ZJU-UCLA joint degree student tackles vaccine challenge


Miss DU Yushen, an MD candidate from Zhejiang University, has published a research article on Science tackling vaccine challenge. In the article, the authors presented a systematic approach for vaccine development that eliminates interferon (IFN)–modulating functions genome-wide while maintaining virus replication fitness.

The approach, which attenuates the virus and promotes immune responses concurrently, is broadly applicable for vaccine development against other pathogens. This research represents a significant fruit of the Joint PhD-MD Program between ZJU and UCLA.

Enrolled in an 8-year clinical medicine program at ZJU, Du received a PhD in Molecular Pharmacology from UCLA this January. She is now back at her alma mater to complete subsequent studies towards an MD from ZJU. Supervised by Dr. Ren Sun, a renowned professor of molecular & medical pharmacology at UCLA, Du is the first student participating in the Joint Program.

The Joint Program aims to cultivate interdisciplinary talent equipped with the width and depth of medical students and armed with superb capabilities in both clinical medicine and research. Students are expected to apply experimental technologies to clinical problems and design research from the perspective of clinical medicine. In doing so, they will seek to break the barrier between basic and clinical medicine, achieving synergy between “the ward and the lab”.

“Now I’m getting down to clinical medicine and have encountered many unresolved problems, which call for further research in the lab,” Du said. “Basic research findings will be eventually translated into therapy. At the very core of the Joint MD/PhD Program is the development of dual abilities in both research and clinical medicine.”

In retrospect, Du said she had benefited tremendously from the joint supervision from both universities, which emphasizes broad perspectives and integrated thinking.

While a PhD candidate at UCLA, Du published five articles as a lead author or a lead co-author, in addition to co-authoring 20 articles included in such top journals as Nature, Cell Host and Microbe, and PNAS.