Lili Yang

Professor, MIMG, University of California Los Angeles

Dr. Lili Yang is currently an Associate Professor of Microbiology, Immunology and Molecular Genetics at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA). Dr. Yang has over 20 years of experience in both basic and translational study of the immune system. Her research centers on deciphering the cellular and molecular mechanisms regulating immune responses against cancer, infection, and autoimmune diseases, and exploiting this knowledge to develop innovative immunotherapies to treat these diseases. A major strength of her research program is that it both generates scientific discoveries and translates these discoveries into clinical and commercial development. So far Dr. Yang's research has resulted in over 60 peer-reviewed publications (in prestigious journals including Nature, Nature Biotechnology, Nature Communications, Science Immunology, Cell Stem Cell, PNAS, J Exp Med, J Clin Invest, etc.), 22 patents, 2 clinical trials, and 2 biotech startups. The Yang Engineering Immunity Lab at UCLA has two active research directions: 1) Identify new immune checkpoints and develop new immune checkpoint blockade (ICB) therapy for cancer. • New immune metabolic checkpoints (e.g., creatine). • New neuron/immune interface checkpoints (e.g., serotonin axis). 2) Develop novel “off-the-shelf” allogeneic immune cell therapies for cancer. • Harnessing unconventional T cells: NKT, γδT, MAIT, and more. • Engineering stem cells: iPSC, HSC, and more. • Exploiting gene therapy modalities: TCR, CAR, immune enhancers, and more. • Targeting a broad range of cancers: blood cancers (e.g., multiple myeloma, AML), solid tumors (e.g., ovarian cancer, lung cancer, liver cancer), and more (e.g., infections and autoimmune disorders). Overall, the Yang Engineering Immunity Lab at UCLA has established a strong research platform that supports interdisciplinary studies spanning the areas of immunology, stem cell biology, cancer biology, infection, and gene & cell-based immunotherapy. Please visit the Lab website for details and updates:


gene and cell therapy, stem cell engineering, off-the-shelf cell therapy, innate T cell therapy, tumor immunology, cancer immunotherapy, new immune checkpoint blockade therapy, iNKT, gamma delta T, MAIT, CAR

Education and Training

California Institute of TechnologyPh.D.06/2004Biology

Awards and Honors

  • Young Investigator Award, The American Association of Immunologist (AAI), 2017.
  • Broad Stem Cell Research Center (BSCRC) Innovation Award, UCLA, 2013.
  • Top Women in Academic Entrepreneurship, BIOS, 2023.
  • Translational Research Award, CIRM, 2021.
  • Helen G. and Arthur MmCallum Fellowship, California Institute of Technology, 1999.
  • Spotlight Featured Faculty, UCLA U Magazine, 2021.
  • Quest Award, CIRM, 2022.
  • TR35 Award (nation's top 35 innovators under age 35), MIT's Technology Review Magazine, 2007.
  • Life Sciences Faculty Excellence Award for Outstanding Research Publication, UCLA, 2017.
  • RHF Research Award, Rose Hills Foundation, 2016.
  • Early Career Investigator Award, CHARVI/HVTN, 2009.
  • Impact Award, Department of Defense (DoD), 2021.
  • Director's New Innovator Award (DP2), National Institutes of Health (NIH), 2014.
  • Chancellor's Distinguished Fellowship, University of California, Riverside, 1997.
  • Stem Cell Research Award, Concern Foundation, 2014.
  • GTSN Challenge Award for Lethal Prostate Cancer, Prostate Cancer Foundation (PCF), 2015.
  • Research Career Development Award, STOP CANCER Foundation, 2015.
  • Forbeck Scholar Award, William Guy Forbeck Research Foundation, 2008.
  • Outstanding New Investigator (ONI) Award, American Society of Gene & Cell Therapy (ASGCT), 2017.
  • SPORE in Prostate Cancer Career Development Award, UCLA, 2014.
  • Translational Research Award, CIRM, 2016.
  • Ablon Scholars Award, UCLA, 2019.
