosted Campylobacter species and inflammatory bowel disease (IBD). She hypothesized that some strains of Campylobacter concisus, a bacterium that usually colonises the human oral cavity, have enteric pathogenicity and are the initiator of a subgroup of human IBD. Research in Associate Professor Zhang’s group has provided critical information to this emerging research field, including disease association, C. concisus natural colonisation site, identification of two C. concisus genome species, C. concisus metabolic pathways and C. concisus genomic features associated with IBD. They recently discovered that C. concisus pSma1 plasmid is associated with severe ulcerative colitis (UC). This publication received high attention (in the top 5% of all research outputs scored by Altmetric) http://dx.doi.org/10.1038/s41426-018-0065-6. UC and CD are the two major clinical forms of IBD. Associate Professor Zhang's laboratory is currently investigating the pathogenic mechanisms of IBD associated C. concisus plasmids.. They also found that C. concisus plasmid pICON and a novel toxin gene csep1 are associated with active Crohn's disease (CD), and that patients with CD who carry pICON positive C. concisus strains are more likely to develop complications
The second aspect of research in Associate Professor Zhang's group is on the impact of microbes on immune regulation. Associate Professor Zhang hypothesized that chronic infection and inflammation may impact on PD-L1/PD1 blockade therapy. https://doi.org/10.3389/fimmu.2018.00374 . This publication received high attention in the scientific community (current views rank top 94% and downloads rank top 93%). The research group has recently found that some commensal gut bacterial species up-regulate intestinal epithelial expression of PD-L1 under inflammatory conditions http://dx.doi.org/10.1128/IAI.00618-20. On-going research in Associate Professor Zhang's laboratory is investigating the mechanisms by which different gut bacterial species impact on immunotherapy.
Liu F, Chen S, Luu LDW, Lee SA, Tay ACY, Wu R, Riordan SM, Lan R, Liu L, Zhang L, 2020, 'Analysis of complete Campylobacter concisus genomes identifies genomospecies features, secretion systems and novel plasmids and their association with severe ulcerative colitis.', Microbial Genomics,
Lee SA; Wang Y; Liu F; Riordan SM; Liu L; Zhang L, 2020, 'Escherichia coli K12 upregulates PD-L1 expression in IFN-γ sensitized intestinal epithelial cells via the NF-κB pathway.', Infect Immun, http://dx.doi.org/10.1128/IAI.00618-20
Liu F; Ma R; Tay CYA; Octavia S; Lan R; Chung HKL; Riordan SM; Grimm MC; Leong RW; Tanaka MM; Connor S; Zhang L, 2018, 'Genomic analysis of oral Campylobacter concisus strains identified a potential bacterial molecular marker associated with active Crohn's disease', Emerging Microbes and Infections, vol. 7, http://dx.doi.org/10.1038/s41426-018-0065-6
Wang Y; Ma R; Liu F; Lee SA; Zhang L, 2018, 'Modulation of Gut Microbiota: A Novel Paradigm of Enhancing the Efficacy of Programmed Death-1 and Programmed Death Ligand-1 Blockade Therapy. Front. Immunol. https://doi.org/10.3389/fimmu.2018.00374
Liu F; Ma R; Wang Y; Zhang L, 2018, 'The clinical importance of campylobacter concisus and other human hosted Campylobacter species', Frontiers in Cellular and Infection Microbiology, vol. 8, http://dx.doi.org/10.3389/fcimb.2018.00243
Chung HKL; Tay A; Octavia S; Chen J; Liu F; Ma R; Lan R; Riordan SM; Grimm MC; Zhang L, 2016, 'Genome analysis of Campylobacter concisus strains from patients with inflammatory bowel disease and gastroenteritis provides new insights into pathogenicity', Scientific Reports, vol. 6, http://dx.doi.org/10.1038/srep38442
Zhang L, 2015, 'Oral Campylobacter species: Initiators of a subgroup of inflammatory bowel disease?', World Journal of Gastroenterology, vol. 21, pp. 9239 - 9244, http://dx.doi.org/10.3748/wjg.v21.i31.9239
Lastovica AJ; On SLW; Zhang L, 2014, 'The family Campylobacteraceae', in Moreira AP B; Meirelles PM; Thompson F (ed.), The Prokaryotes, Springer Heidelberg, New York Dordrecht London, pp. 307 - 335, http://dx.doi.org/10.1007/978-3-642-39044-9
Mahendran V; Riordan S; Grimm M; Tran TAT; Major J; Kaakoush NO; Mitchell HM; Zhang L, 2011, 'Prevalence of Campylobacter species in adult Crohn's disease and the preferential colonization sites of Campylobacter species in the human intestine', PLoS ONE, vol. 6, pp. 1 - 7, http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0025417
Zhang L; Budman V; Day AS; Mitchell HM; Lemberg DA; Riordan SM; Grimm M; Leach ST; Ismail Y, 2010, 'Isolation and detection of Campylobacter concisus from saliva of healthy individuals and patients with inflammatory bowel disease', Journal of Clinical Microbiology, vol. 48, pp. 2965 - 2967, http://dx.doi.org/10.1128/JCM.02391-09
Zhang L; Man S; Day AS; Leach ST; Lemberg DA; Dutt S; Stormon MO; Otley AR; O Loughlin E; Magoffin A; Ng P; Mitchell HM, 2009, 'Detection and isolation of Campylobacter species other than C. jejuni from children with Crohn`s disease', Journal of Clinical Microbiology, vol. 47, pp. 453 - 455, http://dx.doi.org/10.1128/JCM.01949-08
Zhang L; Jayne DRW; Zhao MH; Lockwood CM; Oliveira DBG, 1995, 'Distribution of MHC class II alleles in primary systemic vasculitis', Kidney International, vol. 47, pp. 294 - 298, http://dx.doi.org/10.1038/ki.1995.37
Associate Professor Zhang's full list of publications and citations can be found on Google Scholar.
World Journal of Gastroenterology: Editorial Board Member since 2017
Gut Pathogens: Associate Editor since 2021< h2="">
As the primary supervisor, Associate Professor Li Zhang has supervised 12 higher degree research students to completion at UNSW since 2008 (six PhD and six Masters by Research students).
Current supervision areas include:
As the primary supervisor, Associate Professor Zhang has supervised 23 honours degree research students to completion at UNSW since 2008. For current available projects, please see the school honours project book..
BABS 3041 (Immunology): Associate Professor Zhang has been the course coordinator and principal lecturer since 2012.
Medical Microbiology: Associate Professor Zhang is the coordinator and principal lecturer for the medical microbiology component in UNSW medical program (Phase I, Phase II and Phase III).
BABS 3081 (Bacteria and Disease): Associate Professor Zhang delivers three lectures for this course.
2020 BABS T1 Titans of Teaching Award Runner-up (Best Large Class Course): BABS3041 Immunology
2019 UNSW President Award Nominee
2014 BABS T1 Titans of Teaching Award (Best Large Class Course): BABS3041 Immunology