University of California San Francisco
Helen Diller Family Comprehensive Cancer Center
Lani Wu, PhD

Lani Wu, PhD

Professor of Pharmaceutical Chemistry, UCSF School of Pharmacy

Cancer Center Program Memberships

Experimental Therapeutics

Research Summary

I have over 20 years of experience performing research and developing advanced technologies. I bring to my biology research a blend of experimental science, engineering, and mathematics. In 1994, I left a mathematics faculty position at Princeton to join the fledgling Research Division at Microsoft. At Microsoft I co-ran an advanced technology team (with Dr. Steven Altschuler) that worked on problems ranging from video compression, to data mining, to speech recognition. In 2000, I moved into biology. I was recruited by Rosetta Inpharmatics, where I developed new approaches for predicting gene function and mechanisms of drug perturbation. I moved to Harvard University in 2001 to immerse myself in the world of experimental biology and then to UTSW in 2005 to establish my independent laboratory. In 2014, I moved my laboratory to UCSF as a Professor in the Department of Pharmaceutical Chemistry.

Over the past decade, my laboratory has pioneered multiple approaches for quantifying and interpreting cellular heterogeneity. I have been fascinated by the functional consequences of cell individuality in normal and diseased tissues. I was stunned by the phenotypic diversity that can arise both within and across cancer clones from a single patent population and can be used to predict mechanisms of drug action. Traditionally, this phenotypic heterogeneity, whether arising from microenvironment, epigenetic, or genetic sources, has been viewed as an impediment to understanding and treating cancer. I was therefore very surprised by our ability to use quantitative measurements of heterogeneity to predict drug responses. Since uncovering these results, my lab has been focused on identifying which components of cell-to-cell differences are unimportant and which contain functional information. Currently, my lab’s research program focuses on understanding the dynamic responses of cancer cells to drugs, and identifying molecular bases for drug resistance.


National Taiwan University, BA, 1985, Mathematics
University of California, San Diego, MA, 1987, Mathematics
University of California, San Diego, PhD, 1990, Mathematics (Advisor: Dr. Richard Hamilton)

Professional Experience

  • 1990-1991
    Instructor, Mathematics Department, Princeton University, Princeton, NJ.
  • 1991-1992
    Research Associate, Centre for Mathematics and its Applications, Australian National University, Canberra, Australia.
  • 1992-1994
    Instructor, Mathematics Department, Princeton University, Princeton, NJ.
  • 1994-2000
    Senior Researcher, Microsoft Corporation, Redmond, WA.
  • 2000-2001
    Senior Researcher, Informatics, Rosetta Inpharmatics, Kirkland, WA.
  • 2001-2005
    Fellow, Bauer Center for Genomics Research, Harvard University, Cambridge, MA.
  • 2005-2009
    Assistant Professor, University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center, Dallas, TX.
  • 2005-2014
    Associate Professor, University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center, Dallas, TX.
  • 2014-present
    Professor, University of California, San Francisco, San Francisco, CA.

Honors & Awards

  • 2004
    Thomas T. Hoopes Thesis Prize for best undergraduate thesis at Harvard (Maciag)
  • 2005
    UTSW endowed scholar: Cecil H. and Ida Green Scholar in Biomedical Computational Science
  • 2008
    Simmons Cancer Center Best Poster Award (Singh and Ku)
  • 2009
    Gilman Postdoc of the Year Award (Loo)
  • 2010
    UTSW Postdoc of the Year Award (Loo)

