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Coronavirus researcher on verge of ‘significant findings’ found shot to death in Pittsburgh

(Image: KDKA screenshot)

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A University of Pittsburgh professor working on a COVID-19 research project was found shot to death in an apparent murder-suicide, officials reported.

Bing Liu was allegedly on the verge of making “very significant findings” in his research of the coronavirus when he was apparently shot in his townhouse on Saturday, according to the Ross Police Department, with gunshot wounds to his head, neck, torso and extremities.


(Source: KDKA)

The 37-year-old research assistant professor at the university was allegedly shot by another man who was found dead in a nearby car, less than a mile away from Liu’s home, after apparently taking his own life, according to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.

The Allegheny County Medical Examiner’s Office identified the second man as Hao Gu, 46, who reportedly knew the victim but their relationship and the motive for the shooting are still being examined, according to Detective Sgt. Brian Kohlhepp.

In a statement, the university said it is “deeply saddened by the tragic death of Bing Liu, a prolific researcher and admired colleague at Pitt. The University extends our deepest sympathies to Liu’s family, friends and colleagues during this difficult time.”

“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,” the university’s Department of Computational and Systems Biology wrote in a statement. “We will make an effort to complete what he started in an effort to pay homage to his scientific excellence.”

The front and rear patio doors of Liu’s townhouse were open at the time of the shooting though nothing was stolen and there was no forced entry, according to Kohlhepp. Liu’s wife was not home at the time of the incident and Kohlhepp noted that there is “zero indication that there was targeting due to his being Chinese.”

“He was a very talented individual, extremely intelligent and hard-working,” Ivet Bahar, head of the department in Pitt’s School of Medicine, said according to the Post-Gazette.

“He has been contributing to several scientific projects, publishing in high-profile journals. He was someone whom we all liked very much, a very gentle, very helpful, kind person, very generous,” she added. “We are all shocked to learn what happened to him. This was very unexpected.”

Bahar added that Liu, who earned his doctorate at the University of Singapore in 2012, had just started his research on the novel coronavirus.

“He was just starting to obtain interesting results,” she said. “He was sharing with us, trying to understand the mechanism of infection, so we will hopefully continue what he was doing.”’

Behar indicated that, with many working from home amid coronavirus lockdown orders, she would speak with Liu daily about their work and had sent him several emails over the weekend which went unanswered.

“He didn’t answer, so I was surprised. He would be very prompt usually,” she said.

Liu was described as a “prolific researcher” and had co-authored more than 30 publications during his career.

Frieda Powers

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