UGA Pharmacy Welcomes New Faculty to College


Dr. Yaguang Xi, Dr. Bin Yi, Dr. Lorenzo Villa-Zapata, Dr. Blake Billmyre (Not pictured: Dr. Niying Li and Dr. Matthew Schmidt)

A new Department Head for Pharmaceutical and Biomedical Sciences, along with five new faculty members will highlight the start of the 2023-2024 academic year at the College of Pharmacy.

Dr. Yaguang Xi is the new head of the Pharmaceutical and Biomedical Sciences Department. Joining the PBS department are Dr. Blake Billmyre, Assistant Professor, and Dr. Bin Yi, Associate Research Scientist. The Department of Clinical and Administrative Pharmacy has three new faculty members. They are Dr. Lorenzo Villa-Zapata, Assistant Professor, Dr. Niying Li, Assistant Professor, and Dr. Matthew Schmidt, Associate Professor. These new faculty members will be located on the Athens campus.

Four of these faculty members were hired as part of the UGA Presidential Interdisciplinary Faculty Initiative In Data Science and Artificial Intelligence. Dr. Schmidt is part of the Teaching and Learning cluster initiative. Drs. Billmyre, Villa-Zapata, and Li are a part of the Precision One Health cluster.

Commented Dean Kelly Smith, “On behalf of our faculty and staff, I welcome these new colleagues to UGA and the College of Pharmacy. I am confident that, individually, these faculty members will make a significant contribution to our college’s research, scholarship, and service mission. Collectively, they will enhance the already stellar reputation for which our college is known. This upcoming academic year is filled with hope and promise, in large part, because of our outstanding faculty.”

Pharmaceutical and Biomedical Sciences

Yaguang Xi, MD, PhD, MBA, UGA Athletic Association Distinguished Professor in Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences, is the new Department Head for Pharmaceutical and Biomedical Sciences.

Remarked Dean Smith, “Dr. Xi’s research accomplishments, extensive teaching and mentoring experiences, and leadership in building research collaborations make him immensely qualified for this role. His vision aligns directly with the teaching foci of PBS, and I am certain he will guide the department in an upward trajectory.”

Originally from China, Dr. Xi previously served as the Amgen Professor of Oncology, Vice Chair for Research in the Department of Genetics, and Associate Director for Translational Research in the LSU-LCMC Cancer Center, at Louisiana State University Health Sciences Center in New Orleans, LA. After practicing medicine for five years, Xi obtained his PhD in Cell Biology from Peking University in China in 2003. In 2012, he completed his MBA studies at the University of South Alabama.

Dr. Xi’s areas of expertise are in the areas of cancer therapeutics, cancer chemoprevention, tumor metastasis, cancer drug discovery and development, health disparities, and immunotherapy. He has authored 70 peer-reviewed publications, five book chapters, and one book, and his research programs have been continuously funded by the National Institutes of Health/National Cancer Institute, the Veterans Health Administration, and the American Cancer Society, among others. Currently, he is affiliated with the following organizations:

  • American Association for Cancer Research (Active Member)
  • American Society of Clinical Oncology (Active Member)
  • International Honor Society Beta Gamma Sigma (Lifetime Member)
  • American Association for the Advancement of Science (Member)
  • Society of Chinese Bioscientists in America (Member)
  • Association of Chinese Americans in Cancer Research (Lifetime Member)
  • American Association of Pharmaceutical Scientists (Member)

Along with these affiliations, Dr. Xi has served extensively in leadership roles and study sections for the National Institutes for Health  and has worked in editorial posts for various prestigious scientific publications.


Bin Yi, PhD is a new associate research scientist in Pharmaceutical and Biomedical Sciences. Dr. Yi served at LSU Health Sciences Center as an Assistant Professor in the Department of Genetics and a program member of Stanley S. Scott Cancer Center and Core Director of IVIS system in Louisiana Cancer Research Consortium. Originally from China, Dr. Yi obtained his Ph.D. degree at Kunming Institute of Zoology Chinese Academy of Sciences. His research interests include cancer chemoprevention, immunotherapy, exosome and cancer metastasis, and MicroRNAs. He is a member of the American Association of Cancer Research.


