"I Knew if There Was a Mutation, Meiqi Would Find It!”

Congratulations to researcher Meiqi Xu, who is credited with discovering the FOP gene, on a brilliant career!

After graduating from university and working her first job at the Institute of Materia Medica, Chinese Academy of Sciences, research specialist Meiqi Xu moved to the United States.

“I was eager to find answers to save patients’ lives,” she explained. “I dreamt of making important contributions to medical research and began my journey with FOP in early 1995.”

Meiqi became the first full-time researcher to join Drs. Eileen Shore and Fred Kaplan at the FOP Laboratory at the University of Pennsylvania. She worked to determine the region of the genome that carried the FOP gene, and it was her responsibility to examine a series of candidate genes for DNA sequencing.

“She was the perfect partner for the work,” said Dr. Shore. “Smart, thorough, dedicated. I knew if there was a gene mutation to be found, Meiqi would find it!”

Dr. Shore was proven right. In August 2005, Meiqi identified the FOP gene mutation.

“After the discovery, I was proud and overjoyed,” recalled Meiqi. “At the same time, we realized that we had to shift our priorities to researching effective drugs and treatments.”

In addition to working to uncover effective therapies, Meiqi also identified FOP variant mutations and conducted DNA sequencing analyses to confirm a clinical diagnosis of FOP in hundreds of people.

It was hard work, explained Dr. Shore. But Meiqi had all the motivation she needed to keep pushing for answers.

“Meeting people with FOP, many of whom were children, became my biggest source of inspiration to find the cause of and cure for FOP,” she said.”

Meiqi devoted 30 years to doing just that, before retiring in October 2022. After decades of research, testing and progress, she is optimistic about the future for those with FOP.

“Research is not easy, but I believe our efforts will lead to a cure,” she said. “Together we have overcome many difficulties and cheered for the great achievements. I look forward to seeing the FOP lab make meaningful strides in the years to come.”

Dr. Shore credits Meiqi with much of the lab’s past success and potential.

“Meiqi has been devoted to doing as much as she possibly could to support FOP families and work toward an effective treatment and cure,” Shore said. “And she has been a teacher and mentor to dozens of students in the FOP lab, sharing her scientific knowledge and providing support and encouragement.

“Her work provides a strong foundation for much of the ongoing work in our lab, including pre-clinical drug testing.”

Although Meiqi was reluctant to leave the lab after so many years, she is looking forward to retirement with her husband.

“Now, we have time for more gardening and traveling, which we both love to do. We hope to build our growing backyard garden and to explore the world,” she said.

Amid the hobbies and adventures, progress toward treatments and cure — and the people it affects — will remain top of mind for Meiqi.

“Even though I am retired, I will always stay connected with the FOP lab and community to help in any way I can!” she insists. “The IFOPA is a big family that will always have a special place in my heart, no matter where I am.”

The IFOPA is grateful to Meiqi for her many contributions to FOP research and her dedication to people living with FOP around the world. We wish you all the best in your much-deserved retirement!

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