US: Researcher on brink of COVID-19 discovery shot dead

Dr Bing Liu was shot dead at his home; his assailant later killed himself

Dr-Bing-Liu-University-Pittsburgh Dr Bing Liu, Research Assistant Professor, University of Pittsburgh | University of Pittsburgh website

A University of Pittsburgh researcher who was allegedly on the brink of a key finding in his study of the SARS-CoV-2 virus was found dead in an apparent murder-suicide, with his attacker found dead in a car near the crime scene.

Professor Bing Liu, 37, was a research assistant professor who had a bachelor’s and doctoral degrees in Computer Science from the National University of Singapore. He was found dead with gunshot wounds to his head, neck and torso, at his home in Allegheny County, Pennsylvania. The shooter was found in a car nearby, having apparently killed himself after the crime.

His department posted, “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.”

According to the Post Gazette, Ross police did not offer a possible motive for the killing and said that there was no signs of anything being stolen from the professor’s house—but said that the two men knew each other. CNN reported Detective Sgt. Brian Kohlhepp said that there was "zero indication that there was targeting due to his (Liu) being Chinese."

The Allegheny County Medical Examiner’s Office identified the shooter as Hao Gu, 46, also from Pittsburgh.

Professor Liu’s bio on his research page at the University of Pittsburgh’s School of Medicine website describes his research summary as “Computational modeling and analysis of the dynamics of biological systems; development of high-performance computing, formal verification, and machine learning techniques for systems biology.”

The University of Pittsburgh also released a statement on Liu’s death. “The University of Pittsburgh 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.”

As of Wednesday, the US has over 1.2 million cases of the novel coronavirus and over 72,000 deaths.