Songhua ZhangDr. Songhua Zhang has been named iCubed’s Featured Researcher of the month for January 2014. Dr. Zhang is currently an instructor of medicine at Brown University’s Alpert Medical School where her research focuses on developing a DNA vaccine against H. pylori by collaborating with researchers from the University of Rhode Island and EpiVax, Inc.

Dr. Zhang received her medical degree from Norman Bethune University of Medical Sciences in China. After completing her residency training in internal medicine and specialty training in gastroenterology, Dr. Zhang joined the faculty at Beijing Friendship Hospital, which is affiliated with the Capital University of Medical Sciences.

Dr. Zhang has had a longtime interest in chronic H. pylori infection and related gastrointestinal diseases. To pursue her physician scientist career, she conducted research under the supervision of Dr. Akinori Yanaka with a focus on the pathogenesis of H. pylori infection and its role in gastric cancer. She then received her Ph.D. from the University of Tsukuba in Japan.

Prior to joining Dr. Steven Moss’ team at Brown University, she worked in Dr. Susan Hagen’s lab as a postdoctoral fellow at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston. There she studied how H. pylori infection induced barrier dysfunction in gastric epithelial cells. In addition to her current work, Dr. Zhang also started a new project to investigate the immunogenic effects of gene products encoded by H. pylori cytotoxin-associated gene A (cagA) through the use of informatics tools and human ex vivo assays. She believes that her work utilizing a novel immunoinformatic approach to mine H. pylori genomes and dissect conserved sequences across the different bacterial strains will improve our understanding of H. pylori-induced human immune responses, and may lead to a new strategy to eliminate H. pylori infection in the future.