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Li receives Pathway to Independence Award

Wentao Li, PhD
Wentao Li, PhD

From $2K pilot award to K99/R00 – Li receives Pathway to Independence Award

Wentao Li, PhD, postdoctoral research associate in the Sancar lab, received a K99/R00 Pathway to Independence Award from the NIH to further his studies on the role of aflatoxin-induced DNA damage and its repair in hepatocellular carcinoma, a type of liver cancer.

Underpinning Li’s Pathway to Independence Award is a TraCS $2K pilot award, “Development of Targeted Damage-seq Method for Mapping of the UV-induced DNA Damage Formation in Human Cells.” While the pilot project focused on UV-induced DNA damage, the research method developed and validated in this pilot project has broad applicability for mapping areas of damaged DNA induced by a wide variety of naturally occurring mutagens, such as aflatoxin.


The objective of the NIH Pathway to Independence Award (K99/R00) is to help outstanding postdoctoral researchers complete needed training and transition to an independent tenure-track or equivalent faculty position. The awards are highly competitive and allow for one to two years of mentored post-doctoral research, followed by up to three years of independent research.

Li is currently a postdoctoral research associate training in the lab of Aziz Sancar, MD, PhD, Sarah Graham Kenan distinguished professor of Biochemistry and Biophysics. Li’s research efforts focus on DNA damage and repair. Particularly, he is interested in genome-wide mapping and analysis of carcinogen- and chemotherapy-induced DNA damage formation and repair.

With this K99 award, Li will extend his studies on aflatoxin-induced DNA damage formation and repair. The studies will apply innovative approaches to delineate the role of aflatoxin-induced DNA damage formation and repair in human hepatocellular carcinoma, which is the fourth most common cause of cancer death in the world.

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