Yao Lab


Meet the PI

Chen Yao, Ph.D.

Chen Yao, Ph.D.

Assistant Professor

Dr. Yao received her Ph.D. degree from the University of Minnesota under the supervision of Daniel Kaplan. She completed her postdoctoral training with John O’Shea at the National Institutes of Health. Dr. Yao joined the Department of Immunology and the Kidney Cancer Program at UT Southwestern Medical Center in 2021.  Dr. Yao is an awardee of the NIAID New Innovators Awards (DP2) and the CPRIT First-Time, Tenure-Track Faculty Scholar Award.

Meet the Lab

Kiddist Yihunie

Kiddist Yihunie

Lab Manager

I am a Dallas native and received a Bachelor of Science and Masters of Science in Microbiology from Texas Tech University. My undergraduate and graduate research focused on the temperature-dependent pathogenesis and motility of Pseudomonas aeruginosa biofilms. I joined Yao Lab as a research assistant and lab manager in September 2021 and look forward to exploring my interest in chronic infections in the context of host immune responses.

Xiaolu Teng Ph.D.

Xiaolu Teng Ph.D.

Postdoctoral Fellow


Dr. Xiaolu Teng received his Ph.D. in biochemistry and molecular biology from China Agricultural University in 2016. His Ph.D. research focused on the identification of a catalase-phenol oxidase in red amaranth (Amaranthus cruentus), a betalain-producing plant. As a senior lab technician at Shanghai Jiao Tong University School of Medicine, Xiao-Lu become interested in T cell immunology while studying immune cell metabolism in TME. Xiao-Lu joined Dr. Yao’s lab in 2021. Outside the lab, he enjoys traveling, basketball, and listening to music.

Haixia Wang Ph.D.

Haixia Wang Ph.D.

Postdoctoral Fellow

Dr. Haixia Wang received her Ph.D. from the University of Science and Technology of China in 2021. During her Ph.D. study, she focused on the role of transcriptional factor KLF5 in breast cancer development. Haixia joined Yao’s lab as a postdoc fellow in 2022. Haixia enjoys traveling and running in her spare time.


The long-term goal of Yao Laboratory is to identify molecular and cellular mechanisms that determine the efficacy of vaccines and immunotherapies against infectious diseases and cancers. There are two major directions in the Yao Lab.

  1. Long-term T cell immunity is critical in combating chronic viral infection and cancer. We have found that transcription factors TOX and BACH2 are critical for the formation of stem-like CD8 T cells and the development of long-term immunity. We will dissect the molecule targets of TOX and BACH2 that mediate their function in T cells.
  2. Immunotherapy has revolutionized the treatment of patients with renal cell carcinoma (RCC). However, only a minority of patients with RCC achieved complete responses after immunotherapies. In the Yao Lab, we aim to understand the T-cell intrinsic and extrinsic mechanisms that determine their antitumor responses induced by immunotherapies. Using mouse RCC models and patient samples, we will identify and validate prognostic biomarkers for immunotherapies against RCC. In addition, we will use gene-editing technologies to uncover and validate novel pathways that can be targeted to enhance antitumor T-cell responses during cancer immunotherapies.


Full list of publications through NCBI

BACH2 enforces the transcriptional and epigenetic programs of stem-like CD8+ T cells.Yao C, Lou G, Sun HW, Zhu Z, Sun Y, Chen Z, Chauss D, Moseman EA, Cheng J, D'Antonio MA, Shi W, Shi J, Kometani K, Kurosaki T, Wherry EJ, Afzali B, Gattinoni L, Zhu Y, McGavern DB, O'Shea JJ, Schwartzberg PL, Wu T, Nat Immunol 2021 03 22 3 370-380

Single-cell RNA-seq reveals TOX as a key regulator of CD8+ T cell persistence in chronic infection. Yao C, Sun HW, Lacey NE, Ji Y, Moseman EA, Shih HY, Heuston EF, Kirby M, Anderson S, Cheng J, Khan O, Handon R, Reilley J, Fioravanti J, Hu J, Gossa S, Wherry EJ, Gattinoni L, McGavern DB, O'Shea JJ, Schwartzberg PL, Wu T, Nat. Immunol. 2019 07 20 7 890-901

Contact Us


Office: ND3. 504B
Lab: ND3. 510

Mailing Address

UT Southwestern Medical Center
5323 Harry Hines Blvd.
Dallas, TX 75390-9072


Join Our Lab

The Yao Lab is always seeking highly motivated post-doctoral, graduate and undergraduate researchers. If you are interested, please contact Dr. Yao at Chen.Yao@UTSouthwestern.edu (Email).