Li Zhang, MD, PhD

Assistant Investigator

Joined the IBRI in November 2020

Li Zhang

Li Zhang, MD, PhD, is an investigator in diabetes and immunology. In addition to leading her lab in the Lilly Diabetes Center of Excellence at the Indiana Biosciences Research Institute (IBRI), she also is a member of the Indiana University School of Medicine’s Center for Diabetes and Metabolic Diseases.

Zhang’s lab studies the pathogenesis of islet autoimmunity and antigen-specific immune interventions for treating type 1 diabetes (T1D), an autoimmune disease. Her group has developed multiple immune interventions, including an antigen-specific vaccine, monoclonal antibodies and engineered T cells, and tested their efficacies in reducing the progression of T1D in the spontaneous T1D mouse model. Ultimately, the goal of the Zhang Lab is to translate the proof of principles tested in pre-clinical models and to develop a drug-like immune therapy to treat new onset T1D in high-risk individuals.

Prior to arriving at the IBRI, Zhang was an assistant professor at Baylor College of Medicine, section of endocrinology and diabetes, where she developed dual specific therapeutic monoclonal antibodies and islet antigen specific chimeric antigen receptor redirected cytotoxic T cell therapy for remodulating T1D using spontaneous disease mouse models. During her time there, she studied the role of islet antigen-specific T cells and CAR-T cells in preventing T1D. In addition, she showed the efficacy of monoclonal antibodies in reducing T1D can be significantly improved with broad islet antigen-specificity. These projects were published in the Journal of Autoimmunity, Journal of Visual Experiments, mAbs and others.

Zhang received her postdoc training at Barbara Davis Center for Type 1 Diabetes at the University of Colorado, where she discovered the rule of antigen specific T cell receptors, developed antigen specific vaccine, explored the unique feature of insulin antigen presentation, and generated the first therapeutic monoclonal antibody targeting an insulin conformational epitope.   

Zhang started T1D and autoimmune diseases research as a research scholar at the Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Diabetes Center in 2005.

View Zhang's published research here.

Areas of Expertise

  • Chimeric antigen receptor redirect T cell
  • Diabetes
  • Immunology
  • Monoclonal antibodies


  • Doctor of Philosophy (Endocrinology and Diabetes), University of Shandong, 2005
  • Master of Science (Endocrinology), Shandong Medical University, 1999
  • Doctor of Medicine (Clinical Medicine), Shandong First Medical University, 1994

Awards & Certifications

  • Immunology of Diabetes Society Conference Travel Award sponsored by the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation International, 2010, 2012, 2013
  • Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation International Advanced Postdoctoral Fellowships Award, 2011
  • Federation of Clinical Immunology Societies 2010 Conference Travel Award sponsored by the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation International, 2008, 2009, 2010
  • Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation International Postdoctoral Fellowships Award, 2008

Honorary Societies

  • American Diabetes Association
  • American Association of Immunologists
  • Immunology of Diabetes Society