Lili Yang*

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:


Yang Engineering Immunity Lab Website

Research Interests:

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,


Li YR, Halladay T, Yang L. Immune evasion in cell-based immunotherapy: unraveling challenges and novel strategies. J Biomed Sci. 2024 Jan 12; 31(1):5. view on PubMed

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. Nat Commun. 2023 11 08; 14(1):6942. view on PubMed

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. Sci Adv. 2023 10 20; 9(42):eadj0540. view on PubMed

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. Mol Ther Oncolytics. 2023 Dec 19; 31:100733. view on PubMed

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. J Transl Med. 2023 10 02; 21(1):686. view on PubMed

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 Oct 20; 26(10):107952. view on PubMed

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 Jul 25; 17(14):14152-14160. view on PubMed

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 05 04; 30(5):592-610. view on PubMed

Fang Y, Zhu Y, Kramer A, Chen Y, Li YR, Yang L. Graft-versus-Host Disease Modulation by Innate T Cells. Int J Mol Sci. 2023 Feb 17; 24(4). view on PubMed

Li YR, Zhou K, Wilson M, Kramer A, Zhu Y, Dawson N, Yang L. Mucosal-associated invariant T cells for cancer immunotherapy. Mol Ther. 2023 03 01; 31(3):631-646. view on PubMed

Li YR, Wilson M, Yang L. Target tumor microenvironment by innate T cells. Front Immunol. 2022; 13:999549. view on PubMed

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. Front Pharmacol. 2022; 13:970324. view on PubMed

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 Sep 16; 25(9):104859. view on PubMed

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. Int J Mol Sci. 2022 Jul 07; 23(14). view on PubMed

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. Int J Mol Sci. 2022 Jun 30; 23(13). view on PubMed

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 (Basel). 2022 Jun 18; 14(12). view on PubMed

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 (Basel). 2022 Jun 01; 14(11). view on PubMed

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 05 08; 11(9). view on PubMed

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 (Basel). 2022 May 01; 14(9). view on PubMed

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 (Basel). 2022 Mar 31; 14(7). view on PubMed

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 Res Ther. 2022 03 21; 13(1):112. view on PubMed

Brown J, Li B, Yang L. MAOI Antidepressants: Could They Be a Next-Generation ICB Therapy? Front Immunol. 2022; 13:853624. view on PubMed

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 12 10; 10(12). view on PubMed

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 Rep. 2021 12 28; 37(13):110167. view on PubMed

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 Rep Med. 2021 11 16; 2(11):100449. view on PubMed

Li YR, Zhou Y, Kramer A, Yang L. Engineering stem cells for cancer immunotherapy. Trends Cancer. 2021 12; 7(12):1059-1073. view on PubMed

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. Nat Commun. 2021 06 10; 12(1):3530. view on PubMed

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. Sci Immunol. 2021 05 14; 6(59). view on PubMed

Li B, Yang L. Creatine in T Cell Antitumor Immunity and Cancer Immunotherapy. Nutrients. 2021 May 13; 13(5). view on PubMed

Zhou Y, Li YR, Zeng S, Yang L. Methods for Studying Mouse and Human Invariant Natural Killer T Cells. Methods Mol Biol. 2021; 2388:35-57. view on PubMed

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. J Exp Med. 2019 12 02; 216(12):2869-2882. view on PubMed

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 10 03; 25(4):542-557.e9. view on PubMed

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. Clin Cancer Res. 2019 02 01; 25(3):1000-1011. view on PubMed

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. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2018 11 06; 115(45):E10702-E10711. view on PubMed

Siegler EL, Zhu Y, Wang P, Yang L. Off-the-Shelf CAR-NK Cells for Cancer Immunotherapy. Cell Stem Cell. 2018 08 02; 23(2):160-161. view on PubMed

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. J Immunother. 2018 Jun; 41(5):248-259. view on PubMed

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. J Clin Invest. 2017 Oct 02; 127(10):3702-3716. view on PubMed

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. Sci Immunol. 2017 Jul 21; 2(13). view on PubMed

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 Dev. 2016 12 15; 25(24):1863-1873. view on PubMed

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. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2015 Feb 03; 112(5):1523-8. view on PubMed

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. Clin Cancer Res. 2014 May 01; 20(9):2457-65. view on PubMed

Yang L, Wang P. Passive immunization against HIV/AIDS by antibody gene transfer. Viruses. 2014 Jan 27; 6(2):428-47. view on PubMed

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; 7(11):e50438. view on PubMed

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 Nov 29; 120(23):4571-82. view on PubMed

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. J Exp Med. 2012 Aug 27; 209(9):1655-70. view on PubMed

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 Mar 28; 30(15):2570-81. view on PubMed

Balazs AB, Chen J, Hong CM, Rao DS, Yang L, Baltimore D. Antibody-based protection against HIV infection by vectored immunoprophylaxis. Nature. 2011 Nov 30; 481(7379):81-4. view on PubMed

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 Sep 15; 118(11):3039-50. view on PubMed

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. J Exp Med. 2011 Jun 06; 208(6):1189-201. view on PubMed

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 Pathog. 2010 Dec 16; 6(12):e1001225. view on PubMed

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 Aug 06; 5(8):e12009. view on PubMed

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 Res. 2010 Apr; 23(2):288-9. view on PubMed

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. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2009 Dec 01; 106(48):20382-7. view on PubMed

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. 2009 Feb 12; 113(7):1422-31. view on PubMed

Ziegler L, Yang L, Joo Ki, Yang H, Baltimore D, Wang P. Targeting lentiviral vectors to antigen-specific immunoglobulins. Hum Gene Ther. 2008 Sep; 19(9):861-72. view on PubMed

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. J Immunol. 2008 Jul 15; 181(2):1063-70. view on PubMed

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. Nat Biotechnol. 2008 Mar; 26(3):326-34. view on PubMed

Yang L, Bailey L, Baltimore D, Wang P. Targeting lentiviral vectors to specific cell types in vivo. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2006 Aug 01; 103(31):11479-84. view on PubMed

Yang L, Baltimore D. Long-term in vivo provision of antigen-specific T cell immunity by programming hematopoietic stem cells. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2005 Mar 22; 102(12):4518-23. view on PubMed

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. J Endocrinol. 2001 Feb; 168(2):227-38. view on PubMed

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 Feb; 142(2):730-9. view on PubMed

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. Am J Physiol Endocrinol Metab. 2000 Dec; 279(6):E1216-25. view on PubMed

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 Nov; 140(11):5087-94. view on PubMed