Selected Publications

  1. Rajaram S, Roth MA, Malato J, VandenBerg S, Hann B, Atreya CE, Altschuler SJ, Wu LF. A multi-modal data resource for investigating topographic heterogeneity in patient-derived xenograft tumors. Sci Data. 2019 10 31; 6(1):253.
    View on PubMed
  2. Hsu CH, Altschuler SJ, Wu LF. Patterns of Early p21 Dynamics Determine Proliferation-Senescence Cell Fate after Chemotherapy. Cell. 2019 Jul 11; 178(2):361-373.e12.
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  3. Deng Y, Bao F, Dai Q, Wu LF, Altschuler SJ. Scalable analysis of cell-type composition from single-cell transcriptomics using deep recurrent learning. Nat Methods. 2019 04; 16(4):311-314.
    View on PubMed
  4. Mender I, LaRanger R, Luitel K, Peyton M, Girard L, Lai TP, Batten K, Cornelius C, Dalvi MP, Ramirez M, Du W, Wu LF, Altschuler SJ, Brekken R, Martinez ED, Minna JD, Wright WE, Shay JW. Telomerase-Mediated Strategy for Overcoming Non-Small Cell Lung Cancer Targeted Therapy and Chemotherapy Resistance. Neoplasia. 2018 08; 20(8):826-837.
    View on PubMed
  5. Kochanowski K, Morinishi L, Altschuler S, Wu L. Drug persistence - from antibiotics to cancer therapies. Curr Opin Syst Biol. 2018 Aug; 10:1-8.
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  6. Thurley K, Wu LF, Altschuler SJ. Modeling Cell-to-Cell Communication Networks Using Response-Time Distributions. Cell Syst. 2018 Mar 28; 6(3):355-367.e5.
    View on PubMed
  7. Thorne CA, Chen IW, Sanman LE, Cobb MH, Wu LF, Altschuler SJ. Enteroid Monolayers Reveal an Autonomous WNT and BMP Circuit Controlling Intestinal Epithelial Growth and Organization. Dev Cell. 2018 03 12; 44(5):624-633.e4.
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  8. Rajaram S, Heinrich LE, Gordan JD, Avva J, Bonness KM, Witkiewicz AK, Malter JS, Atreya CE, Warren RS, Wu LF, Altschuler SJ. Sampling strategies to capture single-cell heterogeneity. Nat Methods. 2017 Oct; 14(10):967-970.
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  9. Deb D, Rajaram S, Larsen JE, Dospoy PD, Marullo R, Li LS, Avila K, Xue F, Cerchietti L, Minna JD, Altschuler SJ, Wu LF. Combination Therapy Targeting BCL6 and Phospho-STAT3 Defeats Intratumor Heterogeneity in a Subset of Non-Small Cell Lung Cancers. Cancer Res. 2017 06 01; 77(11):3070-3081.
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  10. Zhang ER, Liu S, Wu LF, Altschuler SJ, Cobb MH. Chemoattractant concentration-dependent tuning of ERK signaling dynamics in migrating neutrophils. Sci Signal. 2016 12 13; 9(458):ra122.
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  11. Coster AD, Thorne CA, Wu LF, Altschuler SJ. Examining Crosstalk among Transforming Growth Factor ß, Bone Morphogenetic Protein, and Wnt Pathways. J Biol Chem. 2017 Jan 06; 292(1):244-250.
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  12. Deng Y, Altschuler SJ, Wu LF. PHOCOS: inferring multi-feature phenotypic crosstalk networks. Bioinformatics. 2016 06 15; 32(12):i44-i51.
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  13. Diz-Muñoz A, Thurley K, Chintamen S, Altschuler SJ, Wu LF, Fletcher DA, Weiner OD. Membrane Tension Acts Through PLD2 and mTORC2 to Limit Actin Network Assembly During Neutrophil Migration. PLoS Biol. 2016 06; 14(6):e1002474.
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  14. Ramirez M, Rajaram S, Steininger RJ, Osipchuk D, Roth MA, Morinishi LS, Evans L, Ji W, Hsu CH, Thurley K, Wei S, Zhou A, Koduru PR, Posner BA, Wu LF, Altschuler SJ. Diverse drug-resistance mechanisms can emerge from drug-tolerant cancer persister cells. Nat Commun. 2016 Feb 19; 7:10690.
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  15. Kang J, Hsu CH, Wu Q, Liu S, Coster AD, Posner BA, Altschuler SJ, Wu LF. Improving drug discovery with high-content phenotypic screens by systematic selection of reporter cell lines. Nat Biotechnol. 2016 Jan; 34(1):70-77.
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  16. Langen M, Agi E, Altschuler DJ, Wu LF, Altschuler SJ, Hiesinger PR. The Developmental Rules of Neural Superposition in Drosophila. Cell. 2015 Jul 02; 162(1):120-33.
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  17. Wu J, Pipathsouk A, Keizer-Gunnink A, Fusetti F, Alkema W, Liu S, Altschuler S, Wu L, Kortholt A, Weiner OD. Homer3 regulates the establishment of neutrophil polarity. Mol Biol Cell. 2015 May 01; 26(9):1629-39.
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  18. Steininger RJ, Rajaram S, Girard L, Minna JD, Wu LF, Altschuler SJ. On comparing heterogeneity across biomarkers. Cytometry A. 2015 Jun; 87(6):558-67.
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  19. Thorne CA, Wichaidit C, Coster AD, Posner BA, Wu LF, Altschuler SJ. GSK-3 modulates cellular responses to a broad spectrum of kinase inhibitors. Nat Chem Biol. 2015 Jan; 11(1):58-63.
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  20. Agi E, Langen M, Altschuler SJ, Wu LF, Zimmermann T, Hiesinger PR. The evolution and development of neural superposition. J Neurogenet. 2014 Sep-Dec; 28(3-4):216-32.
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