  • Senior Investigator Award, Tower Cancer Research Foundation, 2020.
  • Exploratory Concepts Award, California Institute for Generative Medicine (CIRM), 2014.
  • Women in Biopharm (20 women blazing trails in biopharma R&D), Endpoints News, 2022.
  • Quest Award, CIRM, 2018.


  1. Li YR, Halladay T, Yang L. Immune evasion in cell-based immunotherapy: unraveling challenges and novel strategies.. Journal of biomedical science, 2024.
  2. Lee D, Dunn ZS, Guo W, Rosenthal CJ, Penn NE, Yu Y, Zhou K, Li Z, Ma F, Li M, Song TC, Cen X, Li YR, Zhou JJ, Pellegrini M, Wang P, Yang L. Unlocking the potential of allogeneic Vδ2 T cells for ovarian cancer therapy through CD16 biomarker selection and CAR/IL-15 engineering.. Nature communications, 2023.
  3. Wang S, Cui Q, Abiri P, Roustaei M, Zhu E, Li YR, Wang K, Duarte S, Yang L, Ebrahimi R, Bersohn M, Chen J, Hsiai TK. A self-assembled implantable microtubular pacemaker for wireless cardiac electrotherapy.. Science advances, 2023.
  4. Li YR, Lyu Z, Tian Y, Fang Y, Zhu Y, Chen Y, Yang L. Advancements in CRISPR screens for the development of cancer immunotherapy strategies.. Molecular therapy oncolytics, 2023.
  5. Li YR, Fang Y, Lyu Z, Zhu Y, Yang L. Exploring the dynamic interplay between cancer stem cells and the tumor microenvironment: implications for novel therapeutic strategies.. Journal of translational medicine, 2023.
  6. Li YR, Ochoa CJ, Zhu Y, Kramer A, Wilson M, Fang Y, Chen Y, Singh T, Di Bernardo G, Zhu E, Lee D, Moatamed NA, Bando J, Zhou JJ, Memarzadeh S, Yang L. Profiling ovarian cancer tumor and microenvironment during disease progression for cell-based immunotherapy design.. iScience, 2023.
  7. Zhu E, Liu Y, Huang J, Zhang A, Peng B, Liu Z, Liu H, Yu J, Li YR, Yang L, Duan X, Huang Y. Bubble-Mediated Large-Scale Hierarchical Assembly of Ultrathin Pt Nanowire Network Monolayer at Gas/Liquid Interfaces.. ACS nano, 2023.
  8. Li YR, Dunn ZS, Yu Y, Li M, Wang P, Yang L. Advancing cell-based cancer immunotherapy through stem cell engineering.. Cell stem cell, 2023.
  9. Fang Y, Zhu Y, Kramer A, Chen Y, Li YR, Yang L. Graft-versus-Host Disease Modulation by Innate T Cells.. International journal of molecular sciences, 2023.
  10. Li YR, Zhou K, Wilson M, Kramer A, Zhu Y, Dawson N, Yang L. Mucosal-associated invariant T cells for cancer immunotherapy.. Molecular therapy : the journal of the American Society of Gene Therapy, 2022.
  11. Li YR, Wilson M, Yang L. Target tumor microenvironment by innate T cells.. Frontiers in immunology, 2022.
  12. Brown J, Li Z, Wang X, Kim YJ, Wang YC, Zuo Y, Hong W, Wang P, Li B, Yang L. Nanoformulation improves antitumor efficacy of MAOI immune checkpoint blockade therapy without causing aggression-related side effects.. Frontiers in pharmacology, 2022.
  13. Li YR, Zeng S, Dunn ZS, Zhou Y, Li Z, Yu J, Wang YC, Ku J, Cook N, Kramer A, Yang L. Off-the-shelf third-party HSC-engineered iNKT cells for ameliorating GvHD while preserving GvL effect in the treatment of blood cancers.. iScience, 2022.
  14. Li YR, Zhou Y, Wilson M, Kramer A, Hon R, Zhu Y, Fang Y, Yang L. Tumor-Localized Administration of α-GalCer to Recruit Invariant Natural Killer T Cells and Enhance Their Antitumor Activity against Solid Tumors.. International journal of molecular sciences, 2022.
  15. Zhou Y, Husman T, Cen X, Tsao T, Brown J, Bajpai A, Li M, Zhou K, Yang L. Interleukin 15 in Cell-Based Cancer Immunotherapy.. International journal of molecular sciences, 2022.
  16. Lee D, Rosenthal CJ, Penn NE, Dunn ZS, Zhou Y, Yang L. Human γδ T Cell Subsets and Their Clinical Applications for Cancer Immunotherapy.. Cancers, 2022.
  17. Li YR, Brown J, Yu Y, Lee D, Zhou K, Dunn ZS, Hon R, Wilson M, Kramer A, Zhu Y, Fang Y, Yang L. Targeting Immunosuppressive Tumor-Associated Macrophages Using Innate T Cells for Enhanced Antitumor Reactivity.. Cancers, 2022.
  18. Li YR, Yu Y, Kramer A, Hon R, Wilson M, Brown J, Yang L. An Ex Vivo 3D Tumor Microenvironment-Mimicry Culture to Study TAM Modulation of Cancer Immunotherapy.. Cells, 2022.
  19. Zhou Y, Li M, Zhou K, Brown J, Tsao T, Cen X, Husman T, Bajpai A, Dunn ZS, Yang L. Engineering Induced Pluripotent Stem Cells for Cancer Immunotherapy.. Cancers, 2022.
  20. Dunn ZS, Li YR, Yu Y, Lee D, Gibbons A, Kim JJ, Zhou TY, Li M, Nguyen M, Cen X, Zhou Y, Wang P, Yang L. Minimally Invasive Preclinical Monitoring of the Peritoneal Cavity Tumor Microenvironment.. Cancers, 2022.
  21. Li YR, Dunn ZS, Garcia G, Carmona C, Zhou Y, Lee D, Yu J, Huang J, Kim JT, Arumugaswami V, Wang P, Yang L. Development of off-the-shelf hematopoietic stem cell-engineered invariant natural killer T cells for COVID-19 therapeutic intervention.. Stem cell research & therapy, 2022.
  22. Brown J, Li B, Yang L. MAOI Antidepressants: Could They Be a Next-Generation ICB Therapy?. Frontiers in immunology, 2022.
  23. Li YR, Dunn ZS, Zhou Y, Lee D, Yang L. Development of Stem Cell-Derived Immune Cells for Off-the-Shelf Cancer Immunotherapies.. Cells, 2021.
  24. Nesterenko PA, McLaughlin J, Tsai BL, Burton Sojo G, Cheng D, Zhao D, Mao Z, Bangayan NJ, Obusan MB, Su Y, Ng RH, Chour W, Xie J, Li YR, Lee D, Noguchi M, Carmona C, Phillips JW, Kim JT, Yang L, Heath JR, Boutros PC, Witte ON. HLA-A∗02:01 restricted T cell receptors against the highly conserved SARS-CoV-2 polymerase cross-react with human coronaviruses.. Cell reports, 2021.
  25. Li YR, Zhou Y, Kim YJ, Zhu Y, Ma F, Yu J, Wang YC, Chen X, Li Z, Zeng S, Wang X, Lee D, Ku J, Tsao T, Hardoy C, Huang J, Cheng D, Montel-Hagen A, Seet CS, Crooks GM, Larson SM, Sasine JP, Wang X, Pellegrini M, Ribas A, Kohn DB, Witte O, Wang P, Yang L. Development of allogeneic HSC-engineered iNKT cells for off-the-shelf cancer immunotherapy.. Cell reports. Medicine, 2021.
  26. Li YR, Zhou Y, Kramer A, Yang L. Engineering stem cells for cancer immunotherapy.. Trends in cancer, 2021.
  27. Wang YC, Wang X, Yu J, Ma F, Li Z, Zhou Y, Zeng S, Ma X, Li YR, Neal A, Huang J, To A, Clarke N, Memarzadeh S, Pellegrini M, Yang L. Targeting monoamine oxidase A-regulated tumor-associated macrophage polarization for cancer immunotherapy.. Nature communications, 2021.
  28. Wang X, Li B, Kim YJ, Wang YC, Li Z, Yu J, Zeng S, Ma X, Choi IY, Di Biase S, Smith DJ, Zhou Y, Li YR, Ma F, Huang J, Clarke N, To A, Gong L, Pham AT, Moon H, Pellegrini M, Yang L. Targeting monoamine oxidase A for T cell-based cancer immunotherapy.. Science immunology, 2021.
  29. Li B, Yang L. Creatine in T Cell Antitumor Immunity and Cancer Immunotherapy.. Nutrients, 2021.
  30. Zhou Y, Li YR, Zeng S, Yang L. Methods for Studying Mouse and Human Invariant Natural Killer T Cells.. Methods in molecular biology (Clifton, N.J.), 2021.
  31. Di Biase S, Ma X, Wang X, Yu J, Wang YC, Smith DJ, Zhou Y, Li Z, Kim YJ, Clarke N, To A, Yang L. Creatine uptake regulates CD8 T cell antitumor immunity.. The Journal of experimental medicine, 2019.
  32. Zhu Y, Smith DJ, Zhou Y, Li YR, Yu J, Lee D, Wang YC, Di Biase S, Wang X, Hardoy C, Ku J, Tsao T, Lin LJ, Pham AT, Moon H, McLaughlin J, Cheng D, Hollis RP, Campo-Fernandez B, Urbinati F, Wei L, Pang L, Rezek V, Berent-Maoz B, Macabali MH, Gjertson D, Wang X, Galic Z, Kitchen SG, An DS, Hu-Lieskovan S, Kaplan-Lefko PJ, De Oliveira SN, Seet CS, Larson SM, Forman SJ, Heath JR, Zack JA, Crooks GM, Radu CG, Ribas A, Kohn DB, Witte ON, Yang L. Development of Hematopoietic Stem Cell-Engineered Invariant Natural Killer T Cell Therapy for Cancer.. Cell stem cell, 2019.
  33. Puig-Saus C, Parisi G, Garcia-Diaz A, Krystofinski PE, Sandoval S, Zhang R, Champhekar AS, McCabe J, Cheung-Lau GC, Truong NA, Vega-Crespo A, Komenan MDS, Pang J, Macabali MH, Saco JD, Goodwin JL, Bolon B, Seet CS, Montel-Hagen A, Crooks GM, Hollis RP, Campo-Fernandez B, Bischof D, Cornetta K, Gschweng EH, Adelson C, Nguyen A, Yang L, Witte ON, Baltimore D, Comin-Anduix B, Kohn DB, Wang X, Cabrera P, Kaplan-Lefko PJ, Berent-Maoz B, Ribas A. IND-Enabling Studies for a Clinical Trial to Genetically Program a Persistent Cancer-Targeted Immune System.. Clinical cancer research : an official journal of the American Association for Cancer Research, 2018.
  34. Bethune MT, Li XH, Yu J, McLaughlin J, Cheng D, Mathis C, Moreno BH, Woods K, Knights AJ, Garcia-Diaz A, Wong S, Hu-Lieskovan S, Puig-Saus C, Cebon J, Ribas A, Yang L, Witte ON, Baltimore D. Isolation and characterization of NY-ESO-1-specific T cell receptors restricted on various MHC molecules.. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, 2018.
  35. Siegler EL, Zhu Y, Wang P, Yang L. Off-the-Shelf CAR-NK Cells for Cancer Immunotherapy.. Cell stem cell, 2018.
  36. Nowicki TS, Escuin-Ordinas H, Avramis E, Chmielowski B, Chodon T, Berent-Maoz B, Wang X, Kaplan-Lefko P, Yang L, Baltimore D, Economou JS, Ribas A, Comin-Anduix B. Characterization of Postinfusion Phenotypic Differences in Fresh Versus Cryopreserved TCR Engineered Adoptive Cell Therapy Products.. Journal of immunotherapy (Hagerstown, Md. : 1997), 2018.
