Senior Research Investigators


Senior Research Investigators

Qin Li, M.D., Ph.D.

Qin Li, M.D., Ph.D.

Senior Research Investigator

she/her/hers

Dr. Qin Li received her Medicine and Ph.D. degree from the Wuhan University, China. She has worked in multiple outstanding research institutes for over 10 years in the United States. Dr. Li has diverse expertise from her research experience in developmental biology, hematology, immunology and cancer biology. She is proficient in animal models as well as novel technologies, including genome editing, library screening, flow cytometry, gene expression analysis, and cancer profiling.

Dr. Qin Li joined Dr. Drew Weissman’s lab in 2018. As a project leader, she leads collaborative network with research centers in NIH Collaborative Influenza Vaccine Innovation Centers (CIVICs program). Her focus is to develop a universal mRNA vaccine which can provide long-lasting protection and induces broadly protective immunity against multiple strains of influenza virus, including those that can cause pandemics. Dr. Li also leads projects studying the distribution and toxicity of mRNA vaccine.

Xiomara Mercado-Lopez, Ph.D.

Xiomara Mercado-Lopez, Ph.D.

Senior Research Investigator

she/her/hers

Dr. Mercado-López received her B.S. from the University of Puerto Rico in 2004 and her doctorate in microbiology from the University of Puerto Rico Medical Sciences Campus in 2010. Her thesis work focused on the characterization of the immune response after Flavivirus sequential infections and DNA vaccine immunization in the mouse model. After graduating, she moved to the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia, where she initiated her postdoctoral training at the laboratory of Dr. Carolina López. At UPenn, Xiomara studied viral genomic motifs and their immunostimulatory activity and developed a short and potent RNA oligonucleotide adjuvant derived from a virus defective genome. In 2013, she joined the Biology department of the University of Puerto Rico in Arecibo as a virology and immunology assistant professor. In addition to teaching and mentoring students, she organized public health awareness projects to promote effective education on infectious diseases and vaccines at the university and in the surrounding communities. In January 2019, she joined Dr. Drew Weissman's lab as a Senior Research Investigator. As a molecular virologist, her primary interests are vaccine development against viral diseases (Influenza viruses, Flavivirus, Alphavirus, and Coronavirus) and therapeutics against herpesviruses. 

Istvan Tombacz, Ph.D.

Istvan Tombacz, Ph.D.

Senior Research Investigator

Dr. Istvan Tombacz received his diploma and doctorate in molecular biology from the University of Szeged, Hungary. He worked in the group of Prof. Imre Boros on eukaryotic gene expression regulation, using fruit flies as a model. After gaining additional experience in labs in Hungary, Istvan joined Dr. Drew Weissman’s lab as a postdoc in 2017. His main projects involve adapting the mRNA-LNP platform for applications other than vaccines, mainly in vivo gene knock in. Additionally, he works on developing a SARS-CoV-2 vaccine that targets more conserved antigens than the Spike protein in order to be protective against rapidly emerging mutations. He is also involved in in vivo targeted mRNA-LNP projects.

Jibin Zhou, Ph.D.

Jibin Zhou, Ph.D.

Senior Research Investigator

he/him/his

Dr. Jibin Zhou received his B.S. in Medicine (M.D. equivalent) from Wuhan University and Ph.D. from Xi'an Jiaotong University in China. He joined Dr. Drew Weissman's lab in 2017. His research work focuses on the following three projects: (1) Generation of plasmids that are used to synthesize mRNAs, involving operating the BioXp system to de novo synthesize genes, codon-optimizing, and optimizing the mRNA untranslated regions (2) Development mRNA vaccines against Helicobacter pylori infection (3) Targeted lipid nanoparticles for the specific delivery of mRNA.