Richard L. Lieber, PhD

  • Chief Scientific Officer and Senior Vice President, Shirley Ryan AbilityLab
  • Professor of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation, Feinberg School of Medicine
  • Professor of Biomedical Engineering, McCormick School of Engineering

Richard L. Lieber, PhD, oversees all research endeavors throughout the Shirley Ryan AbilityLab system of care. He joined the organization (then the Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago or RIC) in March 2014, bringing an extensive research focus on the science and physiology of skeletal muscle. Dr. Lieber is the established expert in the field, both nationally and internationally, and is a pioneer in conducting translational research.

Dr. Lieber also led the design of Shirley Ryan AbilityLab’s Biologics Lab, in which studies of living human cells are used to solve human problems, particularly in the context of rehabilitation and recovery. The lab’s state-of-the-art equipment allows scientists to monitor living cells as they perform testing of various types. Shirley Ryan AbilityLab’s Biologics Lab is the only one in the world placed in a rehabilitation setting that brings together biologists, physiologists, stem-cell biologists and molecular biologists — all sharing ideas and expertise, and speeding discoveries.

As Chief Scientific Officer, Dr. Lieber oversees the work of more than 200 researchers. Under his leadership, Shirley Ryan AbilityLab has more than 300 research studies and clinical trials under way, all of which will benefit its patient population.

Specifically, Dr. Lieber’s research is studying the design and plasticity of skeletal muscle. Currently, he is developing state-of-the-art technical and biological approaches to understanding and solving painful and debilitating muscle contractures that result from cerebral palsy, stroke and spinal cord injury.

Prior to joining Shirley Ryan AbilityLab, Dr. Lieber was Professor and Vice Chairman of the Department of Orthopaedic Surgery at the University of California, San Diego (UCSD), and principal investigator of the San Diego Skeletal Muscle Research Center — an NIH-funded center designed to leverage muscle expertise on behalf of patients in the San Diego community. He earned his doctorate in Biophysics, with a minor in Electrical Engineering, from the University of California, Davis, where he also earned a BS in Physiology. He earned his MBA from the Rady School of Management at UCSD.