Receiving an endowed professorship is a defining moment in a scientist’s career. Dr. Rugang Zhang has been named the Christopher M. Davis Professor and was honored at a virtual event that gathered together the Davis family and friends, colleagues, and past and present lab members to celebrate his prolific research career and the sustaining contributions of the Davis family.
"This endowed Christopher M. Davis Professorship is for the future of our research," said Dario Altieri, M.D., Wistar president & CEO. "Today we celebrate Rugang and the Davis’ consistent support of the Institute. Their endowment is a tool for our faculty to become even bolder in how they think about science and more far reaching as they consider their research. It is the highest honor and the embodiment of the apex of impactful discovery science."
Eleanor Davis and her husband, the late Harold (Hal) Davis, have been generous supporters of Wistar for more than four decades. Their philanthropy has resonated in the critical backing of scientists at the beginning of their scientific careers with the Christopher M. Davis Memorial Fellowship. Established in 1996 in memory of their son, it has funded 14 postdoctoral fellows since its inception. In 2013, thanks to the family’s generosity, the fellowship was transformed into the Christopher M. Davis Professorship, most recently bestowed on Dr. Zhang, to support established leaders doing high-impact research.
"How fortunate we are to have Christopher remembered this way — with science that makes other people’s lives better and longer," said Eleanor Davis.
Dr. Karen Wylie, science officer for the Department of Defense (DoD) Ovarian Cancer Research Program, has worked with Dr. Zhang since 2010 when he received an early-career investigator award, and their collaboration continues with multiple active projects.
"We typically meet highly intelligent people in our line of work, but Rugang’s emotional intelligence matches his research accomplishments," said Wylie. "Rugang has advanced discoveries, managed review panels, is a loving dad and husband, all the while carrying his high-energy style and genuine interest in inspiring his junior scientists to succeed. He stood out for being a real team player, always ready to focus beyond his needs."
Dr. Zhang is deputy director of the The Wistar Institute Cancer Center and leader of its Immunology, Microenvironment and Metastasis Program. He joined Wistar in 2012 and studies the biology of clear cell ovarian cancer, one of the most lethal gynecological cancers in the world. His cutting-edge research focuses on identifying new targeted and combination therapies. Some of the strategies the Zhang lab discovered are now being tested in clinical trials.
Addressing the Davis family, Dr. Zhang said that their support and confidence inspires his team. "It is our turn to repay your generous investment in our research with impactful results,” he said. “In providing this support, you become partners in our quest for new knowledge and our effort to find cures for a disease that affects and touches the lives of so many of us."
Dr. Zhang also acknowledged support from Ovarian Cancer Research Alliance and The Honorable Tina Brozman Foundation for Ovarian Cancer Research as instrumental in his professional development and the advancement of his research.
Ovarian Cancer Research Alliance, which granted him his first career development award in 2008 and currently supports the lab with a Collaborative Research Development Grant and mentored investigator awards to several postdocs, recently highlighted Dr. Zhang in a blog about his research, his personal story and the motivation that brought him into cancer research. Read the story here.