Computational Biologist Bing Liu Dies in Suspected Murder

The University of Pittsburgh scientist, who was studying SARS-CoV-2, was shot to death in his home.

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Kerry Grens

Kerry served as The Scientist’s news director until 2021. Before joining The Scientist in 2013, she was a stringer for Reuters Health, the senior health and science reporter at...

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Bing Liu, a computational systems biologist at the University of Pittsburgh who was studying the virus that causes COVID-19, was shot to death in his home on May 2. He was 37 years old.

Bing Liu
University of pittsburgh school of medicine

Police insist Liu’s death had nothing to do with his research on SARS-CoV-2, and instead involved a personal matter. Another man, Hao Gu, was found dead in his car near Liu’s home of an apparent suicide, according to news reports.

The Computational and Systems Biology Department at Pitt, where Liu was an assistant research professor, announced in a statement its mourning of Liu’s death. “Dr. Bing Liu was an outstanding researcher, who has earned the respect and appreciation of many colleagues in the field, and made unique contributions to science,” the statement reads. 

Liu earned his undergraduate and doctoral degrees from the National University of Singapore. He completed a postdoc at Carnegie Mellon University before joining the lab of Ivet Bahar at Pitt as a research associate. He was promoted to his current position in 2016, according to his CV, and he developed machine learning approaches and other models to study biological systems. His most recent publications investigated a cell death mechanism called ferroptosis and molecules that modulate autophagy.

Bahar tells the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette that Liu had been studying the infection mechanism of SARS-CoV-2. According to the department’s statement, “Bing was on the verge of making very significant findings toward understanding the cellular mechanisms that underlie SARS-CoV-2 infection and the cellular basis of the following complications. We will make an effort to complete what he started in an effort to pay homage to his scientific excellence.”