Jing-Hsiung (Jim) Ou, PhD, has agreed to serve as the interim chair for molecular microbiology and immunology at the Keck School of Medicine of USC, effective July 1, 2020. He is currently a professor in the department.

The current chair of the department, Jae U. Jung, PhD, is stepping down from his role at the end of the fiscal year, June 30.    

Over his career, Ou has been primarily focused on investigating the role that the hepatitis B (HBV) and hepatitis C (HCV) viruses play in liver diseases, including liver cancer. Infection with these viruses is among the world’s most serious health problems. In 2015, the World Health Organization estimated that 400 million people were living with either chronic HBV or HCV infection, resulting in an estimated 1.38 million deaths that year, mostly from cirrhosis and hepatocellular carcinoma. In his work, Ou has been particularly interested in how these viruses interact with their host cells, how they evade host immunity to establish persistent infection, and how they cause chronic liver diseases including hepatocellular carcinoma, a cancer that starts in the liver.

Ou has received numerous awards and honors for his research, including the USC Stevens Center for Innovation Commercialization Award (2017); the Bruce Witte Distinguished Lectureship from the Hepatitis B Foundation and Baruch S. Blumberg Institute (2017); and the Dr. Cheng-wen Wu Lectureship from the Chinese Society for Cellular and Molecular Biology (Taiwan, 2017). He was named an academician in Academia Sinica (2016), one of the Top 25 peer reviewers for  Journal of Virology, (2009, 2011, 2012, 2014), and was elected fellow in the American Academy of Microbiology (2011) and a fellow in the American Association for the Advancement of Science (2010). He is currently serving as the editor of the Journal of Virology until 2024.

Ou has been actively involved in teaching and training throughout his career. In his own research program, he has been a mentor to 18 PhD students, 15 MS students, and 21 postdoctoral fellows. Many of these trainees are now working in academia, industry and government organizations. He was the founder and the director of the microbiology MS program from 1995-2006, and served for many years on the MD/PhD admission committee of the Keck School. 

Ou received his PhD from Caltech and performed postdoctoral training at UCSF in the department of biochemistry and biophysics as well as the Hormone Research Institute. He was recruited to the department of molecular microbiology and immunology as a new assistant professor in 1986 and has risen through the ranks to associate professor with tenure (1992) and professor (1999).   

Jung is ending his term as chair and his faculty position as Distinguished Professor of Molecular Microbiology and Immunology, the director of the Institute for Emerging Pathogens, and the Fletcher Jones Foundation Chair of Molecular Microbiology and Immunology. He was recruited to USC in August of 2007 from Harvard University. 

Jung, a nationally and internationally renowned virologist, has specialized in the study of virus-induced cancer; the effects of emerging viruses such as dengue and zika; the role of virus infection on inflammation and immunity; and vaccine stabilization. Under Jung’s leadership, the department doubled in number of department faculty, increased federal funding nearly six-fold, and had its national prominence elevated to a top 20 department.

Jung is headed to the Cleveland Clinic, where he will be the Cancer Biology Department chair at Lerner Research Institute, director of the Center for Global and Emerging Pandemics and professor of molecular medicine in the Cleveland Clinic Lerner College of Medicine of Case Western Reserve University. 

— Landon Hall