Dr Li Zhang


Field of Research (FoR)


Dr Li Zhang received her MBBS degree from Fudan University in China and PhD degree from the University of Cambridge in the UK. Dr Zhang was a clinician at the China-Japan Friendship Hospital in Beijing prior to her PhD study. She worked as a postdoctoral fellow at the Institute of Molecular and Cell Biology in National University of Singapore before joining the University of New South Wales (UNSW). Dr Zhang was appointed as a Senior Lecturer...view more

Dr Li Zhang received her MBBS degree from Fudan University in China and PhD degree from the University of Cambridge in the UK. Dr Zhang was a clinician at the China-Japan Friendship Hospital in Beijing prior to her PhD study. She worked as a postdoctoral fellow at the Institute of Molecular and Cell Biology in National University of Singapore before joining the University of New South Wales (UNSW). Dr Zhang was appointed as a Senior Lecturer in the School of Biotechnology and Biomolecular Sciences (BABS) at UNSW in 2008.


  • MB BS, Fudan University, Shanghai, China
  • PhD, University of Cambridge, UK


Dr Li Zhang's group investigates bacterial species that cause or prevent inflammatory diseases and cancers of the gastrointestinal tract.  They study bacterial genomes, bacterial virulence factors, interactions of bacterial pathogens and gut microbiome with the immune system, and novel antimicrobial agents. Dr Zhang's earlier research was on autoimmune diseases. 

Dr Li Zhang is a pioneering researcher in the field of human hosted Campylobacter species and inflammatory bowel disease (IBD). Dr Zhang hypothesized that some strains of Campylobacter concisus, a bacterium that usually colonises the human oral cavity, have enteric pathogenicity and are the initiator of a subgroup of human IBD. Research in Dr Zhang’s group has provided critical information to this emerging research field, including disease association, C. concisus natural colonisation site, C. concisus metabolic pathways and bacterial genomic features. They recently identified a novel C. concisus plasmid (pICON) and a novel toxin gene csep1, both are associated with active Crohn's disease (one type IBD), suggesting that pICON plasmid and csep1 gene are the potential bacterial markers for identification of virulent C. concisus strains that cause a subgroup of Crohn's disease. Patients with CD who carry pICON positive C. concisus strains are more likely to develop complications.  

The second aspect of research in Dr Zhang's group is on the impact of microbes on immune regulation.  Dr Zhang hypothesized that chronic infection and inflammation may impact on PD-L1/PD1 blockade therapy.  . This publication received high attention in the scientific community (current views rank top 94% and downloads rank top 93%).  The research group has recently found that some commensal gut bacterial species up-regulate intestinal epithelial expression of PD-L1 under inflammatory conditions On-going research in Dr Zhang's laboratory is investigating the mechanisms by which different gut bacterial species impact on immunotherapy.  

  • Selected Publications

Liu F, Chen S, Luu LDW, Lee SA, Tay ACY, Wu R, Riordan SM, Lan R, Liu L, Zhang L, 2020, 'Analysis of complete genomes identifies genomospecies features, secretion systems and novel plasmids and their association with severe ulcerative colitis.', Microbial Genomics,

Lee SA; Wang Y; Liu F; Riordan SM; Liu L; Zhang L, 2020, 'Escherichia coli K12 upregulates PD-L1 expression in IFN-γ sensitized intestinal epithelial cells via the NF-κB pathway.', Infect Immun

Liu F; Ma R; Tay CYA; Octavia S; Lan R; Chung HKL; Riordan SM; Grimm MC; Leong RW; Tanaka MM; Connor S; Zhang L, 2018, 'Genomic analysis of oral Campylobacter concisus strains identified a potential bacterial molecular marker associated with active Crohn's disease', Emerging Microbes and Infections, vol. 7,

Wang Y; Ma R; Liu F; Lee SA; Zhang L, 2018, 'Modulation of Gut Microbiota: A Novel Paradigm of Enhancing the Efficacy of Programmed Death-1 and Programmed Death Ligand-1 Blockade Therapy. Front. Immunol.

