Accessibility Skip to Global Navigation Skip to Local Navigation Skip to Content Skip to Search Skip to Site Map Menu

Health Sciences profile

Dr Kunyu Li

PositionResearch Fellow
DepartmentDepartment of Pathology (Dunedin)
Research summaryImmunotherapies and immunoregulation in chronic diseases
TeachingChemical Pathology for 200 and 300 Level MEL course
  • 2020: Guest Editor for the Journal of Clinical & Translational Immunology
  • 2020: Cancer Research Institute USA
  • 2020: Crohn’s & Colitis Foundation the USA
  • 2020: Gut Health Network, University of Otago
  • 2019: Research Committee, Pathology Department, DSM, University of Otago
  • 2016: Affiliate of the Maurice Wilkins Centre New Zealand
  • 2009: Australia and New Zealand Society for Immunology
  • Collaboration with Professor Michael Schultz in IBD research
  • Collaboration with Dr Tamara Mullaney in IBD study


I am an immunologist with a strong background in translational research in cancer immunotherapies, particularly cellular therapy for solid cancers.

My current research primarily focuses on Immunoregulation by both intrinsic and extrinsic factors in Chronic conditions, and how dysregulation of immune response could lead to tissue pathology. Cancer and autoimmune diseases are both chronic diseases that share common characteristics of dysregulation of immune responses to self-derived antigens. The finding of my previous research suggests that immune dysregulation in both cases could be closely linked. Thereby studying one could guide us to solve the problems or answer the questions of the other.

I am currently leading research projects in understanding tumour resistance to adoptive T-cell therapy (ACT), overcoming the limitation of ACT through genetic modification of tumour-reactive T cells, and immunoregulation by D133p53 isoform in the development and progression of inflammatory bowel disease (IBD).

I also have a longstanding interest in using Traditional Chinese Medicine to enhance immunity and treat chronic inflammation. I am currently setting up collaborations with TCM researchers in China.

Additional details

Research support

  • DSM Dean’s Bequest Grant
  • New Zealand Lottery Health Research Grant
  • HRC Explorer Grant

Research projects available for postgraduate students

  • The role of D133p53 isoform in IBD
  • Understanding how tumour resistance to ACT arises
  • ACT using genetically modified T cells in solid cancer


Li, K., Donaldson, B., Young, V., Ward, V., Jackson, C., Baird, M., & Young, S. (2017). Adoptive cell therapy with CD4+ T helper 1 cells and CD8+ cytotoxic T cells enhances complete rejection of an established tumour, leading to generation of endogenous memory responses to non-targeted tumour epitopes. Clinical & Translational Immunology, 6(10), e160. doi: 10.1038/cti.2017.37

Li, K., Baird, M., Yang, J., Jackson, C., Ronchese, F., & Young, S. (2016). Conditions for the generation of cytotoxic CD4+ Th cells that enhance CD8+ CTL-mediated tumor regression. Clinical & Translational Immunology, 5(8), e95. doi: 10.1038/cti.2016.46

Li, K., Peers-Adams, A., Win, S. J., Scullion, S., Wilson, M., Young, V. L., Jennings, P., Ward, V. K., Baird, M. A., & Young, S. L. (2013). Antigen incorporated in virus-like particles is delivered to specific dendritic cell subsets that induce an effective antitumor immune response in vivo. Journal of Immunotherapy, 36(1), 11-19. doi: 10.1097/CJI.0b013e3182787f5e

Tang, R., Li, K., Wilson, M., Both, G. W., Taylor, J. A., & Young, S. L. (2012). Potent antietumor immunity in mice induced by vaccination with an ovine Atadenovirus vector. Journal of Immunotherapy, 35(1), 32-41. doi: 10.1097/CJI.0b013e318238a115