  37. Li B, Wang X, Choi IY, Wang YC, Liu S, Pham AT, Moon H, Smith DJ, Rao DS, Boldin MP, Yang L. miR-146a modulates autoreactive Th17 cell differentiation and regulates organ-specific autoimmunity.. The Journal of clinical investigation, 2017.
  38. Kim JT, Liu Y, Kulkarni RP, Lee KK, Dai B, Lovely G, Ouyang Y, Wang P, Yang L, Baltimore D. Dendritic cell-targeted lentiviral vector immunization uses pseudotransduction and DNA-mediated STING and cGAS activation.. Science immunology, 2017.
  39. Smith DJ, Lin LJ, Moon H, Pham AT, Wang X, Liu S, Ji S, Rezek V, Shimizu S, Ruiz M, Lam J, Janzen DM, Memarzadeh S, Kohn DB, Zack JA, Kitchen SG, An DS, Yang L. Propagating Humanized BLT Mice for the Study of Human Immunology and Immunotherapy.. Stem cells and development, 2016.
  40. Smith DJ, Liu S, Ji S, Li B, McLaughlin J, Cheng D, Witte ON, Yang L. Genetic engineering of hematopoietic stem cells to generate invariant natural killer T cells.. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, 2015.
  41. Chodon T, Comin-Anduix B, Chmielowski B, Koya RC, Wu Z, Auerbach M, Ng C, Avramis E, Seja E, Villanueva A, McCannel TA, Ishiyama A, Czernin J, Radu CG, Wang X, Gjertson DW, Cochran AJ, Cornetta K, Wong DJ, Kaplan-Lefko P, Hamid O, Samlowski W, Cohen PA, Daniels GA, Mukherji B, Yang L, Zack JA, Kohn DB, Heath JR, Glaspy JA, Witte ON, Baltimore D, Economou JS, Ribas A. Adoptive transfer of MART-1 T-cell receptor transgenic lymphocytes and dendritic cell vaccination in patients with metastatic melanoma.. Clinical cancer research : an official journal of the American Association for Cancer Research, 2014.
  42. Yang L, Wang P. Passive immunization against HIV/AIDS by antibody gene transfer.. Viruses, 2014.
  43. Yu KK, Aguilar K, Tsai J, Galimidi R, Gnanapragasam P, Yang L, Baltimore D. Use of mutated self-cleaving 2A peptides as a molecular rheostat to direct simultaneous formation of membrane and secreted anti-HIV immunoglobulins.. PloS one, 2012.
  44. Hur EM, Patel SN, Shimizu S, Rao DS, Gnanapragasam PN, An DS, Yang L, Baltimore D. Inhibitory effect of HIV-specific neutralizing IgA on mucosal transmission of HIV in humanized mice.. Blood, 2012.
  45. Yang L, Boldin MP, Yu Y, Liu CS, Ea CK, Ramakrishnan P, Taganov KD, Zhao JL, Baltimore D. miR-146a controls the resolution of T cell responses in mice.. The Journal of experimental medicine, 2012.
  46. Xiao L, Kim J, Lim M, Dai B, Yang L, Reed SG, Baltimore D, Wang P. A TLR4 agonist synergizes with dendritic cell-directed lentiviral vectors for inducing antigen-specific immune responses.. Vaccine, 2012.
  47. Balazs AB, Chen J, Hong CM, Rao DS, Yang L, Baltimore D. Antibody-based protection against HIV infection by vectored immunoprophylaxis.. Nature, 2011.
  48. Yang L, Yu Y, Kalwani M, Tseng TW, Baltimore D. Homeostatic cytokines orchestrate the segregation of CD4 and CD8 memory T-cell reservoirs in mice.. Blood, 2011.
