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Eric C. Liao, M.D., Ph.D.

Eric C. Liao, M.D., Ph.D.

Eric C. Liao, M.D., Ph.D., is the director of the Cleft and Craniofacial Center at Shriners Hospitals for Children — Boston and Massachusetts General Hospital. He is also the deputy director of research at Shriners Hospitals for Children — Boston, an associate professor of surgery/genetics at Harvard Medical School, a principal investigator at the Center for Regenerative Medicine, a principal faculty member of the Harvard Stem Cell Institute, and a faculty member in the genetics program in Biomedical and Biological Sciences at Harvard University.

Dr. Liao’s general research interests lie in orofacial cleft malformation, one of the most common congenital anomalies, treatment of which is a core mission and strength of Shriners Hospitals for Children. With eight hospitals with active programs in cleft malformations, Shriners Hospitals for Children is one of the largest hospital networks that treats patients with cleft and craniofacial anomalies. Dr. Liao is also interested in collaborating and leading research efforts in cleft genetics.

Dr. Liao’s research interests relate to functional genomics of cleft and craniofacial anomalies. He applies advances in genomics, gene editing, developmental biology and chemical biology to translate fundamental biological insights to clinical impact. He employs iPSC and animal models to rapidly examine the function of novel human candidate genes and gene variants in craniofacial development. He examines the interaction of genes in the Wnt pathway in how they regulate palate and mandibular morphogenesis. He also employs a novel irf6 mutant model to uncover how environmental factors intersect with irf6 in cleft pathogenesis. He also engineered a high-throughput platform to carry out small molecule screen to discover compounds that may modify cleft pathogenesis.

Dr. Liao has published over 50 basic and clinical research original articles with over 2,100 citations, h-index of 20. He is the only plastic surgeon to be awarded the American Surgical Association Research Fellowship and the March of Dimes Basil O’Connor Research Award. He is the recipient of three NIH grants.

Dr. Liao has served on numerous boards and received many honors and awards including:

  • Travel Award, Academic Surgical Congress (2017)
  • Best Basic Science Oral Presentation, Harvard Surgery Research Symposium (2016)
  • Joseph Murray Award, New England Society of Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery (2015)
  • Founders Award, New England Society of Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery (2014)
  • Harvard Stem Cell Institute Seed Grant (2011)
  • March of Dimes Basil O’Connor Starter Scholar Award (2010)

Current positions: 

  • Director, Cleft and Craniofacial Center, Shriners Hospitals for Children — Boston and Massachusetts General Hospital for Children
  • Deputy Director of Research at Shriners Hospitals for Children — Boston
  • Associate Professor of Surgery/Genetics, Harvard Medical School
  • Principal Investigator, Center for Regenerative Medicine
  • Principal Faculty, Harvard Stem Cell Institute
  • Faculty, Genetics Program, Biomedical & Biological Sciences, Harvard University


  • BS, Biological Sciences, Stanford University, 1995
  • MS, Biological Sciences, Stanford University, 1995
  • M.D., Harvard Medical School, 2002
  • Ph.D., Genetics, Harvard University, 2002
  • Post-doctoral Clinical Training, Harvard Combined Residency in Plastic Surgery, 2008

Scholarly activities: