Hongjun Song, PhD


Guo-li Ming, MD, PhD

PHILADELPHIA—Guo-li Ming, MD, PhD, and Hongjun Song, PhD, internationally renowned neuroscientists, have been appointed professors in the department of Neuroscience in the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania.

Song and Ming are well known for their research on the molecular mechanisms underlying neurodevelopment and brain-based disorders, such as schizophrenia and autism, which arise from dysfunction of those mechanisms. Their advances pave the way to new and better treatments for mental illness and neurological disease. The husband-and-wife team work together and independently of each other, with Song emphasizing investigations into how neural cells are born and Ming focusing on neural development. 

Before coming to Penn, Ming and Song were professors of neurology and neuroscience for more than ten years at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, where Song was also director of the Stem Cell Program.

“We are overjoyed to welcome Guo-li and Hongjun to Penn,” said John A. Dani, PhD, chair of Neuroscience at Penn. “They are highly accomplished, energetic, and wonderfully collaborative. They will make the outstanding neuroscience community at Penn even stronger as we work toward a better understanding of neural development and its relationship to mental health.”

In collaboration, Ming and Song led the team that discovered adult neural stem cells that are capable of self-renewal and multipotent fates. As such, these specialized cells have the potential to produce major neural cell lineages, including neurons and astrocytes (the most abundant cell in the nervous system that controls the blood brain barrier and provides diverse neuronal support). They also characterized how newborn neurons integrate into working neural circuitry. Their labs identified the first molecular mechanism regulating active DNA demethylation in adult neurons, a form of neural plasticity important in many crucial developmental and physiological processes.

Their labs also addressed the Zika virus outbreak by examining the mechanism of infection and identification of the virus, resulting in publications in Cell and Nature Medicine. This work was described on the front page of The New York Times.

Ming’s awards include the Basil O’Connor Starter Scholar Research Award from the March of Dimes, the Klingenstein Fellowship Award in Neuroscience, the Young Investigator Award from the Society for Neuroscience, and the A.E. Bennett Research Award from the Society of Biological Psychiatry. She is an elected member of the Dana Alliance for Brain Initiatives. She received her medical degree from Tongji Medical University in China and her doctorate from the University of California at San Diego.

Song’s awards include the Young Investigator Award from the Society for Neuroscience, the Rising Star Award from the International Mental Health Research Organization, and the Jacob Javits Neuroscience Investigator Award from the NIH. He is a “Highly Cited Researcher” as determined by Thomson Reuters, whose publications are among the top one-percent in their fields for citations. He received his doctorate from the University of California, San Diego.

Penn Medicine is one of the world’s leading academic medical centers, dedicated to the related missions of medical education, biomedical research, excellence in patient care, and community service. The organization consists of the University of Pennsylvania Health System and Penn’s Raymond and Ruth Perelman School of Medicine, founded in 1765 as the nation’s first medical school.

The Perelman School of Medicine is consistently among the nation's top recipients of funding from the National Institutes of Health, with $550 million awarded in the 2022 fiscal year. Home to a proud history of “firsts” in medicine, Penn Medicine teams have pioneered discoveries and innovations that have shaped modern medicine, including recent breakthroughs such as CAR T cell therapy for cancer and the mRNA technology used in COVID-19 vaccines.

The University of Pennsylvania Health System’s patient care facilities stretch from the Susquehanna River in Pennsylvania to the New Jersey shore. These include the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania, Penn Presbyterian Medical Center, Chester County Hospital, Lancaster General Health, Penn Medicine Princeton Health, and Pennsylvania Hospital—the nation’s first hospital, founded in 1751. Additional facilities and enterprises include Good Shepherd Penn Partners, Penn Medicine at Home, Lancaster Behavioral Health Hospital, and Princeton House Behavioral Health, among others.

Penn Medicine is an $11.1 billion enterprise powered by more than 49,000 talented faculty and staff.

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