Bioanalysis Zone

2014 Young Investigator Winner: XiuJun (James) Li




Nominee: XiuJun (James) Li, University of Texas at El Paso

Nominated By: Paul C.H. Li, Simon Fraser University, Canada


Supporting Comments: Xiujun Li is an outstanding young investigator in bioanalysis. During his Ph.D. periodin my group, he pioneered a new concept of “Same-single-cell analysis” for multidrug resistance study using microfluidic lab-on-a-chip technology, which was highlighted by ACS News in 2008. What amazed me the most is that he published 9 peer-reviewed journal papers (2 in Anal Chem, 1 in Lab Chip) and 3 book chapters from his Ph.D. work! Upon his Ph.D. degree, he gained extensive bioanalysis experience from postdoctoral research in genetic analysis with Prof. Richard Mathies at University of California Berkeley, and low-cost diagnosis with Prof. George Whitesides at Harvard University, while holding a Postdoctoral Fellowship from Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council (NSERC) of Canada. Since the start of his own bioanalysis career in 2012, I have seen extensive evidence of his development as an outstanding tenure-track young investigator. He edited a multidisciplinary book entitled “Microfluidic Devices for Biomedical Applications” from Elsevier. His first-year proposal was awarded by NIH, and his research was highlighted several times by UTEP News and Magazine. He is also the recipient of Dean of Graduate Studies Convocation Medal from Simon Fraser University in 2009 and UT STARS Award in 2012.

What made you choose a career in bioanalysis?

When I was an undergraduate student, I was involved in a research project for the study of antioxidant properties of herbs and vegetables for my B.S. thesis. I found bioanalysis so interesting and it could shed light on mysteries of many phenomena regarding our life and human health. Thereafter, I explored deeper into bioanalysis in my M.S. and Ph.D. research by developing innovative methodologies using capillary electrophoresis and microfluidic lab-on-a-chip (LOC) techniques.

Describe the main highlights of your bioanalytical research, and its importance to the bioanalytical community.

During my Ph.D. study, I initiated a new concept of “Same-single-cell analysis” (Anal Chem 2008, 80, 4095) and applied it to solve cellular heterogeneity issues in multidrug resistance (MDR), a major obstacle in current cancer chemotherapy. This work can be beneficial for investigating MDR in minor cell subpopulations (e.g. cancer stem cells) and for personalized drugs, as highlighted by ACS News. After postdoctoral training in two prestigious groups at Harvard University and UC Berkeley, I also become interested in infectious disease diagnosis, e.g. meningitis or food-borne pathogens. For instance, according to World Health Organization (WHO), without epidemics, more than 200,000 people die annually due to meningitis. Most cases of such diseases occur in high-poverty countries, which cannot afford expensive and bulky instruments. Thus, I am focusing on the developing simple low-cost point of care devices for disease diagnosis and pathogen detection in resource-poor setting, especially for developing nations. Because different LOC device substrates have their own advantages and disadvantages. I reported the first polydimethylsiloxane (PDMS)/paper hybrid LOC device for simple one-step pathogen detection (Lab Chip, 2013, 13, 3921).

Describe the most difficult challenge you have encountered in the laboratory and how you overcame it.

The main advantage of single-cell analysis over conventional bulk analysis is that it can reveal rich information about the differences among individuals or cellular heterogeneity. However, the cellular heterogeneity bothered me a lot when I studied the reversal effect of multidrug resistance (MDR) modulators. I found that the reversal effect of MDR modulators was quite different among different runs of my experiments. When compared to control experiments (no drug) done on different cells, the positive drug effect were often obscured. Sometime, it was even hard to tell the positive drug effect of well-known MDR modulators. Initially, I did not know the reason. I was confused and spent a lot of time in configuring out why. Later on when I read some interesting literature papers about ‘cancer stem cells’, I found out that the problem was caused by the cellular heterogeneity. To address the issue, I put forward a new concept of “Same-single-cell analysis”, and successfully applied to solve MDR problems (Lab Chip, 2011, 11 and Anal Chem. 2008, 80, 4095).

Where do you see your career in bioanalysis taking you?

My research is split into two directions, one of which is to study the fundamentals and mysteries of important cellular phenomena. The other direction aims to address practical problems by developing point of care (POC) devices, such as POC devices for rapid diagnosis of infectious diseases. For instance, meningitis is one of most deadly global infectious diseases. Infected people can die within 24 hours, if not diagnosed and treated quickly. Many developing nations cannot afford expensive and bulky instruments. I hope the ‘little’ POC devices that I am working on could help our ‘big’ world.

How do you envisage the field of bioanalysis evolving in the future?

I would envision in the future that (1) bioanalysis will evolve more closely with multiple disciplines, including biology, life sciences and biomedical engineering and so on. Multidisciplinary research will become especially important in the exploration of large bioanalysis projects. I also anticipate in the future that (2) more robust bioanalysis methods should be developed to address real challenges and problems in our life. More interactions between research and industrial partners are expected. No matter what direction bioanalysis will evolve in the future, one point is ascertained that it will play a more and more significant role.

Please list 5 of your recent publications, and select one that best highlights your career to date in the field of bioanalysis.
  1. Zuo P, Li, X, Dominguez, DC, Ye BC. A PDMS/paper/glass hybrid microfluidic biochip integrated with aptamer-functionalized graphene oxide nano-biosensors for one-step multiplexed pathogen detection. Lab Chip. 13, 3921–3928 (2013).
  2. Li, X, Yu Zhou. Editor “Microfluidic Devices for Biomedical Applications”, Woodhead Publishing (Now Elsevier), 2013, 684 Pages. (Book, ISBN 0 85709 697 4; ISBN-13: 978 0 85709 697 5).
  3. Li, X, Valadez AV, Zuo P, Nie Z. Microfluidic 3D cell culture: potential application for tissue-based bioassays. Bioanalysis, 4(12), 1509–1525 (2012).
  4. Li X, Chen Y, Li PCH. A simple and fast microfluidic approach of same-single-cell analysis (SASCA) for the study of multidrug resistance modulation in cancer cells. Lab Chip. 11, 1378–1384 (2011).
  5. Li X, Ling V,  Li PCH Same-Single-Cell Analysis for the Study of Drug Efflux Modulation of Multidrug Resistant Cells Using a Microfluidic Chip. Anal. Chem.80, 4095–4102 (2008).

First choice: Li X, Ling V,  Li PCH Same-Single-Cell Analysis for the Study of Drug Efflux Modulation of Multidrug Resistant Cells Using a Microfluidic Chip. Anal. Chem.80, 4095–4102 (2008).

Reasoning: In this paper, I initiate a new concept of “sample-single-cell analysis” and applied it to solve problems in multidrug resistance successfully. It was also highlighted by ACS News.


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