Liu F; Ma R; Wang Y; Zhang L, 2018, 'The clinical importance of campylobacter concisus and other human hosted Campylobacter species', Frontiers in Cellular and Infection Microbiology, vol. 8,

Chung HKL; Tay A; Octavia S; Chen J; Liu F; Ma R; Lan R; Riordan SM; Grimm MC; Zhang L, 2016, 'Genome analysis of Campylobacter concisus strains from patients with inflammatory bowel disease and gastroenteritis provides new insights into pathogenicity', Scientific Reports, vol. 6,

Zhang L, 2015, 'Oral Campylobacter species: Initiators of a subgroup of inflammatory bowel disease?', World Journal of Gastroenterology, vol. 21, pp. 9239 - 9244,

Lastovica AJ; On SLW; Zhang L, 2014, 'The family Campylobacteraceae', in Moreira AP B; Meirelles PM; Thompson F (ed.), The Prokaryotes, Springer Heidelberg, New York Dordrecht London, pp. 307 - 335,

Mahendran V; Riordan S; Grimm M; Tran TAT; Major J; Kaakoush NO; Mitchell HM; Zhang L, 2011, 'Prevalence of Campylobacter species in adult Crohn's disease and the preferential colonization sites of Campylobacter species in the human intestine', PLoS ONE, vol. 6, pp. 1 - 7,

Zhang L; Budman V; Day AS; Mitchell HM; Lemberg DA; Riordan SM; Grimm M; Leach ST; Ismail Y, 2010, 'Isolation and detection of Campylobacter concisus from saliva of healthy individuals and patients with inflammatory bowel disease', Journal of Clinical Microbiology, vol. 48, pp. 2965 - 2967,

Zhang L; Man S; Day AS; Leach ST; Lemberg DA; Dutt S; Stormon MO; Otley AR; O Loughlin E; Magoffin A; Ng P; Mitchell HM, 2009, 'Detection and isolation of Campylobacter species other than C. jejuni from children with Crohn`s disease', Journal of Clinical Microbiology, vol. 47, pp. 453 - 455,

Zhang L; Jayne DRW; Zhao MH; Lockwood CM; Oliveira DBG, 1995, 'Distribution of MHC class II alleles in primary systemic vasculitis', Kidney International, vol. 47, pp. 294 - 298,

  • Full List of Publications and Citations

Dr Zhang's full list of publications and citations can be found on Google Scholar.

  • Editorial Board Member

World Journal of Gastroenterology since 2017

  • PhD and Masters by Research Student Supervision

As the primary supervisor, Dr Li Zhang has supervised 12 higher degree research students to completion at UNSW since 2008 (six PhD and six Masters by Research students).

Current supervision areas include:

  • Genomic and proteomic analysis of the pathogenicity of Campylobacter concisus and other emerging bacterial pathogens
  • Microbes and their pathogenic mechanisms in IBD and other gastrointestinal diseases
  • Gut microbiota and immunotherapy 
  • Novel strategies to modify microbiota and to combat antimicrobial resistance
  • Honours Research Project Supervision

As the primary supervisor, Dr Zhang has supervised 23 honours degree research students to completion at UNSW since 2008. For current available projects, please see the school honours project book.

  • Research Funding

  • 2015 - ongoing Government contract: $120,000. The role of oral Campylobacter in gastrointestinal diseases (Li Zhang)

  • 2018  UNSW Science Silverstar Award: $20,000 for NHMRC APP1142726, Campylobacter concisus novel plasmids and genomic islands predict phenotypes and clinical outcomes of inflammatory bowel disease (Li Zhang, Michael Grimm, Stephen Riordan, Rupert Leong, Ruiting Lan)

  • 2017 Faculty research grant: $12,000. Genomic analysis of IBD-associated Campylobacter species (Li Zhang)

  • 2009 - 2010 The Eli and Edythe L. Broad Foundation USA, IBD-0273R, $148,837. Investigation of the possible role of non-jejuni Campylobacter species in inflammatory bowel disease (Li Zhang)

  • 2008 - 2010 NHMRC (APP ID 510230): $349,875. Exclusion enteral nutrition in children with Crohn's disease (Day A, Mitchell H, Leach S, Li Zhang)

  • 2008 - 2010 NHMRC (APP ID 510113): $414,375. Investigation of the role of specific mucous associated bacteria in children and young adults with Crohn's disease (Mitchell H, Day A, Otley A, Li Zhang).

Undergraduate Teaching

  • BABS 3041 (Immunology): Dr Zhang has been the course coordinator and principal lecturer since 2012.

  • Medical Microbiology: Dr Zhang is the coordinator and principal lecturer for the medical microbiology component in UNSW medical program (Phase I, Phase II and Phase III).

  • Medical Immunology: Dr Zhang is a lecturer for the immunology component in UNSW medicine Foundations course.

  • BABS 3081 (Bacteria and Disease): Dr Zhang delivers three lectures for this course.


  • 2020                            BABS T1 Titans of Teaching Award Runner-up (Best Large Class Course): BABS3041 Immunology

  • 2019                            UNSW President Award Nominee

  • 2014                            BABS T1 Titans of Teaching Award (Best Large Class Course): BABS3041 Immunology





View less


Room 4106, Level 4 West,
Bioscience South E26

Map reference (Google map)


(+61 2) 9385 2042
(+61 2) 9385 1483