Blake Billmyre, PhD is a new assistant professor in Pharmaceutical and Biomedical Sciences, with joint appointment in the College of Veterinary Medicine’s Department of Infectious Diseases. Originally from Baltimore, Maryland, Dr. Billmyre completed his undergraduate degree at the University of Maryland in cell biology and molecular genetics. After completing a fellowship with the National Institute of Health, he moved to North Carolina to earn his PhD in genetics and genomics from Duke University, and afterward, he moved to Kansas City to complete a postdoc from the Stowers Institute for Medical Research. He is a member of the Genetics Society of America.

Dr. Billmyre found his passion for fungi and fungal pathogens while in graduate school because of their diversity and clinical importance. He commented, “Human fungal pathogens cause more than 1.5 million deaths annually. This burden is expected to grow as the immunocompromised population expands and as climate change promotes fungal adaptation to growth at human body temperatures. There are only three classes of effective antifungal drugs available to treat Cryptococcus and developing new drugs is difficult because many potential antifungal drugs also are toxic to humans. Effective use of this small set of drugs and development of new or complementary drugs will be aided by a better understanding of the genetic basis of both virulence and drug resistance. I am looking forward to bringing the fungal community to the College of Pharmacy!”

Dr. Billmyre and his wife, Katie, who is an assistant professor in Genetics in the UGA Franklin College of Arts and Sciences, have a one-year-old son, Rory, and an 11-year-old dog, Mugsy. In his spare time, Dr. Billmyre enjoys playing and watching basketball.

Clinical and Administrative Pharmacy

Niying Li, PhD joins the Clinical and Administrative Pharmacy as an Assistant Professor. Dr. Li recently completed her postdoctoral fellowship at the University of Utah’s College of Pharmacy. She earned her Ph.D. in Health Services Research in Pharmacy at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, a MSc in Health Systems and Public Policy from the University of Edinburgh in Scotland, and a B.S. in Pharmacy from Guangdong Pharmaceutical University in China.

While at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, Niying worked as a Teaching Assistant in numerous PharmD classes, earning the Teaching Assistant of the Year Award in 2019 and the Wiederholt Fellowship Wisconsin Distinguished Graduate Fellow in 2021. Her research is primarily focused on health policy and services. In addition to her teaching and research experiences, Niying is a member of the Academy of Managed Care Pharmacy (AMCP), AcademyHealth, the Professional Society for Health Economics and Outcomes Research (ISPOR), and China Health and Policy Management Society (CHPAMS).

Dr. Li is originally from Guangzhou, China. In her spare time, she likes to run, listen to music, and watch documentaries.


Lorenzo Villa-Zapata, PhD is a new Assistant Professor in Clinical and Administrative Pharmacy. Joining the College from Mercer University, Dr. Villa-Zapata has lived in multiple places throughout the United States but is originally from Concepción, Chile. He earned his professional pharmacy degree from the Universidad de Concepción and his PhD in Pharmaceutical Economics, Policy, and Outcomes from the University of Arizona, where he was a Fulbright Fellow. He then completed a postdoctoral fellowship at the University of Colorado in Denver’s College of Pharmacy at the Center for Pharmaceutical Outcomes Research.

He found his passion for pharmaceutical economics, policy and outcomes growing up in Chile and brings to the UGA College of Pharmacy a wide range of experiences, including working as an assistant professor at Mercer University’s Department of Health Economics and Outcomes Research and an assistant professor at the Universidad de Concepción’s College of Pharmacy.

In his free time, Dr. Villa-Zapata enjoys traveling with his husband, Michael and spending time with their dog, Gringa.


Matthew Schmidt, PhD is a member of the College of Pharmacy faculty, though his primary appointment is in the College of Education as an associate professor of Learning, Design, and Technology. Dr. Schmidt’s work focuses on creating virtual reality interventions for individuals with autism and developing mHealth and eHealth solutions for individuals with disabilities and lifelong medical conditions, along with their families and their providers. Before coming to UGA, Dr. Schmidt held tenured positions at the University of Florida and the University of Cincinnati.

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