  49. Boldin MP, Taganov KD, Rao DS, Yang L, Zhao JL, Kalwani M, Garcia-Flores Y, Luong M, Devrekanli A, Xu J, Sun G, Tay J, Linsley PS, Baltimore D. miR-146a is a significant brake on autoimmunity, myeloproliferation, and cancer in mice.. The Journal of experimental medicine, 2011.
  50. Luo XM, Lei MY, Feidi RA, West AP, Balazs AB, Bjorkman PJ, Yang L, Baltimore D. Dimeric 2G12 as a potent protection against HIV-1.. PLoS pathogens, 2010.
  51. O'Connell RM, Balazs AB, Rao DS, Kivork C, Yang L, Baltimore D. Lentiviral vector delivery of human interleukin-7 (hIL-7) to human immune system (HIS) mice expands T lymphocyte populations.. PloS one, 2010.
  52. Baltimore D, Witte ON, Yang L, Economou J, Ribas A. Overcoming barriers to programming a therapeutic cellular immune response to fight melanoma.. Pigment cell & melanoma research, 2010.
  53. Dai B, Yang L, Yang H, Hu B, Baltimore D, Wang P. HIV-1 Gag-specific immunity induced by a lentivector-based vaccine directed to dendritic cells.. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, 2009.
  54. Luo XM, Maarschalk E, O'Connell RM, Wang P, Yang L, Baltimore D. Engineering human hematopoietic stem/progenitor cells to produce a broadly neutralizing anti-HIV antibody after in vitro maturation to human B lymphocytes.. Blood, 2008.
  55. Ziegler L, Yang L, Joo Ki, Yang H, Baltimore D, Wang P. Targeting lentiviral vectors to antigen-specific immunoglobulins.. Human gene therapy, 2008.
  56. Chhabra A, Yang L, Wang P, Comin-Anduix B, Das R, Chakraborty NG, Ray S, Mehrotra S, Yang H, Hardee CL, Hollis R, Dorsky DI, Koya R, Kohn DB, Ribas A, Economou JS, Baltimore D, Mukherji B. CD4+CD25- T cells transduced to express MHC class I-restricted epitope-specific TCR synthesize Th1 cytokines and exhibit MHC class I-restricted cytolytic effector function in a human melanoma model.. Journal of immunology (Baltimore, Md. : 1950), 2008.
  57. Yang L, Yang H, Rideout K, Cho T, Joo KI, Ziegler L, Elliot A, Walls A, Yu D, Baltimore D, Wang P. Engineered lentivector targeting of dendritic cells for in vivo immunization.. Nature biotechnology, 2008.
  58. Yang L, Bailey L, Baltimore D, Wang P. Targeting lentiviral vectors to specific cell types in vivo.. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, 2006.
  59. Yang L, Baltimore D. Long-term in vivo provision of antigen-specific T cell immunity by programming hematopoietic stem cells.. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, 2005.
  60. Yang L, Kuo CB, Liu Y, Coss D, Xu X, Chen C, Oster-Granite ML, Walker AM. Administration of unmodified prolactin (U-PRL) and a molecular mimic of phosphorylated prolactin (PP-PRL) during rat pregnancy provides evidence that the U-PRL:PP-PRL ratio is crucial to the normal development of pup tissues.. The Journal of endocrinology, 2001.
  61. Bridges R, Rigero B, Byrnes E, Yang L, Walker A. Central infusions of the recombinant human prolactin receptor antagonist, S179D-PRL, delay the onset of maternal behavior in steroid-primed, nulliparous female rats.. Endocrinology, 2001.
  62. Coss D, Yang L, Kuo CB, Xu X, Luben RA, Walker AM. Effects of prolactin on osteoblast alkaline phosphatase and bone formation in the developing rat.. American journal of physiology. Endocrinology and metabolism, 2000.
  63. Coss D, Kuo CB, Yang L, Ingleton P, Luben R, Walker AM. Dissociation of Janus kinase 2 and signal transducer and activator of transcription 5 activation after treatment of Nb2 cells with a molecular mimic of phosphorylated prolactin.. Endocrinology, 1999.