Associate Professor

Xi Huang

Molecular Genetics


SickKids - Peter Gilgan Centre for Research and Learning
686 Bay Street, 16-9704, Toronto, Ontario Canada M5G 0A4
Research Interests
Cancer, Cell biology, Developmental biology, Drosophila, Drug discovery, design, development and screening, Mouse models, Neuroscience, Optogenetics, Imaging and microscopy, Metabolism, Protein-protein, DNA-protein, and RNA-protein interactions, Rare diseases, Signalling, Stem cell biology, Technology development

We study physical properties and mechano-electrical-chemical signalling in cancer. While extensive research has informed genetics and biochemical mechanisms in tumorigenesis, how mechanical and electrical signalling regulate cancer is less defined. Ion channels govern cell behaviours by perceiving physicochemical cues (mechanical force, membrane voltage, temperature, pH etc.) to control ion flux across membranes. We ask the following questions:

  • At the systemic level, what are the mutational landscape and functional alterations of ion channels in cancer?
  • At the tissue level, how do ion channels regulate tumour initiation, progression, metastasis, and drug resistance in genetically tractable animal models?
  • At the cellular level, how do ion channels perceive physicochemical cues to control cancer cell state?
  • At the molecular level, how do different ion channels form a functional network to regulate cancer cell behaviours?
  • Can we use ion channel-targeting drugs to treat cancer?

Using multi-disciplinary approaches in bioinformatics, Drosophila and mouse genetics, xenograft modelling, advanced imaging, electrophysiology, and bioengineering, we discover disease mechanisms and therapeutic vulnerabilities at the interface of cancer biology, neuroscience, and mechanobiology.

Courses Taught

  • MGY200 Current Topics in Molecular Genetics and Microbiology
  • MMG1021 Student Seminars II (a.k.a. MMG1015 Seminars)
  • MMG1031 Student Seminars III (a.k.a. MMG1017 Seminars)


  • 2024: Teo Research Rebel, Charlie Teo Foundation
  • 2023: Distinguished Luigs & Neumann Lecturer, Department of Pharmacology, University of Virginia
  • 2023: SickKids Innovation Showcase Audience Choice Award, The Hospital for Sick Children
  • 2022: Canada Research Chair in Cancer Biophysics (renewal)
  • 2021: Early Researcher Award, Ontario Ministry of Research, Innovation and Science
  • 2018: Sontag Foundation Distinguished Scientist Award, Sontag Foundation
  • 2017: Canada Research Chair in Cancer Biophysics
  • 2016: Conquer Cancer Now Award, Concern Foundation
  • 2015: Careers in Cancer Research Development Program New PI Award, CIHR-ICR/CCSRI
  • 2015: Catalyst Scholar in Stem Cell Research, The Hospital for Sick Children
  • 2011: Damon Runyon Post-doctoral Fellowship (Kandis Ann Ulrich-Carleton Fellow), Damon Runyon Cancer Research Foundation
  • 2011: Graduate Education in Medical Sciences-Clinical and Translational Science Institute Postdoctoral Award, University of California, San Francisco, Howard Hughes Medical Institute
  • 2011: Outstanding Graduate Student Award, Department of Cell and Developmental Biology, Vanderbilt University
  • 2010: Chinese Government Award for Outstanding Student Abroad


  • Senior Scientist, Developmental and Stem Cell Biology, The Hospital for Sick Children