Hong-Yu Li, Ph.D., Named ARA Scholar, Awarded Adams Chair

By Ben Boulden


Ross McCaskill, left, great-nephew of Helen Adams; Jerry Adams, ARA president and CEO; Leslii McCaskill, great-niece of Helen Adams; Hong-yu Li, Ph. D.; UAMS College of Pharmacy Dean Keith Olsen, Pharm. D.; and UAMS Chancellor Dan Rahn stop for a photo after the investiture ceremony for Li.

In a ceremony following the conference, he also was named to the Helen Adams & Arkansas Research Alliance Endowed Chair. Using a bequest from Helen Adams, UAMS has provided $500,000 to fund the chair. The ARA, with the approval of its Board of Trustees, also has given $500,000 to its funding.

An endowed chair is the highest academic honor a university can bestow on its faculty. A chair can honor the memory of a loved one or may honor a person’s accomplishments and is supported with donations of $1 million or more, with the chair holder using the interest proceeds for research, teaching or service activities.

Helen Adams was a 1929 graduate of the University of Arkansas and co-owner with her husband, Roy Adams, of a Fayetteville flower shop. On her death in 2004, Helen Adams left a generous bequest to UAMS to support medical research.

Li is an internationally recognized scientist in the field of cancer treatment research. In his research, he designs and synthesizes small molecules through a variety of novel approaches to develop new agents for cancer treatments.

“Dr. Li’s recruitment, and the ARA Scholars program that was key to it, is an example of using state resources to attract or retain highly talented people who are on the cutting edge in their fields of scientific research,” said Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson. “It pays dividends in the commercialization of research ideas and in job creation in our state.”

The ARA Scholars Program recruits highly respected thought leaders with the goal of adding value to existing research programs through collaboration, innovation and eventually commercialization that brings jobs and businesses to Arkansas.

“Having Dr. Li come to UAMS and Arkansas as an ARA Scholar is immensely positive,” said UAMS Chancellor Dan Rahn, M.D. “Already, he is proving to be an extraordinary asset to our state. We are proud to have him on our faculty along with our other three ARA Scholars at UAMS.”

As an ARA Scholar, Li joins Peter Crooks, Ph.D., chairman of the Department of Pharmaceutical Sciences in the UAMS College of Pharmacy; Daohong Zhou, M.D., a professor in the Division of Radiation Health of the UAMS College of Pharmacy’s Department of Pharmaceutical Sciences, and Gareth Morgan, M.D., Ph. D., director of the UAMS Myeloma Institute.

“I came to UAMS because of the potential for collaboration and resources that I saw here,” Li said. “The research and scholarship being done here will complement my own, and working together with the university’s other researchers I’m confident we will be able to help each other accomplish even more. I am very thankful to the ARA and UAMS for these honors and the substantial support that comes with them.”

In April, Li started work as a professor at UAMS. He was recruited from the University of Arizona College of Pharmacy in Tucson. Before Arizona, Li worked about 10 years at Eli Lilly & Company’s Lilly Research Laboratory in Indianapolis, the last five years there as a principal research scientist.

Jerry Adams addresses the audience before Li's investiture ceremony.

Jerry Adams addresses the audience before Li’s investiture ceremony.

He received his doctorate in marine natural product chemistry in 1995 from the University of Tokyo in Japan and was an assistant professor in Tohoku University in Japan. After coming to the United States, Li was first a postdoctoral associate in Department of Chemistry at Columbia University in New York City and then the Department of Chemistry and Chemical Biology at Harvard University in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

“The ARA Scholars program is the cornerstone for our organization and focuses on areas of core competencies, particularly areas ripe with opportunities for innovation and commercialization,” said Jerry Adams, ARA president and CEO. “We expect great things from Dr. Li and look forward to sharing how his research builds upon the work and discoveries of current ARA Scholars while creating new pathways for progress.”

Established with funds appropriated by the state Legislature and authorized by the Arkansas Science and Technology Authority in 2007, the ARA is committed to strengthening the economic competitiveness of Arkansas by maximizing university-based research and innovation in designated strategic focus areas. The scholars were chosen through a rigorous vetting and review process conducted by an external advisory committee.