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Advancing Cures

Meet Dr. Jian Liu

Safer Surgery with Synthetic Blood Thinners

Dr. Jian Liu, a distinguished researcher at the University of North Carolina, studies one of the most commonly used drugs for surgery for nearly 25 years. His research, supported largely by funding from the National Institutes of Health (NIH), is transforming surgical care. Dr. Liu, alongside his colleagues, has unlocked a major breakthrough for the drug heparin, a blood thinner regularly given to patients during surgery.

After years of research, Dr. Liu discovered a synthetic version of heparin that will help the millions of patients across the U.S. who undergo surgery each year. As one of the most common blood thinners prescribed by doctors, high demand for heparin has created severe shortages over the years. These shortages were exacerbated by patient safety concerns when imported heparin from China was found to be tainted. This contamination of imported raw heparin stock resulted in serious allergic reactions and the senseless deaths of more than 80 Americans.

Dr. Liu’s synthetic heparin discovery eliminates the need to import the drug, ensuring that all patients receive a treatment that meets U.S. quality and safety standards. Not only is synthetic heparin a potentially safer option, it is widely considered to be more cost-effective, as it avoids the use of animals as sources.

“Supporting research and training for the next generation of researchers is an investment for the future.”

Dr. Jian Liu

University of North Carolina Researcher 

Dr. Liu first received a grant from NIH in 2001 when funding was not as difficult to obtain.  But his work has suffered from the decline in NIH funding in recent years.  “The funding opportunities have been persistently diminishing over the past 10 years,” Dr. Liu said, requiring him to cut staff and turn away the bright young minds that will make discoveries in the future. “Supporting research and training for the next generation of researchers is an investment for the future.”

Alarmingly, Dr. Liu also emphasized how a lack of funding slows the pace of medical progress, stating he must “limit himself when it comes to pursuing the most innovative research ideas because those ideas are generally associated with higher risk and will not be funded in the current environment.”

Dr. Liu is not alone. Thousands of researchers across the country are sitting on potentially transformative research proposals that have the potential to benefit our families, our neighbors, ourselves.

Don’t patients deserve the safest and most innovative care possible? An investment in NIH can make that a reality. 

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