Skip to main content

Rihe Liu, PhD

Associate Professor

Rihe Liu, Ph.D.

Professor, Division of Chemical Biology and Medicinal Chemistry


(919) 843-3635
Marsico Hall Room 3111, UNC Chapel Hill, CB# 7568, Chapel Hill, NC, 27599



Rihe Liu received his bachelor’s degree in polymer physics from the University of Science and Technology of China in 1988. He did his graduate work from 1992 to 1996 with Professor Leslie E. Orgel at the Salk Institute for Biological Studies and received his Ph.D. in biochemistry from the University of California at San Diego. He carried out postdoctoral work from 1997 to 2001 with Professor Jack W. Szostak at Massachusetts General Hospital and Harvard Medical School before joining the faculty at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in December 2001. He is currently an associate professor at the Division of Chemical Biology and Medicinal Chemistry at the UNC Eshelman School of Pharmacy and an associate professor at the Carolina Center for Genome Sciences at UNC School of Medicine.

Research Synopsis:

Biopharmaceuticals and chemical biology: systematic development and translational application of theranostic targeting molecules from various protein domain or unnatural nucleic acid libraries using directed evolution and selection strategies, identification of proteins with desired functions from natural proteome libraries and elucidation of the related signaling pathways, targeted delivery of theranostic molecules to diseased tissues; cancer nanotechnology

Research Interests

The Rihe Liu group’s interests include

  1. the systematic development of clinically amenable targeting ligands that tightly and highly specifically bind to biomarkers on the surface of cancer cells from protein domain libraries and nuclease-resistant nucleic acid libraries with unusually high diversity;
  2. the identification of natural and synthetic proteins with desired biological functions and elucidation of the related protein-protein, enzyme-substrate, and drug-target interaction networks at a proteome-wide scale using combinatorial biochemistry and chemical biology approaches.

The group is particularly interested in developing novel cancer biomarker-binding theranostic molecules that are based on the single domain antibodies or their mimics with human origins using sophisticated protein display technologies. They are also developing cancer biomarker-binding affinity molecules that are based on the nuclease-resistant nucleic acid aptamers using a combination of conventional SELEX, cell-SELEX, and in vivo SELEX technology platforms. The resulting targeting ligands are further engineered to have desired multispecificity and avidity and applied in translational research using xenograft, orthotopic, and patient-derived animal models.

5R01 NS047650 (PI: Liu) from NIH/NINDS
Identification of caspase substrates from human proteome

RSG-TBE-06-073 (PI: Liu) from American Cancer Society
Novel calmodulin-binding proteins in regulating ubiquitin-proteasome system

5U54 CA119343 (PI: Juliano) from NIH/NCI
The Combinatorial Library Research Core of the Carolina Center of Cancer Nanotechnology Excellence (C-CCNE)
Role: PI of the Combinatorial Library Screening Core

5R01NS054112 (PI: Kohn) from NIH/NINDS
Methods to Identify Targets of the Neurological Agent (R)-Lacosamide
Role: Co-PI

5R21 DK067480 (PI: Liu) from NIH/NIDDK
Identifying calpain-10 substrates from human proteome

  • Postdoc Harvard Medical School and Massachusetts General Hospital, 1997 to 2001
  • PhD, University of California at San Diego and the Salk Institute for Biological Studies, 1996
  • BSc, University of Science and Technology of China, 1988