KEY POINTS

  • Bing Liu was found dead in his home with multiple gunshot wounds
  • He was “on the verge” of a significant breakthrough in coronavirus research
  • Police are investigating his death as a murder-suicide after finding a second man dead in a car nearby

medical researcher believed to be on the verge of answers about how the coronavirus affects human cells was found shot to death over the weekend, officials said.

Bing Liu, 37, was found dead in his townhouse in Ross Township with multiple bullet wounds according to officials. He served as a researcher and assistant professor at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine.

A second man identified by NBC News as Hao Gu, 46, was found dead less than a mile away in a car one hour after Liu’s body was discovered.

Liu had been studying how SARS-CoV-2, the novel coronavirus that causes COVID-19, affects human cells and the development of other complications from the disease. His latest study had involved modeling biological systems to understand the function of cells in diseases individually and collectively to find ways to treat diseases like prostate cancer and other radiation diseases.

In a statement, the University of Pittsburgh said Liu 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.”

According to the Allegheny County medical examiner, Liu was shot in the head, neck, torso, arms and legs.

Police believe that Gu shot Liu inside his home multiple times before killing himself in a nearby car. The investigation is ongoing as a potential motive is yet to be identified.

The University of Pittsburgh also said it was “deeply saddened by the tragic death of Bing Liu” and they will make an effort to complete what he started in an effort to pay homage to his scientific excellence.”

Liu earned a doctorate degree in computational science from the National University of Singapore and worked as a postdoctoral fellow at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh before becoming a research associate at the University of Pittsburgh.

Coronavirus research around the globe has focused on treatment and vaccination. Recently, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration gave doctors an "emergency-use authorization" to administer remdesivir to COVID-19 patients. Researchers only recently discovered the spike protein on the novel coronavirus that could be used to make a vaccine against it.