Xiu-Feng 'Henry' Wan named Curators' Distinguished Professor

September 20, 2023

Xiu-Feng “Henry” Wan has been named a Curators’ Distinguished Professor, the highest honor bestowed by the University of Missouri, for his ground-breaking studies of Influenza A and other pathogenic viruses used to develop vaccines and understand how viruses emerge and spread.

Henry Wan

Wan is a professor of molecular microbiology and immunology with appointments in the Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science (EECS) at the College of Engineering, School of Medicine and College of Veterinary Medicine. He also serves as director of the NextGen Center for Influenza and Emerging Infectious Diseases.

“I am deeply humbled to receive this prestigious honor,” Wan said. “My heartfelt gratitude goes out to my family for their supports and to my dedicated team, including both current and former lab members. I also appreciate the interdisciplinary collaborations and opportunities to advance my research at Mizzou.”

Wan has spent most of his career studying influenza in animals and humans to help improve vaccination efficacy for people. He has made contributions to the study of virus transmission in and between animals and humans as his overall goal to better understand the natural history of influenza viruses, and to develop effective vaccines and measures for influenza prevention and control.

After joining Mizzou in 2019, he pulled together an interdisciplinary group of researchers at Mizzou with expertise in health care, engineering, veterinary medicine, biology, mathematics and agriculture to brainstorm ideas for collaborations. The COVID-19 pandemic emerged shortly after, shifting focus to better understanding transmission patterns.

Since then, Wan and his group have received several large grants, including over $30 million from the U.S. National Institute of Health, National Science Foundation, and the Department of Agriculture. The ongoing research efforts include to study how repeated influenza vaccination affects vaccine effectiveness, and to investigate how SARS-CoV-2 impacts various species of animals and whether those animals might transmit new variants of the virus back to humans, to develop better influenza and SARS-CoV-2 vaccines.

In 2022, the NextGen Center for Influenza and Emerging Infectious Diseases opened with one goal of customizing influenza vaccine into personalized medicine.

“Dr. Wan is an internationally renowned expert in studies around pathogenic viruses,” said Syed “Kamrul” Islam, chair of electrical engineering and computer science. “He has helped position Mizzou as a leader when it comes to understanding how infectious diseases emerge and how they are transmitted.”

Last year, Wan was also recognized as an American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) Fellow for distinguished contributions to the fields of virology, systems biology and engineering.

Wan was one of several Mizzou Engineering faculty members honored by the UM System Board of Curators at their Sept. 7 meeting. Zhiqiang Hu, the William Andrew Davidson Professor of Civil and Environmental Engineering, and Jianlin “Jack” Cheng, William and Nancy Thompson Distinguished Professor of EECS, were also named Curators’ Distinguished Professors, and Marjorie Skubic, Robert H. Buescher Faculty Fellow in EECS, was named a Curators’ Distinguished Professor Emerita.

See a full list of MU’s 2023 Curators’ Distinguished Professors here.